Located near Colchester in Connecticut, Cato Corner Farm is owned by a mother-and-son partnership between Elizabeth MacAlistair and Mark Gillman. Having owned the farm for a number of years, MacAlistair started milking cows and experimenting with cheesemaking in 1997 with a view to keeping the farm alive and sustainable. Two years later in 1999, Gillman left his job to join her and, after they had each taken several workshops and courses, they were able to begin cheese production in earnest. Gillman is the primary cheesemaker at Cato Corner and is also responsible for the cheese aging, while MacAlistair manages the farm and milking.
The farm is home to a mixed herd of 45 Jersey cows that graze outside from May to the end of October. During the winter months they eat only natural fodder and supplements. All the cheeses are made by hand in small batches from raw milk. Mark makes a variety of cheeses, the style of each type being suited to the seasonal components and characteristics of the milk.
One of these cheeses, a particularly stinky washed rind wheel called Hooligan, lives up to its name. During an aging period of 60-75 days, it's washed repeatedly in a brine solution to encourage the development of a bright orange surface.
The interior has a high moisture content when young and a slightly chalky center with a tendency for the paste to break down and become softer just under the rind. Flavors at this point are pleasingly grassy, savory and vegetal.
With age, these characteristics are accentuated. The paste becomes much more runny, and the flavors of the cheese become more assertive. Not for the faint hearted!
Melt a wedge of Hooligan on top of cranberry-walnut bread, slather it with hot pepper jelly or serve it alongside a Belgian-style ale.