Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cheese Festival

This afternoon (after a lovely family brunch) we headed to a cheese festival at Beltane Farms in Lebanon, CT.  I LOVE cheese, and any excuse to nosey around a farm, so I was excited when my parents were eager to join me for a Sunday drive.

I had taken a cheese-making workshop from the farm's owner, Paul Trubey, a few years ago after I had been working on a dairy farm and fell in love with dairy products of all sorts (cottage cheese, aged cheeses, yogurt, and, of course, ice cream).  At the time his operation was still fairly new and he was milking about 20 goats to make an award-winning chevre.

Now the business has grown to include the milk of a neighboring goat dairy, totaling 115 goats.  Together their milk makes a variety of cheeses (fresh and aged), soap, and even Cajeta, a Mexican-style caramel produced by Peace Tree Desserts (and ABSOLUTELY melt-in-your-mouth delicious).

In fact, of the 20 or so artisan food producers at the festival, I didn't taste anything that wasn't delicious.  We left with a spread of local cheeses (including my favorite tarentaise cheese from Thistle Hill Farm), two different types of Chow Chow (a green tomato relish), and a precious jar of Rosemary Cajeta Caramel.  We also sampled local wines, cookies, cottage cheese, and more.

The best part of the afternoon was seeing the goats and exploring the property.  The homestead was small, and home to 2 cows, 3 donkeys, 20 milking goats, a few kids, and a flock of chickens.  The milking parlor had only 2 stanchions for milking, and the cheese making room wasn't much larger.  It was hard to imagine exactly how much milk, and then cheese, they were able to produce on their own.  But it was impressive that such a small farm could produce an award-winning specialty product and market themselves well enough to be known across the state.  Mmmmmmmmm...cheese.

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