Peter Mulholland loves steel. He talks about it a lot— from the various pieces of farm equipment he’s accumulated over the years, to the the steel-framed barn he and his wife Liz recently built to shelter the goats at their farm Valley View, (the roof is covered with 84 solar panels, help generate electricity for the farm), and, of course,. In their creamery: milk tank and cheese vat: both steel.
Steel is non-reactive and easy to keep clean, and for a cheesemaker both are paramount. Peter and Liz have been making goat cheese on her mother’s farm in Topsfield, about 20 miles north of Boston, since the mid-90’s. It’s a micro-operation— they make about 6,000 pounds of cheese a year and sell most of it within a narrow radius of the farm. And they like it that way. “It’s a community thing,” says Liz, who grew up in Topsfield and “works full-time at Peter’s hobby”, she jokes. Peter, a native of neighboring Ipswich, also works as an investment advisor, tending to the farm and the cheese when he’s not in the office.
The Mulhollands are members of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, an industry group and host of the dinner, at Tremont 647 in Boston, where we met last month. One of Valley View’s wheels, a ripe, mellow camembert-style called New Meadows, was in good company as part of a cheese plate highlighting wedges from all over the state—including the earthy Karolina, a natural-rind tomme from Couet Farm in Central Massachusetts, the dense and cakey Eidolon from The Grey Barn and Farm on Martha’s Vineyard.
The cheese plate was just the beginning. Chef and owner Andy Husbands designed a family-style meal with cheese in every course. It was inspiring to see how an imaginative chef like Husbands put these lovely cheeses to use (I couldn’t stop nibbling at skillet-roasted broccoli tiled with gooey melted Eidolon).
Massachusetts is a small state with a long dairy legacy, and, despite the challenges involved with dairy farming and cheesemaking in this corner of the world, it’s one you can taste. On Saturday, November 4, the Massachusetts Cheese Guild hosts its fifth annual festival at the Somerville Armory. So much good cheese from all over the state will be there. Culture will be there. Hope you’ll be there, too!