It’s no secret New England is home to more than a few outstanding cheesemakers. Vermont can boast The Cellars at Jasper Hill, and Twig Farm (whose goat tomme is still one of my favorite domestic cheeses ever) as part of their lineup. Connecticut has Cato Corner Farm and Beltane Farm amongst others. Narragansett Creamery hails from Rhode Island... I could go on.
But what about Massachusetts? With more than two dozen artisan cheesemakers (and more coming), the Bay State absolutely represents. Remember, we’ve been doing this since the first settlers brought cows with them from England. And that enduring tradition of dairy farming is alive and well today. Forget France and Italy (ok, not really, but just for a moment) - an incredible range of cheeses are made right in your backyard.
This is in no way a complete list. Not even close. Here are six cheesemakers making top-notch cheese right here in Massachusetts. Get out there and start tasting!
Couët Farm & Fromagerie, Dudley
Marie-Laure Couët and her family have been making stellar small-batch cheeses since 2015, with a sensibility drawn from their French, Polish, and Québecois roots. As the first sheep-milk cheese producer in the state, Couët Farm’s quality-over-quantity philosophy really shows in their cheeses. My favorite is Fran de Maquis, covered in rosemary, fennel seed, savory, and juniper berries. It also happens to be the 2017 American Cheese Society’s first-place winner, which must mean I have good taste. Their raw sheep milk Evelina is excellent as well. Aged for six to nine months in their own caves, this grey-rinded beauty is loaded with earthy, mineral flavors and a great peppery finish.
236 Ramshorn Rd., Dudley, 203-216-1571, couetfarm.com
The Grey Barn & Farm, Chilmark
Molly and Eric Glasgow set up their farm on Martha’s Vineyard in 2009. Since then, all they’ve done is crank out superbly-made, nuanced cheeses. With a certified-organic herd of twenty-five Dutch Belted cows providing the milk, The Grey Barn and Farm makes three cheeses. The award-winning Prufrock is delicate and pungent, with a gorgeous salty-savory flavor and thick texture. Eidolon, the object of my desires, takes cues from classic French cheeses like Chource and Coulommiers. The rich, milky center of this bloomy-rinded princess reflects the grass-only diet of the cows. Bluebird is blue cheese with aromas and flavors as briny and grey as the sea it grew up with.
22 South Rd., Chilmark, 508-645-4854, thegreybarnandfarm.com
Dancing Goats Dairy, Newbury
Four months in Rennes, France, turned owner Erin Bligh into a total cheese disciple. A period working as the kidding intern for Consider Bardwell Farm set longer-term plans in motion, culminating in Dancing Goats Dairy. A herd of over fourteen goats supply the milk for a broad range of chèvres in all sorts of styles. From their flagship whipped chèvre with sea salt, to the Ruth Bader Ginsberg (an ash-covered, aged cheese studded with black peppercorns), Bligh is carving out a reputation for herself as one of the newest Massachusetts cheesemakers who loves a cheese adventure.
41R Parker St., Newbury, dancinggoatsdairy.com
Cricket Creek Farm, Williamstown
Three dozen or so Jersey and Brown Swiss cows graze on the open fields of Cricket Creek, tucked into the Berkshire Hills. (You can even get to know them on their website. Penelope looks like she is 100% business. How beautiful.) Their cheeses tend to have a bit of an Italian influence to them, and that’s just fine by me. The washed-rind Tobasi has a clear fondness for Taleggio, presenting a delightfully custardy interior with rich, mushroomy aromas and a creamy flavor. Their award-winning Maggie’s Round and Maggie’s Reserve cheeses are influenced by Italian alpine tomas. The younger round is sharp and sweet, while the more aged reserve version has a delightfully savory character with a fudge-like rind and layer after layer of flavor. This is seriously good stuff.
1255 Oblong Rd., Williamstown, 413-458-5888, cricketcreekfarm.com
Ruggles Hill Creamery, Hardwick
I sound like a broken record when it comes to Tricia Smith’s cheeses. Seriously. I just won’t shut up about these incredible wheels of goat milk. (Speaking of goats, the cheeses are named for the goats from which the milk came to make them.) The next time I’m in Hardwick, I need to thank Claire for her incredible Claire’s Mandell Hill, a ten-ounce cylinder with line of French thyme, lavender, fennel, and rosemary running right through the center. If she’s busy, I’m happy to thank Aly or Hannah. Or any of the other magnificent ladies making the milk for these outstanding cheeses. I suppose I should thank Tricia as well. You know, for helping with all the day-to-day operations of both the herd and cheesemaking. Fortunately for us all, her cheeses are available at the Appleton Farms stand at the Boston Public Market, Concord Cheese Shop, Formaggio Kitchen, and more.
670 Ridge Rd., Hardwick, ruggleshill.com
Mozzarella House, Peabody
In 2009 Giuseppe Argentieri took over the reigns of Mozzarella House, bringing the practices and love of cheese his Italian home of Puglia instilled in him. Lucky for every single person in the metro-Boston area he did. Otherwise, there might be Bostonians wandering around not knowing the pure joys cutting into a fresh burrata bring. Mozzarella House uses only local-sourced milk, and utilize a low-temperature pasteurization process to preserve as many natural enzymes as possible. Making their own curd ensures total control over the final texture and taste of their cheeses. You’ve likely seen their distinctive red-and-white labelled containers around town. The real challenge is deciding which cheese to buy. Yes, of course, a burrata is always welcome. Don’t overlook, however, their incredible fresh ricotta (perhaps for a ricotta-raspberry cake?) Or their Nodini, basically a fresh mozzarella ball tied into a knot (perfect for an antipasto plate). Even the firm and salty Scamorza is a treat. No wrong answers here.
26 Walnut St., Peabody, 978-532-0000, mozzarellahouse.com