jersey cows

What exactly is “farmstead cheese”?

The folks over at New England CheeseMaking Supply Company like to think of it as the cheese that our Grandmothers made on the back of the stove; “a simple and to-the-point means of preserving milk during the peak of the season when there was a bit of extra milk.”

People are intimidated by cheese. It requires science and math and a heck-of-a-lot of
patience. The end result seems so magical that for the moment its farmstead roots can be set aside and forgotten – that pot of milk set in a warm place, natural bacteria in the milk working on separating the curds (solids) from the whey (liquid).

Modern cheese-making (and modern health practices) no longer allow us to just leave the milk out overnight. We add specific bacteria to get a specific result. We adjust the temperature up or down to produce one cheese over another, but no matter how many subtle shifts in the process, each cheese is still born of milk. Ah, the fascination…

farmers cheesesOur ricotta-mozzarella class focuses on the easiest cheese to make at home: ricotta. We affectionately refer to it as the “gateway” to cheese-making, requiring milk and lemon juice as its sole ingredients. On December 20 we’ll graduate to working with cultures and rennet, paying homage to the grandmothers of yesteryear with hands-on instruction in cottage cheese, basket cheese, and paneer. This “Farmstead Cheese” class will be a grand ole look into the history of cheese, and a reminder of how simple home cheese-making really is.
Join us.

A Fair Day at Cherry Grove Farm

Last week our friends at Fair Food Farmstand dropped by! We had a fantastic time giving them a behind-the-scenes look at how we operate on a daily basis, and we even got our hands a little dirty in the process! Fair Food Farmstand carries our farmstead cheeses and a plethora of other farm-sourced goodies at their stand in the Philadelphia Reading Terminal Market. Next time you are in the city, be sure to check them out! Here is what they had to say about their visit to Cherry Grove:

 

Last Tuesday, the boys of Fair Food—myself, Noel and Nate—took a trip to Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, NJ. We met some very fine folks including Stacey, our lovely tour guide; Sam, the head cheese maker; and Malachy, our former Farmstand cheese intern. Cherry Grove is a picturesque farm of 400 acres, 250 of which are certified organic pasture for their 115 Jersey and Short Horn cows. From these cows comes the sweet milk that produces some of our favorite cheeses at the Farmstand—the Havilah and Toma Primavera being two of our stand-by’s. 

 

Noel, Craig & Nate gear up for the cheesemaking room.

 

Our first leg of the tour was the cheese room and there was action! Sam was scooping, molding and pressing some fresh Herdsman. Malachy was hand-molding some beautiful bloomy rinds. Giant wheels of Havilah were soaking in their salt brine. We checked out their three caves: one for the bloomy rinds (that buttery Buttercup Brie), one for the Havilah, Herdsman and Jacks and a single cave just for the Toma Primavera.  

 

Cheese Curds

 

Next we took a tour of the farm and pastures. Cherry Grove puts a lot of effort into being a sustainable system. We met “the spreader” which is a nifty conveyor belt that recycles the cow manure into fertilizer. We saw “the sucker” which takes the excess whey from the cheese room and pipes it to their 100% whey-fed Berkshire pigs. Their wood fire heat exchanger provides heat and hot water for all of the cheese making and the farm store. The wood comes from local tree surgeons who deliver the wood that they would normally have to pay to landfill—pretty cool if you ask me! 

 

Cherry Grove’s Pastures

 

Lastly we got to spend some time with the pasture-raised chickens. There is no experience quite like harvesting eggs with 1,000 clucking and pecking chickens at your feet on a 95-degree summer day. We had a blast, to say the least! Living in the city, it’s incredibly refreshing to spend time on a farm—so much that we worked for fun! 

 

Aging Wheels of Toma Primavera

 

We wrapped up our tour with a cheese tasting and we were fortunate to come home with treats: our harvested eggs; delicious pork products for ourselves; and a couple of wheels of Toma Primavera (the first batches of the season!) for your enjoyment at the Farmstand.

The folks at Cherry Grove were so knowledgeable, and fun—I am already looking forward to our next visit! In the meantime we’ll keep on enjoying their delicious cheeses and organic veggies down at the stand!

-Craig

 

 

Where’s the Beef?

It’s coming! We will be getting all cuts of beef in, including the steaks and ground beef you have all been patiently awaiting. Monday, July 9th, we will be picking up a cow from our butcher, Bringhurst Meats, located in Berlin, NJ. Bringhurst is the last family owned butcher in New Jersey, so they approach their job like it is a work of art instead of a (dis)assembly line.  We have to reserve dates far in advance at Bringhurst, because the animals we send are allowed to walk in on their own accord instead of being poked and prodded. This makes the process much less stressful for the animals and affords them the respect they deserve for providing us with nourishment.

 

 

While we no longer raise meat cattle at our farm, we still source our beef locally from River Bend Farm in Far Hills, NJ. River Bend provides us with registered Angus beef, which of of superior quality and tenderness. The cattle is also raised on pasture, which affords them a diet of primarily fresh grasses. To top it off, River Bend does not use any hormones, antibiotics, or steroids, and you can taste the difference!

 

In other news on our farm, our Garlic Peppercorn Jack is almost gone for the season! We are on the last wheel of this flavorful play on charcuterie, so be sure to stop by the store to grab a slice before it’s all gone! Don’t worry—even though this Jack is hitting the road, it will be back again next fall.

 

 

We are making way for our summertime flavor: Full Nettle Jack! It will be ready for purchase mid-July. We found a more local source for stinging nettles this year, too! Instead of having them shipped from Europe, North Slope Farm will be our new provider. North Slope is an organic farm located in Lambertville, NJ. We are grateful for the opportunity to support our neighbors and lower our carbon footprint!

 

Jersey Strong

Jersery cows relaxing in the pasture

This week, if you drove by Cherry Grove on Route 206 you would have gotten quite an eyeful: lean with long, thin legs…big, brown eyes with thick lashes…who are these gorgeous gals hanging out on the farm?

 

Our dairy herd spent most of the week in the front pastures of the farm.  Looking out at them got me to wondering, “does everyone know how great these cows are?”  Whether you’re a community member who likes to see the cows nodding their heads at you when you’re stuck in 206 traffic or a frequent visitor to the farm, there’s probably some information about our cows that you don’t know.

 

Here at Cherry Grove Farm, the cows in our dairy herd are predominantly Jersey Cattle.  The Jersey here references Jersey, England, where in 1786 the States of Jersey began a ban on importing any cows to the island of Jersey to protect and promote the growth of a pure Jersey breed.  That Jersey breed has now become one of the most coveted dairy breeds in the world.

 

Jersey cows are often called the “Queen of Breeds” and “naturally produce the highest quality milk for human consumption,” according to Chaney’s Dairy Barn and the American Jersey Cattle Association.  More than being delicious and creamy milk (perfect for both drinking and making cheese), Jersey milk is one of the most nutritious cow’s milks available.  Jersey milk is 5.5% milk fat, 3.9% protein and 15% milk solids, which makes for ultra creamy milk.  For a comparison, Holstein cows’ milk is 3.5% fat, 3.1% protein and 12.2% solids.

 

The high protein level in Jersey milk is a big help for Sam, our cheese maker.  Protein is made up of amino acids, and those acids allow us coagulate the milk and make curds.*  The high levels of milk fat and solids in Jersey milk help make those curds extra rich and velvety.

 

At this point in the spring season, our herd is enjoying sweet grass and the last of the early spring buttercups that inspire our creamy Buttercup Brie.  If you want to try the result of their grassy gluttony, stop by to try our Buttercup Brie or fresh cheddar cheese curds– both are young, mild cheeses that aptly exhibit the high quality of Jersey milk.   You can pick up any of our cheese at the Farm Store, which is open Thursday through Monday, from 11am to 5pm.

 

And to see the beauty of the cows, you’re more than welcome to come visit the herd and their playful calves at the farm.  We have a daily public milking at 3pm, which all are welcome to attend.  In the farm’s Milking Parlour you’ll see Farm Manager Kelly Harding demonstrate how we milk our cow, process the milk and transfer into our cheese room.

 

 

* Coming soon: if you’re intrigued by this process and want more information, we’ll also be posting about how milk is transformed into cheese!


1902 - Family purchased farm

1910 - Leased land to dairy farmer

1987 - Hamill Brothers inherit farm

2002 - Started as a family business

2003 - Started a beef herd, laying hens, and pigs

2004 - Added sheep and attained organic certification of pasture land

2005 - Added dairy herd and began making fresh cheeses like mozzarella

2006 - Built aging caves and began making aged cheeses

2012 - Grid Magazine’s Cheese of the Month (Nov – Full Nettle Jack); Finalist at the Good Food Awards (Toma)

2013 - Won 2 blue ribbons from the American Cheese Society(for Buttercup Brie and Lawrenceville Jack Reserve); Added second cheesemaker

2014 - Broke ground on additional aging space and began process of getting AWA certification for our chickens
MENU