Words | Kevin Conroy
Tucked away in Cresco, Cranberry Creek Farm produces cheeses from the milk of Normandy cows left free to graze in the woods and wild pastures. The French breed gives a rich milk perfect for cheesemaking.
The farm, run by Jeff Henry, is idyllic. Beginning with a single cow named Delilah, Jeff began making cheese in his kitchen, eventually expanding to a small herd and production facility. While other producers may buy all their milk, Jeffrey sees himself first as a farmer (others may see him first as a master cheesemaker.) He has recently added several American Alpine goats to the farm with the hope of making goat cheeses in the future.
The farm store on the property sells all his varieties, not the least of which is the masterpiece of a blue-veined cheese. With a savor and long finish that outweighs its European counterparts, there could be nothing finer than a good bottle of wine paired with this.
The aged Tomme, a cheese originated in the French Alps, defies imagination. The rind is exceptional, compounding and amplifying all the complexities of this star. Cranberry Creek Farm’s heavyweights are superior to the many imported cheeses available today.
Apart from a single weekend class in Vermont, Jeff is self-taught. There is distinction between his batches, not the commercial sameness found from manufacturers both domestic and abroad. He is not afraid to challenge tradition. This art is a labor of love, and Jeff works seven days a week, twelve hours a day to achieve it. Trying to market in urban areas already crowded with fromagers is a major frustration, but the reward of raising his children on a family farm tips the balance.
There is an intricacy to his craft. The soft-ripened Brie is cold-aged; other cheeses spend at least one year in the “cave,” a temperature-controlled room of wooden boards filled with cheeses in various stages of ripeness where massive wheels of Romano share space with classic cheddars. Off to one side are wax-coated Goudas, waiting like thoroughbreds before a race. Jeff’s latest passion won’t be ready for several months, yet he is already laying plans to build a smokehouse to finish some of the Goudas.
For more information, visit www.cranberrycreekfarm.com.