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The Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery

VB&C bonne_bouche.jpgOne of the tests of a quality food is whether it is inert or alive: does a wine’s bouquet and flavor change over the course of a meal — and over the years; do tomatoes get riper; will apple cider get fizzy and develop an agreeable bite after a few days in the fridge (hint: it needs to be unpasteurized in order to do this properly)? The question is most importantly asked of cheese. Does it evolve over time, too?

Once each month, we order butter and a dozen small wooden boxes of our favorite cheese, Bonne Bouche, directly from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery in Barre, Vermont. The cheese can sometimes sit in our 53° cheese and fruit fridge for four weeks or more. Not only does Vermont B&C’s cheese last all of that time, but it improves by becoming softer, creamier and more complex. I don’t think that we have ever had a piece that has gotten too old. In contrast, industrial cheese just get moldy and takes on the sharp taste of ammonia that signals rot, rather than life and successful aging.

(Note: don’t store cheese in your regular fridge; at 35-40°, the average refrigerator is too cold for cheese, which will lose its texture and stop aging at low temperatures. Most people in France keep cheese in their cellar, or if they live in old apartments, they store it in their kitchen’s indoor/outdoor cupboard that has a grill open to the outdoors.)

VB&C Allison and Bob.jpgVermont B&C’s is an excellent example of a company that has given birth to an entire agricultural ecosystem. The founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reece buy goat’s milk from 30 different farms in the Barre area, most of whom did not raise goats at all until the company suggested to them that it would provide a ready market for their milk. Their cheese is sold all over the country to consumers and restaurants, and they have worked closely with several well-known chefs to make special cheeses used in French cuisine.

Our favorite cheese shop in Paris sells over one hundred different cheeses, and we’d be happy to order Bonne Bouche there, too. It is the only cheese made in New England that meets this test.

JOE MALCHOW notes that the West Coast regularly produces cheeses which win success on the world stage. Cypress Grove in Humboldt County, California is one to try. Absent the sucking leechlike vacua of Ben & Jerry’s, it seems, good fromage Américain is possible. Down with Vermont; long live sustainable dairying!

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