Chaseholm Family Farm: Farmstead Cheese from Upstate New York

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If you saw a ninety year-old woman walking across the street in front of your car over the past three weeks and was surprised to discover that, A- as she (slowly) grew closer, her hair was brown, not gray, and that, B- she might have actually been, say fifty or so years younger than you thought, it was me. I’m sorry for taking so long walking in front of your car. I threw out my back. I wish I could say it was from doing something fun like lifting bottles of wine from a table to my mouth. Rather it was from lifting a case of wine from the floor to a table. That I wasn’t going to drink.

Which provokes me to say- bless you, cheesemakers for spending your days bending over vats lifting heavy curds, flipping huge wheels, and scrubbing floors and tables. Your backs and arms are of super human strength. Thank you for risking your body to make delicious cheese. I would never bet against you in an arm wrestling competition.

Now, my friends, I’m back to the blogging world. My back is happy sitting in front of a computer once more, and I’m excited to share some pics from my trip to New York.

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When my friend Kathleen Cotter and I of The Bloomy Rind drove through New York en route to Providence for ACS this July, we reached out to east coast cheese friends to ask who to visit. Since Kathleen’s from Nashville and I’m from Oakland, we thought it could be a cool chance to meet smaller cheese folks whose goods we hadn’t had a chance to try. When Matt of Cheesenotes learned we were already visiting Sproutcreek (more on this later), he told us to to check out Chaseholm nearby. Points for Matt.

Chaseholm Farm is a farmstead family creamery run by sister and brother duo Sarah and Rory in Northern Dutchess and Southern Columbia counties in upstate New York. The sister and her partner raise and milk the lovely Jerseys, Holsteins, Brown Swiss cows organically on grass surrounding their farm (in addition to making sauerkraut and apothecary products), and the Rory makes the cheese. Which coincidentally is delicious and nearly unavailable in Oakland -better luck to you, my east coast friends!

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Chaseholm CamembertChaseholmCheesemaker (1 of 1)Rory, left, Justin right. The cheese team.

We arrived at the farm a little flustered, hot from the humidity, fresh out of phone batteries, and hoping the maps left on our phone screen actually directed us to creamery on our second attempt (we already stopped at the dairy instead of the make room down the road on the way in). To soothe our nerves and lessen the heat, Rory, the handsome brother-cheesemaker drank a beer with us. Because, you know, it was hot and all the cheese was already made, and he’s nice.

Though the farm has been in the family since the early 1900’s, it wasn’t always a dairy. After hearing his family farm was in danger of selling, in 2007, Rory packed up his bags from his-then home base of California and returned to New York. Because he knew that if they were able to make money from the farm, they could keep it alive, Rory retrofitted his grandfather’s old barn into a make room, bought some cows, and started making cheese. His sister returned home shortly after and became a cow maven. The rest is fermented history. Check out Sarah’s instagram account, by the way, some of the best pics of farm life out there.

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A blue cheese expirement

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We loved touring Chaseholm. Not only was the beer refreshing, the cheese super tasty, and the farm beautiful, it was fun to see how Rory and the family re-vamped everything. They not only make cheese, they build stuff. When we were wandering around the aging room, we looked up to see tiny water trickles running down the walls, “That’s for humidity,” Rory said, squinting, “I think I want to put some more in.” You know, easy as pie, because they already constructed the cave and started the entire system anyhow.

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One of our favorites of his cheeses was Moonlight – a sexy little log number with an ash coating covered in white bloomy rind. Pictured by the local honey in the above photo. It tastes sprightly, lemony, and sweet and buttery. See those yellow tones in the cheese? That’s the color of milk from cows who have been munching on grass all summer long.

Moonlight is a lactic-acid set cheese, meaning that its curds hang out for hours slowly developing acidity before being molded into cylinders. The curds spend their time relaxing in the bags below before being molded the next day.

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Some other favorites were their Camembert, and Stella Vallais, a sweet, nutty aged cheese. That funky number below was Red Beard, a cheese washed with apple cider and brandy. Normally aged from a couple weeks to a month or so, this was a stinky square pushed to the back of the aging room and then forgotten about for a month or four, with which Rory tested our funk endurance. Kathleen was strong, I was weak. It was tongue bristling.

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One of our favorite visits on our way to ACS, Chaseholm was a beautiful reminder of the kindness of strangers willing to share beers on a hot day, the drive that propels cheesemakers forward, and the deliciousness that can ensue with enough passion and rich, rich milk. Thanks for the visit, Chaseholm!

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