From Pittsburgh in the west to Philadelphia in the east, Pennsylvania’s two food-loving cities frame a rural landscape of agricultural abundance. The state boasts several key ingredients needed for craft cheesemaking to thrive: agricultural infrastructure, curious chefs and consumers, dairy heritage, and proximity to markets.
Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the country for dairy production and has more raw-milk cheesemakers than any other state. Over the past two decades, milk that previously went straight into the commodity market has been increasingly channeled to cheese—both faithful renditions of European styles and unique riffs that employ classic techniques in new ways.
One area poised for a local cheese renaissance is Chester County, just a short drive west from Philadelphia. Though increasingly suburban, the region’s rolling hills are home to several award-winning and accomplished producers, including Amazing Acres, Meadowset Farm, the Farm at Doe Run, Birchrun Hills Farm, and Yellow Springs Farm—many of which focus on a pasture-based model.
Even if you’re city-bound in the Keystone State, chances are you’ll find a cheese bounty to swoon over. In Pittsburgh, pay a visit to Chantal’s or to Penn Mac, the Strip District’s old-school macaroni company. In Philadelphia, visit Claudio’s for tender-bellied mozzarella made daily, as well as any number of Di Bruno Bros. shops, which boast a solid selection of both local and international offerings and an extremely well-educated staff.
Or, to take it all in, plan a cheese road trip along the state’s Cheese Trail, visiting 13 members of the Pennsylvania Cheese Guild along the way. One thing’s for sure: You won’t go hungry along the way.
Best Cheeses of Pennsylvania
Yellow Springs Creamery
Chester Springs, Penn.
This tomme-style wheel is named for the Pickering Creek watershed in Pennsylvania’s northern Chester County—not far from where Al and Catherine Renzi raise Nubian goats and produce 20 varieties of fresh and ripened cheeses. Remarkably mild for an aged goat cheese, Pickering has a malty flavor reminiscent of caramelized milk and aromas of mossy concrete. Its firm, smooth paste is pure white at the center, developing a sage-green hue closer to the rind.
This farmstead brie style is a subtle success. Earthy with a clean, lactic brightness, its snow-white bloomy rind yields delicate notes of button mushrooms. Faintly sweet with notes of raw hazelnuts, Noble Road’s fudgy richness lingers on the palate.
The Creamery Collection Batch #13
The Farm at Doe Run
Milk from pasture-raised sheep and cows comes together in these stout wheels made in the style of Pecorino. They are 13th in Doe Run’s numerical series of American farmstead cheeses inspired by European wheels; the paste has a rich yellow-amber hue and a caramel-y, buttered-popcorn flavor to match.