A Visit to Consider Bardwell FarmPrint this Page
Consider Bardwell's cheesemaking roots date back to 1864, when the southwestern Vermont farm produced large wheels of cheddar that they transported to New York and beyond. Today, the farm has been re-invented as a goat's milk dairy, with a herd of about 100 Oberhaslis, a Swiss breed rarely found outside of Switzerland.
After falling into disrepair, Consider Bardwell, named for its original owner, has been rebuilt by Angela Miller and Russell Glover, a wife-and-husband team who bought the farm in 2001 and started making cheese. They work with Peter Dixon, a heavyweight in the Vermont cheese world, who makes one or two batches of cheese per day -- everything from the small-format Manchester and Dorset to larger wheels such as Equinox and the award-winning Rupert. The cheeses are all named for towns and mountains near the farm.
At Consider Bardwell, cheesemaking begins in the pasture, which is treated in a sustainable manner without pesticides or fertilizers. The goats, friendly and curious, are regularly moved to new areas where they can find plenty of fresh grass, wildflowers and shrubs. As a result, their milk has a sweetly herbal, almost minty, kick to it that really comes through in the cheese.
The goats' milk is often supplemented with local Jersey cows' milk, which the farm uses to produce both cows' milk and mixed-milk cheeses. Peter picks up the milk in 100-pound drums, which are then hefted from the truck and poured into a vat.
To begin making a batch of the cows' milk cheese Pawlet, Peter warmed the milk, after which he added the starter culture and rennet, which enable the milk to acidify and coagulate into curds, the basis of the final cheese. He then cut the curds into small pieces and allowed the liquid whey to begin draining away. Once enough whey had drained off, Peter used a pitcher to begin scooping the curds into cheese molds.
The yellowish whey continued to drain off the newly-formed cheeses, and in a matter of about 6-7 minutes, the cheeses were firm enough to be handled without coming apart. Eventually, the cheeses would be put into a brine solution for a day or two where they would continue to lose moisture while beginning the slow process of forming a natural rind.
On another visit, we watched Peter make the Alpine-style cheese Rupert, which he forms in wooden Gouda molds that have been "seasoned" with microflora that give the rind additional pungency.
At Consider Bardwell, each cheese is treated a bit differently in order for it to develop its distinctive rind, texture and flavor profile. Dorset, a semi-firm cows' milk cheese is washed with brine as it ages then allowed to dry a bit so that the rind is barely tacky to the touch. This yields a smooth texture and a mildly funky flavor underlying the sweet and herbal cows' milk flavor. Pawlet develops molds on its rind that are periodically brushed off so that the rind becomes more of a hard crust protecting the tender cheese inside. The rare but exceptional Chester grows a variety of grey molds on its rind which are patted down rather than brushed off so the rind maintains more moisture and offers up a deep aroma of wet stones and cellar.
To see our entire selection of Consider Bardwell cheeses, click here.