Located in Long Valley, New Jersey, Valley Shepherd Creamery is owned and operated by Eran Wajswol (pronounced why-soul).
Eran and his wife both have a background in engineering as well as a keen interest in farming. After initially trying their hand as lamb meat producers, both became fascinated by cheese and cheesemaking during frequent trips to Europe.
This inspired them to purchase a flock of Dutch Frieisian dairy sheep and experiment with making a Pyrenees-style, cave aged sheeps milk cheese. More European trips to visit cheesemakers followed, and all the while Eran honed and refined his cheesemaking skills. Eventually the cheese reached the point where Eran was satisfied enough to release his first cheese, Oldwick Shepherd, named after their local village.
Today, the farm at Valley Shepherd is home to over 600 East Friesland and Lacaune sheep together with approximately 100 Alpine, Nubian and mixed breed goats and 50 Jersey and Guernsey cows.
The different milk types allow Eran and his lead cheesemaker, Jeanine Dargis, to make a great variety of styles of cheese - approximately 25-30 different types are aging in the maturing caves at any one time.
The cheese cave, which was created by blasting the side out of a rocky hill and then covering it back up with earth after construction, houses four aging rooms. Each temperature controlled room is designed for optimum aging of a different style of cheese.
All Valley Shepherd’s aged cheeses are made from raw milk and traditional rennet.
Production of Crema de Blue involves several unique processes. One of these is that after the curd is formed, it is stirred entirely by hand, in the vat for approximately three hours before being transferred into the molds. According to Wajswol, this labor-intensive stirring holds the key to the cheese’s light texture. The stirring is always done either by Wajswol himself or his head cheesemaker Jeanine Dargis.
Finished wheels are wrapped in foil for thirty days and placed in the aging cave to mature. At this point, the foil is removed and the blue mold allowed to develop fully, creating the soft blue-green veining present in the finished cheese.