Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Locally Made Cheese

In a previous post I mentioned my desire to find a source for locally made cheese. After learning about a Lexington-based cheese maker during our last visit to the Lexington Farmers Market I decided to do some research. To my surprise I have found three cheese makers within 150 miles of here.

The first of these semi-local cheese makers is the Boone Creek Creamery in Lexington, KY. We spoke to the owner of the creamery at the Downtown Farmers Market. He has several varieties of cheese available. I tried the Scandinavian Bread Cheese, which was very good. We didn't buy anything, but I would like to visit their cheese shop sometime. Their products are also available at the Good Foods Market, Whole Foods, and several other locations.

While looking for the Boone Creek Creamery cheeses at Good Foods market I ran across some cheese made by Bluegrass Dairy and Food, which I later found out is located in Glasgow, KY. Bluegrass Dairy seems to be the complete opposite of Boone Creek Creamery. While Boone Creek is an artisan cheese maker, Bluegrass Dairy is a food service supplier who makes various products including several dairy-based powders.

Initially I had thought that Bluegrass Dairy might be a better source of cheese than Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese. I had always thought that Kenny's was based in Northern Kentucky, but I found out that it is based in Austin, which is just a few miles south of Glasgow, where Bluegrass Dairy is located. I had also always thought of Kenny's as a larger company, primarily because of the professional quality of their packaging. Bluegrass Dairy, on the other hand, uses very simple packaging, similar to what one might find at a farmers market. After comparing the websites, however, I found that Kenny's is much more attractive to me than Bluegrass Dairy. I like the fact that Kenny's started as a side business of a family dairy farm. I also like the fact that the milk comes from the family farm and they can therefore provide information on how the cows are fed and treated.

So, now the big question is, are we going to switch to acquiring our cheese from one, or more, of these sources? We primarily use 5 types of cheese, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Monterrey Jack, Cheddar, and, I unfortunately have to admit, American. Of those, the only one carried by Boone Creek Creamery is Parmesan. The price is $10, for what I believe is an 8 oz package. This is very similar to the price we use to pay for real Parmigian-Reggiano, before we cut back to a cheaper variety because I was going through so much of it. I would also like to try some of Boone Creek's other varieties for times when I just want some cheese to snack on.

Kenny's carries both Cheddar and Monterrey Jack. Their prices are $10/lb, which is approximately 3 to 4 times what we currently pay for those varieties. If we do switch to Kenny's our plan is to reduce the amount of cheese that we use, so that the increase in cost is minimized. I'm thinking that if we do this correctly, the cost of our Cheddar and Monterrey Jack may double, instead of increasing to as much as four times our current costs with no changes to our use. One nice thing about switching to Kenny's Farmhouse Cheese is that it is available at several locations. The closest location is Happy Meadows Natural Foods in Berea, which is somewhere we visit with some regularity already.

Bluegrass Dairy does carry Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, and Parmesan. I'm not sure what their price is for Parmesan, but I believe their Cheddar and Monterrey Jack is priced similar to Kenny's. Since I think I prefer Kenny's anyway, I can't see any reason to purchase from Bluegrass Dairy. Their website does claim that in 2010 their Monterrey Jack did win the World's Cheese Championship, however, so maybe it is worth trying at some point.

I have yet to find a local source for Mozzarella or American Cheese. As far as I'm concerned, we can just stop buying American, although Andrea may not agree. I do eat it occasionally and actually do prefer it on the cheeseburgers that Andrea makes. I'm more than willing to give it up, however. Mozzarella is a different story, however, We've only recent switched to what I consider "real" Mozzarella. We use it on pizzas, which we don't make often, but with enough regularity that we need to find a good source for cheese. If we don't find a semi-local source, its not the end of the world, since we don't go through a lot of it. I would still like to find something, however, or maybe consider, eventually, making our own.

I don't have a good feel for how much of each type of cheese we currently go through. One reason for this is that it varies so much, depending on what we are eating. When I'm working outside before work most mornings we go through more Cheddar because I eat it on breakfast burritos. When we are eating tacos often we go through more Monterrey Jack. If I'm eating a lot of pasta I'll go through a lot of Parmesan. Also, if we're trying to watch what we eat the amount of cheese we use will be reduced, because we actually measure it and stick to more reasonable amounts. I'm going to guess that right now we spend maybe $20 per month on cheese. By switching to more local producers I'm thinking that we'd spend maybe $30-$40, assuming that we cut back the amounts that we use. If we can manage the switch to more local cheese for an additional $10-$20 per month I'll be happy with that.

1 comment:

  1. After Tony and my mom conspired to convince me to start eating fish, eggs, and dairy again -- I was having very mild but noticeable memory problems; the fish and eggs seem to have helped -- I've found that I prefer colby cheese to American or cheddar. But then, the only organic American or cheddar available here are white, and don't exactly taste the way I remember. I LOVE veggie burgers brushed with barbecue sauce and with a slice of colby melted on it. Colby is perfect with tuna melts, too (or salmon melts, which I have more often).

    I've given up on ever finding a local, small-business, humane, organic source of what I think of as "real" cheese. Especially mozzarella, cheddar, or colby -- my favorites. Eggs have proven easier to find, not surprisingly, but cheese would be a fantastic discovery. I'll be looking into these sellers!