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Cheddaring at Shelburne Farms

May 24, 2010

This past weekend my wife and I headed up to VT to celebrate our 5 year anniversary.  It was a time for us to visit where we went for our honeymoon, reflect upon the past 5 years of marriage, and of course, visit a cheese farm.  Shelburne Farms is a beautiful area just south of Burlington that is dedicated to environmental education with an emphasis on conservation.  One of the components of this mission involves their 125 purebred Brown Swiss cows and a daily process of making cheddar cheese.

The cheese makers at Shelburne make cheddar cheese and only cheddar cheese from approximately 5000 lbs of milk on  daily basis.  They offer a variety of ages from 6 month all the way up to 3 years.  As explained by Martin, an incredibly helpful member of the Shelburne staff, 99% of the milk is dedicated to making several 40 lb blocks of cheddar.  The milled and salted curds are placed in rectangular hoops with disposable cheese cloth as seen in this photo, and then pressed with an extreme amount of force in order to expel any remaining whey.  I explain the basics of the cheddaring process in a bit more detail here.  It was fascinating to see this process done on such a large-scale.  Seeing the cheese makers work with curd resulting from 600 gallons of milk is…well…pretty exciting…

There were several samples placed out for visitors to try as we looked on at the cheesemakers, hard at work.  The 6 month cheese is incredibly mild and smooth.  This cheese is packaged just at the start of flavor development to where a discerning palate might have a hard time determining if it was cheddar.  The 1 year offers a hint of acidity, but is not pronounced enough to be considered “sharp”.  The 2nd year takes the next step and adds a nutty component that is not detected in the 1 year.  The 3rd year takes the flavor profile to the next level and even has a hint of amino acid crystals spread here and there.  All in all, these cheeses have a high level of moisture due to the aging within cryovac seals at 50 degrees.

The remaining 1% of milk that is not used for the blocks, is pressed into round hoops or “truckles” in order to make the Shelburne Cloth-Bound Cheddar.  This cheese is quite  a bit drier than the other varieties, as it is wrapped in cloth, smeared with rendered pork fat (lard), and then allowed to age in a room with high humidity at 60 degrees.  The cheeses are flipped once a week in order to develop an even rind.  As soon as mold begins to develop on the cloth exterior, it is scraped to a thin layer and allowed to mature.  After approximately 16 months of aging, it is ready to be eaten.  The golden paste is filled with the typical amino acid crystals that give a wonderful and nutty crunch and salty  burst with every bite.  I was already familiar with their other cheeses, and the cloth-bound cheddar takes the next step in offering something unique and quite special.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    May 28, 2010 9:33 am


    These are fabulous! I’m now signed up to get updates, but it’s been a while since I’ve checked the site. You are truly a gourmand:) I think you should start a magazine!

    We need to catch up, have a great weekend! And happy anniversary! Wow, was it seriously 5 years ago that I gorged myself on those appetizers??


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