195 Isaac Frye Hwy. Wilton, NH 03086 Google Map 603-654-6082/ 603-721-6426
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Cheesemaking at Abbot Hill Creamery

Not only do we milk the cows that produce the milk that becomes the cheeses that fill our senses with delight and fragrant memories, we also age the cheese in our very own cheese cave.  What is a "cheese cave"?  At its most basic level, it is an enclosed place where we can control the temperature and humidity of the cheeses as the amazing process of aging and the art of affinage takes place for each individual wheel of cheese.  The affineur (the person carrying out the affinage) must take into account not only the particular needs of each variety of cheese as it transforms (becomes) into what the cheesemaker is seeking to achieve in terms of taste and flavor, but also the particular characteristics of each batch of milk that he begins with at the start of the cheesemaking process.  

Our cheese vat
Our cheese vat

Milk from our cows begins the process of becoming cheese in our cheese vat.

This is our new 150 gallon cheese vat.  It not only heats the milk to the specific temperature required by each cheese variety, but also serves as the place where the various bacterial cheese cultures are introduced into the milk.  It is also the place where the curd is cut and the whey separates out.

Curd cutting knives at work
Curd cutting knives at work

The first step in the transformation

The automatic curd cutting knives in the vat begin their elegant, mesmerizing swirls.  Some varieties of cheese require that the curds be cut very small, while others achieve their final form and flavor with bigger curds that are then pressed into wheels.

Benjamin adjusts as necessary
Benjamin adjusts as necessary

The art of cheesemaking is knowing when and how to adjust both the initial processes of using the vat to make "green" cheese and then knowing how to age that cheese into something greater than it was before.

Curds and whey go their separate directions
Curds and whey go their separate directions

The first point of alchemy begins!

Only a fraction of what began as fluid milk becomes actual cheese.  The majority of what separates out is whey.  And the direct beneficiaries of this by-product of cheesemaking on our farm are the pigs. From a young age they learn to prefer the tangy, acidic taste of whey to water.  Whey is the tonic that brings a shine to their coats, a spring in their step and a smile to our faces as they plunge their snouts into their troughs of whey.

Cutting the curd
Cutting the curd

The outer knife works the perimeter of the tank, while the inner knife dashes across the middle in precise sweeps.

Flocculation (coagulation) of the solids in milk is the first step in the cheesemaking process.   When the solids in milk flocculate it happens as if by a magician's hand passing in front of your eyes.  What was once a placid white pool of milk becomes a teeming stew of white, silky curds and pale yellow whey.

cheese cornucopia
cheese cornucopia

Cheese comes in all shapes and sizes

Inside the cheese cave
Inside the cheese cave

Once the curds are pressed into wheels they are brought to the cave

The white cheese in the foreground will become Camembert--and not spend too long in the cave. The various cheese wheels in the background, however, will spend anywhere from four months to fourteen months aging in the cave.

Looking down the line
Looking down the line

Sleeping, aging wheels of cheese

The complexity of the aging process can't be overstated.  Multiple bacteriological activity, humidity, and temperature mix and mingle to transform each wheel to its "cheese destiny."  

The cheese cave
The cheese cave

Wheel upon wheel of cheese

Not all wheels of cheese are handled or aged in the same way.  Some cheese is waxed in natural beeswax soon after it is made, while others are brushed with a brine solution (repeatedly over many months) to develop a natural rind.  The shelving is all wood.  Each of the large wheels, except for the waxed wheels, then rests on two- 1/2" hardwood slips to allow air circulation around the entire wheel.

Abbot Hill Blue
Abbot Hill Blue

A particularly beautiful profile

Our Abbot Hill Blue is a creamy, blue cheese that pairs well with fruit, wine and meats. I first encountered blue cheese as a child when I bit into the center of a hamburger filled with a layer of tangy blue.  I've been hooked ever since!

Milk is grass
Milk is grass

All great cheese actually begins with grass

The linked steps of the cheesemaking process begin with our cows on pasture or eating the hay that we produce from our fields.  Cows are ruminants, designed with perfection to utilize a diverse selection of grasses, legumes and other forage and transform these plants into milk and meat.  Their milk is a live product directly affected by many factors.  Milk from cows grazing lush spring pastures will differ from cows grazing dry, stunted fields in late August.  As well, milk from cows in late lactation is more acidic than early lactation milk.  This is nature's way of naturally weaning calves--acidic milk is less satisfying to a calf than the "sweeter" milk that comes just after the calf is born.  This is true for all mammals, including humans.  The cows in our milk herd are all at different stages of lactation, so we are able to maintain a fairly consistent taste to our milk.

Photo(s) added: JacobOctober 23rd, 2016

New photo added:

New aerial photo of TWCF farmlands available for viewingMarch 9th, 2016

Now you can see the breadth of our various farmlands up here on Abbot Hill.  From Gage Field to Randi's Field, from the top of Frye Field down to the Hidden Meadow that once was a peach orchard a

New Showcase: Cheesemaking at Abbot Hill CreameryMarch 2nd, 2016

Click here to view the showcase.

 

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