Since 1993, Vermont Shepherd has made Verano, their award-winning flagship cheese. Made in the springtime, when the sheep have been grazing on pastures and fields, Verano is a sheep’s milk cheese that’s available from August to April.
Vermont Shepherd is the creation of the Major and Ielpi family, who own and run one Vermont’s oldest sheep farms, also called Vermont Shepherd (formerly Major Farm). Having bought the farm from his parents, David Major was among the first small-scale cheesemakers in the United States to begin producing sheep's milk cheese in the 1990s.
Because there was no template or model, the early days of cheesemaking were not easy. However, after a visit to the French Pyrenées, David became inspired to make sheep's milk cheese in the tradition of those made in the Pyrenées. At the farm, they dug their own maturing cave, which is built into the side of a hill at the farm and where cheeses mature for two to six months.
To make Verano, raw sheep’s milk is heated and starter cultures and rennet are added. After coagulation, the curds are cut. The whey is drained off and the remaining curd is packed into colander shaped molds, which give the cheese its distinctive flying saucer shape. The cheeses are pressed and drained before being brined. They are then transferred to the underground aging caves. Verano is aged between three to six months.
Vermont Shepherd has a golden brown rind and a smooth, firm, ivory-colored paste.
Flavors are deliciously rustic and sweet, underpinned by notes of caramel, earth, and hay—pleasingly full-flavored and profound, but not overwhelming. The cheese is aromatic and herbaceous, like mint and thyme.