New York State has one of the most varied and vibrant cultures of artisanal cheesemaking in the country. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, New York is home to 85 cheese-manufacturing plants.
Independent, artisanal dairy farms and creameries exist all over the state, from the Adirondacks to the Finger Lakes, and even in Brooklyn. (It would seem as though a heartwarming number of artisanal cheesemakers have fallen in love and moved to New York State to start dairy farms together!)
They vary greatly in size, and in the range of techniques and traditions they have adopted, but they all have one thing in common: a commitment to making the best, most interesting (and often award-winning) cheese they can. Here are nine of our favorites.1. SPROUT CREEK FARM
Sprout Creek Farm is a nonprofit, 200-acre working farm located in Dutchess County. They prize the quality on their practice of grass-feeding their animals, which they say produces products with more antioxidants and higher in omega-3 than grain-fed cattle. They make cheese with both cow and goat’s milk, including the Bogart and the Margie.
They also run an educational center which offers day and summer camps for children to learn about agriculture and have the chance to connect with the land.2. DANCING EWE FARM
The first couple of lovebirds on this list, Jody Somers and Luisa Scivola-Somers, run Dancing Ewe Farm, located in Granville, together. They are dedicated to preserving traditional Tuscan cheesemaking. They specialize in and only make (apart from their Ricotta) four types of Pecorino cheese.
Pecorino Riserva. Photo Credit: Dancing Ewe Farm
3. FINGER LAKES DEXTER CREAMERY
In contrast to Sprout Creek Farm’s 200 acres, Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery is just 12 acres of pastures located on the east side of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes region. The couple, Rose Marie Belforti and her husband, describe themselves as a micro-dairy, which is a great way of putting it.
Kefir Blue. Photo Credit: Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery
They make their cheese from the milk of Dexter cows, the smallest breed of European cow hailing originally from Ireland. What separates their cheese from the other cheeses on the list, and indeed from all the other cheeses in the U.S., is their use of kefir grains, which are globs of microbial lactic bacteria and yeasts that start fermentation. The cheese made with kefir grains is naturally probiotic and the process adds a tangy flavor.
4. OLD CHATHAM SHEEPHERDING COMPANY
Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, started in 1993, is the largest dairy farm on the list with over 200 acres in Old Chatham. In 2014, Dave and Sally Galton took over the operation, but still continue to make some of the best and frequently award-winning cheese in New York State. Their Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert was awarded a gold medal in the 2016-2017 World Cheese Awards.
Nancy’s Camembert. Photo Credit: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company
5. CROWN FINISH CAVES
In 2001, husband and wife team, Susan Boyle and Benton Brown, bought the historic Nassau Brewery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. They discovered that 30-feet underneath their property lay four 70-foot lagering tunnels. Realising these tunnels were the perfect environment to cultivate cheese, they decided to turn these lagering tunnels into caves for aging cheese or “affinage.” What sets their cheeses apart is their enthusiasm for experimentation and innovative, which results in new blends of flavor.
While they don’t produce the cheese themselves, most of their inventory is sourced from around New York State, including one called Gatekeeper, from the aforementioned Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, which picked up second place in the Soft-Ripened Cheeses category at last year’s American Cheese Society Competition.
Gatekeeper. Photo Credit: Crown Finish Caves
6. ASGAARD FARM AND DAIRY
Asgaard Farm, located in the Adirondacks, is notable for its previous owner, the American painter, printmaker and writer, Rockwell Kent. The mountainous landscape around the farm is gorgeous and had inspired many of the artist’s paintings. Today, the farm produces a range of artisanal goats’ cheese, from Feta to Chevre, which can be flavored in several ways using Adirondack maple syrup, basil and garlic, and so on.
Barkeater Buche. Photo Credit: Asgaard Farm and Dairy
They also make goat milk caramels and handcrafted hand soaps.
Goat Milk Caramels. Photo Credit: Asgaard Farm and Dairy
7. NETTLE MEADOW
Nettle Meadow, run by Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan, can be found in the town of Thurman, below Crane Mountain in the Adirondacks. This dairy farm produces a wide range of idiosyncratic cheeses, like Sappy Ewe, their newest bloomy rind cheese,...
Sappy Ewe. Photo Credit: Murray's Cheese
and the award-winning Kunik, a triple crème wheel made from goat’s milk and cow cream.
Kunik. Photo Credit: iGourmet
In addition to farming, Nettle Meadow is also a sanctuary to a number of retired and rescued farm animals, as well as several guard llamas.
8. PAINTED GOAT FARM
Painted Goat Farm and Dairy is located in Otsego County, a few miles outside of Cooperstown. Like many on this list, the owners of the farm, Ilyssa Berg and Javier Flores, fell in love and decided to make cheese together. They met in a farming region in the Andes (Ecuador) when Ilyssa was doing research for her master’s in Ecological Anthropology at the University of Georgia.
Painted Goat Cheeses. Photo Credit: Painted Goat Farm
Unified by their love of the land, they sought to cultivate organic food together. They moved to New York State in 2006 “with a tent and chainsaw,” says Ilyssa (cited in Freeman’s Journal, Feb 27-28, 2014), married, and began raising goats. Today, they have 70 goats, 100 acres and make some of the best cheese in New York State.
9. FOUR FAT FOWL
In Hudson Valley’s Stephentown, the cheesemakers at Four Fat Fowl, husband and wife Willy and Shaleena Bridgham and partner Josie Madison, source their all-natural Jersey cow milk from Dutch Hollow Farms in Schodack. Most known for the buttery-with-a-bite St. Stephen, winner of the 2016 Gold Medal in the artisan cheese category at the New York State Fair, it is said that when they started this venture in 2014, the owners spent a great deal of time and resources perfecting the St. Stephen, now one of the most sought-after cheeses around.
St. Stephen. Photo Credit: Four Fat Fowl
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