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Great Mistakes: The Farm at Doe Run’s St. Malachi

The Farm at Doe Run's Matt Hettlinger and Sam Kennedy

In beautiful Chester County, Penn., a historic Roman Catholic church is perched high on a hill above The Farm at Doe Run. When we started working together in late 2013, we viewed the remarkable circa 1838 St. Malachi Church as inspiration for our first collaboration as cheesemakers: We wanted to create a cheese that would pay homage to Old World traditions but also be something distinctive that blended our production styles. The result was St. Malachi, a unique cow’s milk creation that has become a fan favorite—but the road to this cheese was not entirely straight and smooth.

When we came on board, there were already several research-and-development wheels based on an old fontina recipe made by a departing cheesemaker in Doe Run’s cave. However, after evaluating his process and the resulting hard and decidedly non-fontina-like cheese, we opted to keep the name and use some of the same acidification cultures but take St. Malachi in a different direction.

For the revamped recipe we combined elements of a washed-curd cheese with components of an Alpine style to highlight our grass-fed Jersey milk. We shot for a lower draining pH than the original instructions recommended for a better texture, and brought the curd up to a higher temperature than in a typical washed-curd cheese to encourage thermophilic culture growth. During aging we allowed the rounds to develop natural rinds to showcase the molds and bacteria found in our locally quarried stone caves. After three months we sampled a young wheel and knew we were onto something special.

The cheese continued to surprise us as it matured, and after eight months its true flavor began to emerge: savory with hints of fruit and toffee and subtle nuttiness in the firm, smooth paste. We refined the recipe further before landing on the current iteration and now offer both our regular St. Malachi (aged at least eight months) and our Reserve St. Malachi (aged at least a year)—the latter tied for Second Place Best of Show at the 2016 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition. It just goes to prove that if you follow proper cheesemaking techniques and science and add some creativity, great things can happen.

Matt Hettlinger and Sam Kennedy

Matt Hettlinger and Sam Kennedy are cheesemakers at The Farm at Doe Run in Unionville, Penn.

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