Some of our customers may have noticed a new fresh goat milk cheese in our cases. Carolyn Hillman, our go-to fresh chèvre producer for many years, is taking a hiatus from production for the next year or so. While heartbroken about this absence, I am thrilled to be able to support another grande dame of Massachusetts cheesemaking – Susan Sellew of Rawson Brook Farm. Susan is entering her 30th year of production!
In October, fellow cheesemongers, Ross, Tripp and I spent an afternoon with Susan at her farm in Monterey, MA. Tucked in the Berkshire hills, it was a rainy afternoon and the goats didn’t want to leave the shelter of the barn. Inquisitive and friendly – we fell in love with them immediately.
The goats are milked on something that looks a bit like a merry-go-round. Old army helmets serve as feed bowls while they wait their turn. Susan milks the goats three at a time, causing them less stress and keeping the quality of the milk extremely high. The fresh milk is quickly moved to the vat, and transformed into curd. The curds are hung in cheesecloth to drain out the whey. Susan’s fresh goat cheese is exceptional: light, fresh, tangy – a fluffier texture than Carolyn’s, but equally delicious. There is a clean, balanced salt and a mouthwatering finish.
Susan manages her goats on a seasonal basis and doesn’t interfere with their natural breeding cycles. As a result, cheese is made from approximately the first of April through mid-December. After the goats are bred in October, milk and, subsequently, cheese production starts a steady decline. This is followed by a short dry spell until the goats give birth, and fresh milk is once again readily available. Rawson Brook Farm is very small, and Susan’s cheese is not commonly found outside of the Berkshires. We feel lucky that she has decided to share a portion of her production with us.
The Berkshire Food Journal made a short video about Susan several years ago that captures her spirit and philosophy about goat cheese exceptionally well.
Sarah Spira is the domestic cheese buyer and a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen South End.