Jasper Hill Cheese Camp
For three days a couple of weeks ago, I went to a magical place called Cheese Camp (yes, it's a real place!) that is run by Jasper Hill Cellars (makers/agers of Harbison, Alpha Toleman, Oma, etc.). Jasper Hill is up in Greensboro, Vermont, and at this time of year (early mud or 'stick' season) can be hailing one minute, then bluebird skies the next. Luckily, for two out of three days, we had beautiful sunny weather that was cold but you could feel spring pushing its way in, slightly softening those sharp winter winds. This was a good thing because while most of Cheese Camp took place indoors, we were also outside touring Jasper Hill’s farms, and we snuck in a wonderful cross-country ski.
Cheese Camp involved learning about the whole industry - from the animals, to the the consumers who eat the cheese! We learned about herd management, which for Jasper Hill means cows. It is an extremely complex subject where the farm manager is trying to maximize the amount of milk coming from each cow. This includes a million details from how much they eat of grain versus grass, to how much time each cow spends chewing. They literally watch how much their cows chew because chewing expends energy that could be going into milk-making.
We learned about why things cost what they cost through the supply chain - from farmers to makers to distributers to stores - and about the science of milk and cheeses. We watched different kinds of cheese being made in rooms that are always kept in the 90s with humidity up to 95%. Basically it’s like doing hard manual labor on the hottest and most humid days. We went to the two farms Jasper Hill owns and met the cows. We saw the fields where they pasture and we saw the hay drier where the farmers dry grass from these fields to use all year long. Basically, we did everything a cheesemonger could ever want. But to truly understand all the information everybody at Jasper Hill gave us, I think I need to hear it and see it about seven more times. So, Cheese Camp 2019, anyone??
For the love of cheese and camp,