Cypress Grove is located in foggy Humboldt County, in the temperate northwest coastal region of California. Its origins date back to the 1970’s, when founder Mary Keehn became interested in goats while searching for a healthy source of milk for her young daughters. After starting with two animals, she quickly developed a passionate interest in breeding high quality Alpine goats. Within a few years, the herd increased significantly; finding herself with excess milk, Keehn began experimenting with cheesemaking, founding Cypress Grove in 1983.
Keehn was a pioneer. At that time, commercial goat cheese production was virtually unheard of in the US. As the company grew, Keehn decided to sell her animals to a number of local farms and buy back the milk. Today, each dairy still operates under an incentive program, ensuring consistent high quality.
As the company expanded, Keehn was approached with many acquisition offers. However none of the proposals seemed an appropriate fit until 2010 when she received a proposal from Emmi, a Swiss company, majority-owned by a cooperative of small farmers and dairy operators. Emmi committed to keeping the company headquarters in Humboldt County as well as maintaining Cypress Grove’s long-standing commitments with the community, environment and milk suppliers.
Keehn first dreamed up Humboldt Fog in 1993 after returning from a trip to Europe, inspired to create a cheese that visually echoes the typical thick white fog that frequently settles over the dark green landscape of her native Humboldt County.
To make the cheese cheesemakers pasteurize goat milk in a vat where cultures and coagulants are added and held for the acid ripening process. The mixuture is then moved to a curd press where the whey is drained off. The curd is mixed with salt, hand-packed into cheese forms, ashed, and then sprayed with mold cultures. The cheeses spend ten days in primary ripening where they are turned daily, and then “cold stabilized” for several more days before being wrapped and sent to market.
Apart from the horizontal line of ash, the interior paste of the cheese is snow-white in color when young, with a smooth, dense and slightly crumbly texture. With age, the paste starts to break down under the rind, becoming smoother, slightly translucent and ultimately runny. The flavors of Humboldt Fog change with age. When young, the cheese is clean, bright and lemony with a citrus-like tang. As it matures, flavors intensify and and can become quite assertive, especially just under the rind.