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Bellwether Farms
United States
9 inch square, 1 in high

Family owned and operated by the Callahan family, Bellwether Farms is located in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, about an hour north of San Francisco and a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. Having raised a family and had a career as a nurse, in the early 1990's Cindy Callahan made the decision to change direction, starting a sheep farm. After initially focusing on lamb production, the Callahans were encouraged to develop their sheep into a milking herd. This, combined with a trip to Italy where they had the opportunity to taste many local sheep's milk cheeses inspired them to start to experiment with cheesemaking. The sheep at Bellwether Farm consist mainly of East Friesian ewes. The ewes give birth to between one and three lambs each year and the lambs stay with their mother for 45 days before the ewe joins the milking line. Each ewe gives, on average, slightly less than one gallon a day and they are milked for eight months before the cycle begins again. The sheep graze freely year round in addition to being given grain and alfalfa as necessary. Cindy's Callahan son Liam oversees cheese production while his wife Diana manages the office and Cindy focuses on taking care of the sheep. In addition to making a range of sheep's milk cheeses, the Callahans also buy in local Jersey cow's milk in order to make a range of cow's milk cheeses. Renowned for its rich, buttery characteristics, Jersey milk has a higher fat and protein content than most milks, which gives the cheeses a wonderfully rich, balanced flavor and creamy mouthfeel. Based on an Italian straccino recipe, Crescenza is is a very soft cheese with no rind, that is almost like a cross between mozzarella and butter. Traditionally formed in a square, flavors are lusciously milky and buttery, with a rich, slightly tart, almost yogurt-like finish. Crecenza makes a wonderful addition when treated like mozzarella - ie melted - or even just spread on fresh, crusty bread.

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