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Vermont Shepherd

Major Farm/Vermont Shepherd Cheese
United States
7-8 ins diameter, 4 ins high
5-8 lbs

Vermont Shepherd is the creation of David Major of Major Farms, near Putney in Vermont. Having originally bought the farm from his parents, the David was among the first small-scale cheesemakers in the United States to begin producing sheep's milk cheese in 1990.

Because there was no template or model, the early days were not easy, and in the David's own words they discarded a great deal of cheese. However, after a visit to the French Pyrenées he became inspired to make sheep's milk cheese along the lines of those made in the Pyrenées.

Major Farm was also among the first to dig their own maturing caves, which are built into the side of the hill at their farm. They make two types of aged cheese; their original cheese Vermont Shepherd made form sheep's milk. and a new creation called Queso del Invierno, made from a blend of sheep and cow milk.

Both types are shaped almost like a flying saucer which is a result of the colanders that are used for pressing.

Vermont Shepherd is resolutely seasonal, being made between April and November. The recipe is based on the sheep's milk cheeses of the Pyrenees in France.

Milk is heated, starter cultures and rennet are added and, after coagulation, the curds are cut. The whey is drained off and the remaining curd is packed into colander shaped molds, that give the cheese its distinctive shape. The cheeses are pressed and drained for 2-4 hours before being brined. They are then transferred to the underground aging caves and matured for between 3-4 months before release.

Vermont Shepherd has a golden brown rind and smooth, ivory-colored, firm paste.

Flavors are deliciously rustic and sweet, underpinned by notes of caramel, earth and hay. The cheese is aromatic and herbacious, pleasingly full-flavored and profound, but not overwhelming.