Tarentaise (Spring Brook)
Spring Brook Farm, owned by Jeremy Stephenson, is a traditional dairy farm located in Reading, Vermont. The farm spans more than 500 acres and is home to 100 registered Jersey cows. The 42 milking cows produce over 600,000 lbs. of milk each year, now used to make artisanal Tarentaise cheese.
Originally produced at neighboring Thistle Hill Farm, Tarentaise was so successful that Thistle Hill cheesemakers John and Janine Putnam partnered with Jeremy and Spring Brook Farm, as well as the Farms for City Kids Foundation, to expand production. The business arrangement between the two farms and the foundation is unique. As part of a licensing agreement, Spring Brook Farm and the Farms for City Kids Foundation can make Tarentaise, and call it by this name, as long as it's made according to certain stipulations. The milk must come from Jersey breed cows, the cows must graze on local pasture when weather permits, fermented feed is prohibited, copper-lined vats must be used, the milk must be raw and the cheese must be a "Farmstead Cheese" (according to the definition used by the American Cheese Society).
Tarentaise is a semi-hard ‘Alpine’ style cheese modeled after its French cousins Abondance and Beaufort. It is made from fresh, raw milk that flows directly from the milking barn adjacent to the creamery into twin copper vats.
After coagulation, the curds and whey are moved to the gravity-fed molds by means of a vacuum system, identical to the system used by small and medium sized producers of the Savoie and Comté regions of France. Molds are filled, allowed to drain, and then moved to an adjacent press. After pressing the cheeses are brined and ready for aging in Spring Brook's aging room, adjacent to the make (production) room.
Spring Brook's Tarentaise is slightly different than that of its sister farm Thistle Hill, primarily in its texture-- a difference Jeremy Stephenson attributes to variations in pressing and other subtle differences in the make process, as well as the fact that the milk is sourced from different farms. As John Putnam of Thistle Hill stated on a radio program before Spring Brook Farm had made its first pound of cheese, "we know the cheese will be different and we will celebrate that difference." According to Jeremy, “this is the beauty and appeal of a raw milk farmstead cheese. The seasons, the land and the direct input from the hand of the cheesemaker are reflected through the milk. All these subtleties combined result in a complex and nuanced product.”
Tarentaise has the classic nuttiness of a traditional Alpine cheese, with complex layers of flavor, underscored with herbaceous, savory, vegetal notes.
Pair it with Alsatian whites (Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer), or with English Brown Ales such as Samuel Smith's Nut Brown.