Cato Corner FarmPrint this Page
Just outside of Hartford, CT, Cato Corner Farm, which produces cheeses such as Bridgid's Abbey and Hooligan, is something of an oasis from urban sprawl. The surrounding area was once primarily farmland but is now slowly being consumed by suburban Hartford -- even since our last visit, we've noticed new houses dotting the hill that leads up to the farm.
Cato Corner is primarily a mother-son partnership between Elizabeth MacAlister and her son Mark Gillman. The farm's 75 acres have been in the family for more than 25 years, and the family began making cheese in 1997 as a way to keep the farm sustainable. They have also been working to limit development on their land by putting it into land trust.
The family is currently milking a herd of about 40 cows, mostly Jerseys. All of their cows are free-range and are not given hormones or antibiotics.
Elizabeth learned about cheesemaking by taking a technical course at California Polytechnic University and then a workshop with a Belgian cheese master. Mark has been helping out along the way and has also participated in several cheesemaking workshops that have helped refine their recipes.
But as with any good cheesemaker, the team has created its best cheeses by combining technical skill with experimentation to suit the particular qualities of the milk and the molds present in their aging room. Theirs could perhaps be called terroir-driven cheeses.
At any given time at Cato Corner, you'll find cheeses with colorful names like Dutch Farmstead, Vivace, Womanchego, Misty Morning and Black Ledge Blue.
The pungent Hooligan, one of several "washed rind" cheeses produced by Cato Corner, is periodically brushed with a brine solution as it ripens. The brine in turn attracts the bacteria that give the cheese its distinct aroma and peach-colored rind. Beyond its pungent rind, the cheese has a smooth, rich texture and a flavor of nuts and hay with an underlying sweetness.
Bridgid's Abbey, a Formaggio Kitchen staff favorite, has an earthy rind and a milky sharpness. Modeled after Belgian-style cheeses, it pairs excellently with beer.
We hope you have a chance to try our selection of Cato Corner cheeses soon.