Day in the Life

Notes From the Vat

We had a helluva zany week on the farm. A hellion-howling wind ran amuck last Friday, downing trees and causing general mayhem. Half the farm was without power and we are grateful all our aging rooms and milking equipment are functioning. A score of cows escaped their paddock, and a few went off and gave birth! (See the montage of new calves below.)

The big snow left us with downed trees, fractured fences, and more power issues. And another brand new calf this morning!

This is the beginning of that magical time of year when calves start popping out, so stay tuned for more cute calf pictures weekly. (This year’s naming convention is Greek Mythology!)

And now, the Cheese!

Oooumami:  Every year we mess about with a few raw milk, high moisture cheeses, and on occasion they shine. This is the closest we’ve gotten to a raw milk Buttercup in the last two years. Aging these things can be a fickle drama, but we’ve pulled off a very tasty, unique raw milk cheese. The rind is rich garden of molds, 60% bloomy, 40 % other. The paste is just wee bit ripened to butter, the rest cream cheese-like. And the flavor! Think the rich mushroom n beef flavors of stroganoff, rich roasted/seared meat notes, and a little lemon acidity to offset it all. Good cheese! Raw milk

Sugarcube (or batch 328): an experimental mixed rind with a line of ash through the middle for all the drama. May it bring a sweet light to your darkest winter. These are awesome right now and should be delightful on your cheeseplates with jam and chutney. Pasteurized milk. (see picture below)

Mooncakes!: A wilder, limited version of our Buttercup Brie. It features a smorgasbord of penicillium mold strains, in addition to the pure-white that we’re accustomed to. What you’ve got here is the unctuous butteriness of our standard Buttercup plus an intriguingly earthy, mushroomy, vegetal finish. Distinctly cave-y, mushroomy, like going spelunking in a cavern of earthy mushrooms with a sea of butter underneath you.

Bette Davis Eyes: Getting low on these guys but one batch left. A current favorite with cider or whiskey drinks, or drizzled with farm honey. Raw milk.

Herdsman:
Early November batches available now. Very creamy, stone-fruit and lactic aromas, classic tomme flavors, with notes of candied lemon and horseradish. Raw milk.

Havilah: August and Sept 2016 batches. This cheese just gets better and better with time. Current tasting notes include: butterscotch, broth, grass, caramelized onions, and of course, butter. Raw milk.

Toma: Early December wheels now available. Super rich winter milk makes Toma even more buttery and decadent. Slight paste break-down underneath the beautifully sunset-hued rind. Endlessly snackable, crowd pleasing, with a pleasant lemmony zip and nutty finish on the rind. Raw milk.

Rarebird: Limited availability.  Unctuously buttery… it literally melts in your mouth. AND THE FLAVOR…! Our tasting notes for this one include everything from beef stock and mushrms to shell fish and broccoli rabe. Every single bite is something different and the flavor is about as episodic. This is a beautifully complex batch. Made from a single milking. Raw milk.

Don’t forget to mark down March 30th on your calendars for this year’s Brewer’s Plate! For the uninitiated, Brewer’s Plate is a veritable cornucopia of the best suds n small plates from our regional brewers, chefs, farms and distilleries. A smorgasbord of delight that benefits our local food pioneers at Fair Food.

CHEESE!
Always grateful for your support.

Paul Lawler, Head Cheesemkaer

Katahdin on parade

Balancing Competing Herds

Our farm sits on 480 acres of land. Sounds like a lot, right? A large portion of that is woodland and wetland. Two sizable sections are leased to Z Food Farm and Cherry Grove Organic Farm, our local organic vegetable CSAs. That leaves about 230 acres to us for pasture land.

A farmer who wants to raise animals on pasture requires a large amount of acreage per animal. Not surprisingly, large animals need a lot of space to find the food they need to thrive. A cow needs to eat 4% of its body weight in nutritious forage each day. A dairy cow requires an even larger percentage to support a calf, and making milk. Pastures must be rested and maintained to support the nutritious greens the bovine herds require. Raising hay for the winter months is also a part of the equation. Good hay is expensive so we try to cut a lot of our own, and that takes acreage away from summer forage, reducing the number of animals we can support. The industry rule of thumb is 4 acres per cow if you also raise hay. (And lets not even get into the winter sacrifice fields.) Smaller critters, like sheep and pigs, can be kept on smaller plots. For example, you can raise 6 sheep on one acre, or 20ish pigs on one acre. But the animals still need to be rotated through the acreage so the grass and forage have time to rest and replenish.

Over the years, we have re-balanced our herds and flocks continuously. With a limited amount of pasture, and a growing demand for grass-fed meat, we have had our hands full determining what animals our pasture can realistically manage. Cherry Grove Farm is primarily a farmstead dairy producing cheese. So, dairy cows are our bread and butter. (Pun intended)

Because we believe in diversified sustainable farming, we raise about 40 pigs each year on 3-4 acres, with lots of room to root and forage. (Pigs consume the protein-rich whey that is a by-product of cheesemaking.) These days, we raise a few more beef than we used to, as the market pushes for that, but we cap it at eight beef per year. Sheep graze grass to its nub, making recovery longer (and problematic in droughty times). Last year we decided to cut back on our sheep production to allow more pasture for raising winter hay.

What can YOU expect to see in our freezer cases? A steady supply of pork and beef, raised here on the farm. Cherry Grove Farm lamb will become a seasonal product. We will be bringing in lamb from a grass-based farm in Delaware to satisfy our lamb customers. The farm we choose will raise sheep the way we have always raised them, on pasture without hormones or antibiotics.

And you can expect lots of cheese… a high quality, farmstead product from our own grass-fed cows’ milk, made by hand and fussed over by our dedicated cheese-making team. Because happy cows make really good cheese.

Cow Parade is Here!

Music by The Jersey Corn Pickers

The Cake Off: An Olde Fashioned Baking Competition

Cheesemaker’s Presentation in Cottage

Jammin’ Crepes and Mama Dude’s Food Trucks

Beer by Flying Fish to help Farmers Against Hunger

Vendors this year include:

  • Cherry Grove Organic Farm (veggies)
  • Mecha Artisan Chocolates
  • Unionville Wines
  • Wildflour Bakery and Cafe
  • Mother Tree Collective’s DIY Body Scrubs
  • Lori Lee Books
  • Pinelands Basketry
  • Get Sharp Knife Sharpening
  • Birds and Bees Farm
  • Tracy Ashcroft Antiques
  • Mercer County Master Gardeners
  • Jessica Yeager, Culinary Nutrition Educator

Cows Parade around 4pm (on cow time)

Bonfire is 5-7pm with s’mores by Mecha!

Notes from the Vat

We have a new friendly face in the makeroom! Meet intern extraordinaire, Christine Shaw. 
Here’s a bit of Q&A before we get down to business:

Tell us about yourself!  I was born and raised in central New Jersey, and my greatest loves are food, animals, and books of all kinds. I graduated from The Culinary Institute of America back in December, and now I’m thrilled to be exploring cheesework on such a beautiful farm!

What do you enjoy most about the farm or the cheesework so far?  I love being in such close proximity to so many animals. It’s wonderful being able to pet the cats on my walks to and from the creamery, feed the goats my vegetable scraps, and hear the cows mooing from my bedroom at night. It all feels very peaceful. As for the cheesework, I love affinage! It’s a great opportunity to sort of study each wheel and watch it develop as it ages.

If you could be any Cherry Grove animal, who would it be?  The guinea hen! She’s beautiful, and her only job is to wander around the farm. It sounds like a pretty good deal!

Favorite cheese?   That’s a tough question. There are so many cheeses that I love, but Brie has a special place in my heart.

Favorite Cherry Grove Cheese?  The Trilby! The flavors are unbelievable. Our farm’s terroir, the Dad’s Hat whiskey, and the fig leaves all come together and create these amazing apricot and hay notes, and I just love it.

Thanks for joining us, Christine. Speaking of Trilby, we have a gorgeous batch of Trilby this week.

This Week in CHEESE! CHEESE! CHEESE! 
Buttercup Brie
Tastes like it sounds, like pure cultured butter. With a slight hint of mushroom under the rind. Mini ½ lbs and quarter wedges. Pasteurized.

Havilah
Batches from early spring/summer 2016 with notes of malt, beef stew, mushroom, and toasted brioche. Nice balance of sweet and savory. Raw.

Toma
Limited availability, batches from early August. Beautiful pinkish orange-shaded wheels, nice and beefy, roasted peanut and cashew flavors. Perfect for melting or snacking. Raw.

Trilby
Limited availability, from early September. Beautiful pinkish orange shaded wheels, nice and beefy, buttermilk, stonefruits, grass and hay- and a lovely butter texture. An ideal fall dessert with Seckel or Asian Pears. Pastuerized.

Herdsman
A really nice batch from July milk. Barnyardy, notes of bread n butter, walnuts, and cultured cream. Raw.

The Molt Has Begun

If you have noticed a dip in our egg availability it is due to the seasonal molting of the flock. Once a year chickens lose and regrow their feathers, a process that is takes a lot of energy and causes stress. Most chicken quit laying or lay next to no eggs for the entire 5-7 week process. But when the hens are done, they have a fresh crop of strong, new feathers to keep them warm through the winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the molt is finished, egg production will go up until the days are short and light is scarce. Then the chickens lay off again (no pun intended) until the days lengthen in March.

This is a normal chicken behavior, and one we roll with every late summer. We hope you can stand in solidarity with our hens in their molting time.

 

 

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
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