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The Butter Babe Of Vermont


butter

Photographed by Lily Landes. Lily is a documentary and portrait photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

There’s something ethereal about Bragg Farm: The way it’s framed by peaks laced with ski trails in contrasting shades of green, how its majestic barn teeters slightly without toppling. At first glance, it’s a still scene—until a hairnet-donning woman with a contagious smile pokes her head out from a corner of the barn, calling out hello.
Meet Marisa Mauro. She’s been making cheese since the age of 15, and, after opening Ploughgate Creamery in 2008, has crafted award-winning wheels—including a washed rind called Willoughby. Three years into the venture, however, tragedy struck: Her facility caught fire and burned down. Convinced that her dairy career was finished, Mauro sold the Willoughby recipe to Jasper Hill Farm and moved on.  

Mauro was waiting tables a couple of years later when she heard about a historic dairying property, Bragg Farm, for sale via the Vermont Land Trust.

After one visit, she knew it was time to revive Ploughgate Creamery—but this time, she would make cultured butter. Vying against 13 other contenders for buying rights, her business plan won over the Trust. After a year of tireless recipe development, construction, and equipment sourcing, Ploughgate’s first batches of butter were released in 2014.

Today, Mauro’s paper-wrapped eight-ounce bars (some studded with simple sea salt, others with seasonal additions such as ramps or chive flowers) and five-pound balls (often served communal-style in bars and restaurants) are gaining a local following. It’s little wonder; her culturing process results in an unctuous mass that’s tangy and sweet, with delicate grassy, nutty notes. Those flavors hint at Mauro’s slow and careful crafting, so we traveled to Vermont’s Mad River Valley to witness it ourselves.  

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After fresh cream from Saint Albans Cooperative Creamery has cultured for at least one day, it’s added to Ploughgate’s churn, which separates butterfat from buttermilk. The butterfat is then kneaded by hand to expel moisture and stacked.

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Balls of butter waiting to be wrapped.

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Mauro makes butter two-three times per week. Each batch yields about 440 hand-wrapped balls.                                                                                                   


 

Molly McDonough

Senior Editor Molly McDonough worked for cheesemakers in Switzerland and the US before earning a Master's degree in Agriculture and Food Science at the Ecole Supérieure d'Agriculture in Angers, France. After spending a year in Romania working on rural development projects with Heifer International, she returned home to Boston and joined the culture team in 2015.

3 thoughts on “The Butter Babe Of Vermont”

  1. Ann Flanigan says:

    Best butter on the planet – hands down!

  2. Phoebe Bouton says:

    I’m from Vt. and a chef love your story, wish I still lived there. I would come visit! Keep churning!🧀

    1. Thank you, Phoebe. We’re glad you liked the story

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