Located in the beautiful, rolling countryside of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, Jasper Hill Farm was bought by brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler in 1998. When the farm came into their possession, it was extremely run-down, but by 2003, after five years of hard work, Andy and Mateo acquired their first 15 Ayrshire heifers. The herd now numbers around 45 and, thanks to careful management and focus on building excellent genetics, they have one of the highest quality milking herds in the United States.
Ayrshire milk is particularly well-suited to cheesemaking. In terms of fat and protein, it's not as high as Jersey or Guernsey but not as low as Holstein. The way in which the fats and proteins break down are a perfect platform for the development of an excellent cheese. The herd grazes from late spring to early fall and over successive years the grazing land at Jasper Hill has been improved by planting a wide variety of clovers, grasses and legumes to enhance the flavor of the milk.
In addition to the farm and cheesemaking, the brothers have also developed another arm of the business, The Cellars at Jasper Hill. The Cellars, which comprise of 22,000 square feet of cheese maturing caves were designed and built not only to house Jasper Hill's own cheeses but also to mature the cheeses of several other Vermont based producers. Jasper Hill's own range of cheeses includes Alpha Tolman, Bayley Hazen Blue, Constant Bliss, Harbison, Moses Sleeper and Winnimere.
Named after a local Greensboro Ancestor who was a philanthropic dairy farmer, Alpha Tolman is made using the traditional Alpine methods of cheesemaking. For production of this cheese, milk is sourced from a dairy called Andersonville Dairy, located in nearby Glover and the wheels are made at a second cheesemaking facility, also operated by Jasper Hill at the Food Venture Center in Hardwick, VT. By cooking and pressing the curds during production, the finished cheese has a tight, slightly elastic texture with robust and complex flavors. Newly formed wheels are regularly washed with a cultured brine that cultivates a red-orange rind and a depth of flavor to the interior paste.
Young wheels have lactic notes balanced with a hint of citrus and an aroma of damp cellar. With age, wheels develop more meaty flavors accompanied by undertones of butter and caramelized onion. The interior paste of the cheese also becomes more dense and slightly crystalline.
Alpha Tolman makes an ideal cheese for fondue or melted over fingerling potatoes. Also, try pairing it with a robust ale or a rich, plum-like red wine, or onion jam.