A Word from the Farm: Cherry Grove

The Evolution of Cheese at Cherry Grove

Paul Lawler, Cheesemaker, Cherry Grove Farm
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It's a new morning at Cherry Grove Farm. The to-do list is many post-its long and the weather is arctic, but exciting things are afoot.

We've got experimental cheeses in the works, harvesting yeast and cornyeform bacterias in one of our unique aging spaces, promoting lively activity on our rinds to build unique aromas, and textures like a layered garden. For all that's known about cheese, it's still a cross-your-fingers alchemic kind of science on the farmstead scale. So many buckets of steamy water to raise the humidity, this wash or that wash to create hospitable environments for the friends of flavor...but still, every day a little mystery is unveiled. And that's what keeps it compelling. I hope I'm conveying some of the everyday awe that still excites me about this business, but cheese does a far better job conveying it's own poetic properties than this cheesemaker could ever hope to. Look for raw milk bloomy and washed rinds from us in the coming year to taste the progress out here. Ask for what's new from Cherry Grove at the Fair Food cheese counter.

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Besides the new cheeses, we've got a lot of fresh faces out here, myself included. I've got a unique connection to Cherry Grove's past, having watched the development of their core cheeses since the days of intrepid cheesemakers Kelly Harding and Sam Kennedy as a cheesemonger at DiBruno Bros. and the Fair Food Farmstand before I moved farmside. Fair Food was among Cherry Grove's earliest customers, and did one of the things Fair Food does best: acting as a sounding board for new products and finding an audience for the farm. I remember early caciocavallos and tomme experiments from Cherry Grove that used techniques like organic acreage, seasonal grazing, and heritage breeds. They were a little funny from time to time in the early days, but hey - here was interesting local cheese made with REAL, raw milk at a time when that was not so easily come by or supported. Imagine that. In the ten years since Cherry Grove Farm established itself, so too has a passion for local eating, and it's safe to say we wouldn't have made as many strides as we have without Fair Food and the little Farmstand that could.

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Thanks to the continued support of Philly area eaters and the many bridges Fair Food has built for us over the years, the farm continues to evolve and the business is growing. Our new farm manager JJ Dabbs is keeping the horns on our cows and transitioning the ladies from a nearly-all grass- to 100% grass-based diet. As any cheesemaker worth their curd knows, the best cheese comes from the best milk, which comes from cows fed fresh forage (or high quality hay in the off season). My dear cohort in curd Jamie Png is hard at work on the cutting edge of food safety for our facility. Owner Oliver Hamill is working with our cheesemaking team to build new space to accommodate our aged cheeses, like all those amazing wheels of Havilah and Reserve Lawrenceville Jack.

cherry grove 5So it's with great excitement that we're coming to celebrate Fair Food at the tenth incarnation of the Brewer's Plate this Sunday. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Cherry Grove cheeses are available at the Fair Food Farmstand. You can also try their selection of aged cow cheeses at this year's 10th Anniversary Brewer's Plate this coming Sunday. Consider joining them at High Street on Market on Tuesday, April 1 as their cheeses are featured in a dinner series focused on local cheese put together by local blogger Madame Fromage.