After working 30 years as a cheesemaker and as a cheesemaking consultant, Peter Dixon opened his own creamery in 2013 in Westminster West, Vermont, along with his wife Rachel Fritz Schall and her sister Alex Schall.
Parish Hill’s cheeses are inspired by the traditional cheeses of Italy. They’re handmade in small batches using raw milk, which is produced at the Elm Lea Farm at the Putney School. The farm is just five minutes down the road from the cheese house, and its milking herd grazes on fresh pasture from June to October. Parish Hill cheese production happens from May to November in order to take advantage of the pastures that give a highly aromatic quality to the milk, resulting in complex and subtle flavor variations.
Milk for cheesemaking is ripened using homegrown cheese cultures, which are produced by inoculating the farm’s raw milk with pure bacterial cultures and then propagating them continuously. Traditional calf rennet is sourced from Europe and Quebec, and sea salt is sourced from the Maine Sea Salt Company in Marshfield.
Suffolk Punch is a classic pasta filata cheese, made by stretching lactic fermented curd in hot water until it forms its shape. It’s modeled after Caciocavallo, a traditional Italian cheese that is famous for having been tied at the ends of a long rope and then hung over a rod to age, like saddlebacks thrown on the back of a horse.
During at least two months of aging, the gourd-shaped cheeses are rubbed with olive oil and polished to create an edible rind.
With a firm and smooth interior when young, Suffolk Punch becomes increasingly flaky and drier with age (some versions are aged more than six months). Flavor is buttery and tangy, developing peppery notes over time.
Pair younger versions of Suffolk Punch with a Sauvignon Blanc or a Beaujolais, and more aged versions with an Amarone or Nebbiolo.