About a year ago while passing through Brattleboro, I stopped in at the Grafton Village Cheese store and spied something that caught my interest. It was a little wedge of cheese with a Jersey cow on the label that said “Rupert”. I thought to myself, “I used to live by a Rupert”. Then I saw that the farm was located in West Pawlet, Vermont. “Hey, I used to live in West Pawlet.” So I had to procure the wedge and figure out what was going on.
What I find particularly exciting about Consider Bardwell Farm is that their cheeses are made from raw milk (except for their Mettowee, named for the Mettowee river that runs through Pawlet). Now Becky and I try to buy raw milk cheeses when ever we can, but the particularly cool feature is that they make their cheese with sea salt.
I learned from my health care practitioner a long time ago that sea salt is naturally balanced for sodium and potassium in the same ratio that your body likes it. You see, where we get into trouble is when we use table salt, which is sodium chloride. This knocks your body out of balance and you start to retain water as you body tries to cope with the sodium overload. Because we only use sea salt in our home, my experience is that I will put on 2-4 lbs of water weight when we eat at a restaurants or get into processed food. I know this because I weigh myself every morning and the data is irrefutable.
So, a “locally” produced raw milk line of cheese made with sea salt. It’s a no-brainer! But it has to taste good. Fortunately, it does. If it didn’t, then you wouldn’t be reading this.
Naturally, I had to find out who was making this cheese and where where they making it. It turns out that I have some history with this farm. The farm is located up the road from where I grew up in West Pawlet and we were friends with the Nelson family that operated this farm in the ‘60 and ‘70s! I’ve even been inside the barns and the farmhouse! During a visit, my mom took this picture of my big brother and me in the barn feeding a calf.
On my trip to visit family in New York, I decided to take a sight-seeing tour through my old stomping grounds. And although I was dealing with a heavy dose of deja-freaking-vu when I drove into the driveway, I parked in the visitor’s parking space (not where we used to park), just took a few snaps and procured some cheese. After all, I am now a stranger in these parts, so I didn’t go walking through the barns to find old family friends that are now long gone. It just wouldn’t do.
It was on this farm that I had my first maple sugaring experience at about 6 years of age. We went out gathering sap on a tractor drawn sap wagon. It was brought to the sugar house and I still remember the the man boiling the sap that I thought of as “the Grandfather” because he was the oldest. But that’s another story.
Now the Civil War was wrapping up in 1864. Consider Stebbins Bardwell started a cheese making co-op at his farm. The idea was to centralize the manufacturing of cheese and distribute it back to the famers for sale. This reduced the overhead for the farmers helped set up distribution out of the region. Rather than parrot back the data to you, there is an excellent article from the Hill Country Observer that you can read.
And since I came all the way for Eastern Massachusetts, I arrived a perfectly horrid time to photograph the farm, so I did what I could. I love the red brick farm house.
This is a cropped down section of the shot above. Note that the date on the farm house is 1814. That house is 200 years old!
Locally here on Cape Ann, I have procured Dorset at The Cave on Main Street in Gloucester. Dorset is a soft raw Jersey cow cheese. I keep needling them to get the other cheeses in…because they are made with raw milk and sea salt…and I happen to like what they make.
In closing, I have seen in the last 50 years so many family farms go away. In a time of box stores, supermarkets and fast food, it really is important to challenge the way we eat. For us, gourmet cheese is an indulgence. Supporting the efforts of small farms is an ethic.