Located in the upper reaches of the Hudson River Valley, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company was founded in 1993 by Tom and Nancy Clark, with 150 East Friesian ewes. It could be said that it was destined to happen, since at aged 10, Tom won a blue ribbon at the Dutchess County Fair for his Hampshire Sheep. At the time he pronounced to a local newspaper reporter that he wanted to raise a flock when he grew up. After life took his career in a different direction for a number of years, the Clarks did, in fact, end up raising that flock when they built Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. The couple has been involved in every aspect of the company, from the design of the barns to cheesemaking to working to maintain the property. Old Chatham not only produce cheeses, but also sheep’s milk yogurt. In fact, in 2007, the yogurt was in such demand that the milk supply on the property was strained. Consequently, they began a program working with a number of Amish farmers in their area to buy their milk as well as helping to increase the farmers’ sheep milk production. This ensured the Old Chatham was able to continue to maximise production of their cheeses and yogurts. Old Chatham’s own flock now numbers over 800 ewes comprised of East Friesian, Dorset Finn and various crosses and as such, constitutes the largest sheep dairy in the United States. Kinderhook Creek is a product of the partnership with Amish farmers. It was released in 2011 and is very similar to Old Chatham’s Shepherd’s Wheel.
Aged for only two-weeks before release, the cheese has a very thin bloomy rind. Under the rind is a firm and dense paste with a very mild flavor with a hint of mushrooms. If matured further, up to 8 weeks, it will ripen from the outside in, becoming supple and spreadable. Kinderhook Creek will also increasingly have the aroma of mushrooms and nuts. The flavor transforms from very mild to savory, to the point of being almost meaty.
Pair this cheese with a very dry sparkling wine in order to have nice contrast in texture and flavor. When served on warm bread and drizzled with honey Kinderhook Creek truly shines. It can also be served with mushrooms and flat bread, or in a grilled cheese sandwich using pumpernickel bread.