While an east coast winter can put any local foods operation into hibernation, the region’s goat-cheese makers have been quite busy. Valley Shepherd Creamery opened a cheesemaking operation and grilled sandwich stand in Reading Terminal Market, and Cranberry Creek hired Paul Lawler (formerly of Fair Food Farmstand) as their full-time cheesemaker to develop a new line of goat cheeses at their state-of-the-art facility in the Poconos. Add to that the recent World Jersey Cheese Awards for nearby artisan dairies Keswick Creamery and Hidden Hills, and it seems that eastern Pennsylvania is starting to get its dairy due.
As winter fades and spring unfolds, there’s plenty to still be excited about. Kidding, when goats give birth to their young, takes place in March and April, and marks the start of goat cheese season, ushering in snow-white cheeses that appear in tubs and tuffets at local markets. May is the time of year to sink your teeth into soft chèvre, fluffy goat ricotta and other cloud-like offerings. The secret to great spring goat cheese lies in the tenderness of the grass. As herds move onto young pastures, they shift from a grain-based diet to consume new shoots and leaves — ingredients that generate fresh, light-tasting milk imbued with sunshine.
Here’s a sampling of what local goat cheesemakers have in store for this spring.
Valley Shepherd Creamery
Long Valley, NJ • valleyshepherd.com
Reading Terminal Market’s newest stand features a range of goat cheese styles. Look for supple chèvres, spreadable “goat cream,” French-style crottins, and husky aged raw goat daddies like Gotogetagoat that deliver rompin’ stompin’ flavor. Be sure to peer through the windows into the on-site “make room,” where you can watch cheesemaker Jamie Png stir fresh curds. Png isn’t making goat cheese just yet, but you can always snag a braid of fresh mozzarella still warm from the vat!
Shellbark Hollow Farm
West Chester, PA • shellbarkhollow.com
Pete Demchur, the area’s godfather of goat cheese, is known for his Extra Sharp II — a kicked up chèvre that pairs beautifully with picnic fare, like buckwheat honey, fresh fruit, cured meats and crusty bread. This spring, Demchur debuts two new selections: Cornwallis, a deeply creamy sharp chèvre that has ripened at least six months (expect “a hint of blue and a slightly peppery finish”), and Tumbleweed, a raw milk sharpie washed with Frecon Farms’ hard ciders.
Fleetwood, PA • farmfromage.com
New to the local stage, Kirchenberg Farm will be offering Thumbalina, a small goat crottin (or cake) made by John Zimmerman, a Mennonite goat farmer in Berks County. Thumbalina will be distributed by Farm Fromage, a local company that works closely with new Lancaster County cheesemakers to develop and distribute their products. “As a young cheese it’s delicious, and when it gets hard as a hockey puck it’s great grated on vegetables,” says Howard Field, founder of Farm Fromage. “Each one is a perfect three mouthfuls.”
Cranberry Creek Farm
Cresco, PA • cranberrycreekfarm.com
When Headhouse Farmers Market opens in May, stop by the Cranberry Creek stand for downy chèvre rolled in fresh herbs, and keep your eye out for new creations by Paul Lawler who joins the operation this spring. His expertise in making beefy Taleggio-style cheese and rustic tommes will no doubt lift this young dairy to new heights. “I’m going to bring some serious washed rinds to the table,” says Lawler. “We also want to try a leaf-wrapped bloomy, perhaps doused in liqueur. I’ll also be honing their tomme, called Eugene — named after the farm’s founder.”
Yellow Springs Farm
Chester Springs, PA • yellowspringsfarm.com
This pristine farmstead dairy in Chester County services the area’s dairy fiends with a goat cheese CSA that starts in May and runs through the fall. The CSA pick-up locations include the Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal Market, which also carries a seasonal line of Yellow Springs’ hard-to-find award-winning cheeses, as well as many more outside the city (see sidebar for the full list). In late spring, look for two new goat cheeses in the line-up. “We’re developing a new cheese that uses native sasparilla, and another with sumac that we’re calling Staghorn Sumac,” says Al Renzie, cheesemaker at Yellow Springs. Al and his wife Catherine also run a native plant nursery, and their growing line of cheeses incorporates some unusual flavors grown on the farm, including saffron and black walnuts.
Misty Creek Goat Dairy
Gap, PA • farmfromage.com
Amish wunderkind Amos Miller has established himself as the go-to goat ricotta producer with his velvety Misty Lovely. He also produces a wonderful aged Spanish-style goat cheese, called Kidchego. Both make excellent picnic cheeses, especially alongside honey and spring berries.
Linden Dale Farm
Ronks, PA • centralmarketlancaster.com
The Mellinger family makes one of the area’s most authentic French staples. A take-off on central France’s Valençay, Dalencay is shaped like a pyramid and rolled in ash, just like the original. The farm also produces Laughing Lindy, a Brie-like cheese that is herbaceous and rich; it’s rare to find great “bloomy” cheeses made from goat’s milk, but cheesemaker Andrew Mellinger has a light touch. This spring, he’s experimenting with goat’s milk yogurt, but is determined not to expand his line of cheeses just yet. “We’re making the same cheeses we made last year, but we’re trying to make them better,” said Mellinger over breakfast during kidding season. “Right now, we’ve got our hands full.”
For more on local cheese, visit madamefromageblog.com
Who’s Got Your Goat?
Look for the above selections at area farmers markets, Greensgrow Farm, Fair Food Farmstand, Di Bruno Bros. and on the cheese boards of Philadelphia restaurants, including Tria, Talula’s Garden and Kennett Restaurant.