It is rare indeed that a dog began a dairy, but that is exactly what happened in the case of Everona Dairy. At a Food Festival in 1992, the late Dr. Patricia (Pat) Elliot came upon a demonstration of the skills of Border Collies and was so impressed, she took a puppy home with her. Soon it became obvious that the dog needed something to keep occupied, and what is the best thing to keep a Border Collie occupied? Sheep. So, sheep were purchased and in time began to drain the good doctor’s bank account. In an effort to have the sheep pay for themselves, Dr. Elliot began milking them with a view to developing a cheesemaking operation.
Whereas some people might be daunted by the prospect of taking on an additional new cheesemaking career with no previous knowledge of sheep or making cheese, Dr. Elliot was undeterred. A medical doctor who had raised seven children and adopted two others, while simultaneously putting herself through medical school, she was well equipped with the determination to teach herself how to make cheese. Pat was also a life-long DIYer and, after reading books on the topic, at age 67 took classes at the University of Wisconsin to learn the scientific side of cheese making.
By 1996, she had also travelled to Greece for further education. While it took a long time to reach the skill-level necessary to produce great cheese, in 2005 the ACS awarded Everona‘s Piedmont with its top honors in the Farmhouse Sheep’s milk cheese category. Until her death in 2013 at age 85, Dr. Elliot continued to practice medicine as well as helping to run the Dairy with her son, Brian, and daughter-in-law, Carolyn.
Created in 2008 by Pat and Carolyn, Shenandoah is an alpine style cheese made with raw sheep’s milk. During production, the newly formed cheese is lightly pressed and then washed in a brine solution before being aged for 3 to 6 months, during which time it is washed again in the brine solution. This helps it to develop its semi-firm, smooth texture. The flavor is sweet with notes of grass, hay, butter and nuts; it is like Emmentaler (Swiss Cheese), but without the holes.
This is a cheese to enjoy with beer. Whether it is a light Hefeweizen, or a complex Belgian Ale, the floral and nutty flavors of the cheese complement beer very well. Shenandoah can be used in any dish that calls for Swiss cheese or an Alpine cheese such as Ementaller. It melts beautifully and adds that sweet, nutty character to everything from a ham sandwich to fondue.