Sam Kennedy, left, and Matt Hettlinger stand among the
cheese in one of the storage areas at The Farm at Doe
Run in Coatesville, Pa.
is going the way of the craft beer movement: People are
learning how to make it in small batches while taking
advantage of local ingredients and characteristics of the
land. As with regional brews, demand for regionally made
cheese is on the rise.
Hettlinger can attest to this. He is a cheesemaker, working
for the past two years at The Farm at Doe Run in
Coatesville, Pa., about 40 miles west of Philadelphia. On a
table dressed in burlap, several cheeses on plates accompany
caramelized red onions, candied nuts and glasses filled with
chef-turned-cheesemaker talks with his wife, Yvonne, and
visitors as they sample cheeses made on the lower level of
this converted barn, where three stone caves have been
outfitted as aging rooms. In the tasting area, giant windows
look out on a stunning backdrop of rolling hills, stone
farmhouses and wide-mouthed barns. Cows, goats and sheep
graze in the distance. Adjacent to the space is a windowed,
white-tiled milking room. Twice a day, animals are herded
inside to a lowered platform surrounded by top-of-the-line
equipment from Holland.
Farm at Doe Run isn’t just any farm. It’s the 700-acre
estate bought in 2008 by Richard Hayne, founder and CEO of
Urban Outfitters. Hettlinger and Samuel Kennedy are the guys
he has hired to put his brand of Pennsylvania cheeses on the
grew up in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. After
attending Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., he opened his
first Urban Outfitters on the University of Pennsylvania
campus in 1970 and went on to create the company that now
includes wholesale business with 1,400 department stores,
230 Urban Outfitter locations, 187 Anthropologie stores and
90 Free People shops. As the company continues to grow, he
has directed his attention to other things, including the
cheese has shaped foodways around the world for centuries,
Americans didn’t really develop a taste for homemade
varieties until the 1990s. From 1994 to 2003, cheese making
grew by 75 percent, led by artisans in Wisconsin, New
England and California. Farmstead cheese, which uses milk
only from animals on site, in particular is on the rise.
Pennsylvania, the cheese renaissance is more recent, with
many cheesemakers learning their craft over the past couple
cheeses in Pennsylvania are exploding," says Tom
Palachak, manager of the Penn State Creamery at the Penn
State College of Agricultural Science.
says the state is rapidly catching up with New York and
Wisconsin in artisan cheese production. Cheddar, Gouda,
colby, Monterey Jack and havarti are the most popular
cheeses made in Pennsylvania. Local cheesemakers add flavors
and spices to make them distinct from more common cheeses.
to the American Cheese Society, 63 percent of artisan
cheesemakers use cow’s milk and 56 percent use goat’s
milk. A smaller portion, 17 percent, use sheep’s milk and
20 percent report making cheeses with mixed milks.
milk cheese is also becoming popular. It requires a license
and inspection protocols before it can be sold, and any
cheeses made from unpasteurized milk must be cured for a
period of 60 days at a temperature not less than 35 degrees.
stir demand and gain credibility beyond state borders,
cheesemakers compete in American Cheese Society competitions
and for Good Food Awards, given annually by a collaboration
of food producers, farmers, food journalists and independent
grocers. At a cheese society conference in July in
Sacramento, Calif., judges will determine the best American
cheeses from more than 1,700 submissions.
33, and Kennedy, 29, wear chef coats, navy baseball caps and
wading boots. The hybrid uniform shows their experience in
restaurant kitchens and their current profession, which
requires great vigilance in handling ingredients.
and his wife, Yvonne, live on the farm, while Kennedy and
his spouse, Stacey Gentile, live nearby. All of them work on
making requires round-the-clock attention. Whether it’s
checking on pH levels, tending to just-born animals or
inspecting cheeses as they age, there are many demands,
particularly as the operations expand.
was hired in January and brings to the table previous cheese
making experience and a food science background. Since he
started, The Farm at Doe Run has introduced several new
cheeses that they’re hoping will win awards in the coming
and Kennedy fit the profile of many new cheesemakers. They’re
farmers or restaurant folks getting into cheese because of
its growing popularity and potential profit; their cheeses
retail between $18 and $27 a pound.
the field, kid goats born weeks ago get their legs as they
stray from their mothers to play and graze. What cows eat is
of particular importance as spring grasses, rye and clover
imparts flavor to the milk.
typical day, Hettlinger and Kennedy start work at 7:30 a.m.
An employee pumps milk from 35 cows, 75 goats and 50 sheep.
Then they "pool" the milk, or heat it to a
specific temperature. A starter is added that converts
lactose to lactic acid, which equalizes the milk’s pH.
Then rennet is added. These enzymes produced in a cow, goat
or sheep’s stomach react with the milk to form curds. Fine
curds produce firm, tight cheeses, while large ones produce
soft cheeses. After the milk sets for 45 minutes, makers cut
and drain the whey.
the curds are piled on top of each other, cut and pressed,
then piled again in an effort to get rid of remaining whey.
Some cheeses require reheating, which results in malleable
strings that can be molded.
are then salted in a brine. During this process, the
cheesemakers must check and flip rounds often. After
brining, the cheeses go to one of three caves to age.
to the caves must tuck their hair in a hat and wear bags
around shoes to prevent contamination from microbes not
already growing in the caves. A stray bacteria left
unchecked can infect and ruin cheese.
first cave, which smells bright and grassy, is for mild
cheeses that sat in brine 48 to 72 hours. The rows upon rows
of cheese wheels will sit on pine boards for six months to
second room, visitors are met with the smell of mold, wet
stone and the faint funk of Gouda-style cheeses. These are
occasionally washed with a vinegar solution to prevent rogue
microbes from contaminating the product.
third cave is the funkiest and most humid. A pungent aroma
from washed and bloomy rinds blankets the air. Here, fewer
rounds sit on wire shelves for a week to two months. They’re
the most sensitive cheeses of the three rooms.
addition to adhering to safety precautions and sanitary
practices, there are two rules for making cheese, rules that
apply to any artisan food production.
you have to pay attention," says Hettlinger, pointing
to a dry corner of the cave, an indication that conditions
aren’t quite right.
two, you have to adjust accordingly."
the tasting, Hettlinger and Kennedy display a handful of
cheeses, most of which are sold to select restaurants and
shops from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
cheese they can’t keep in stock is Barn Owl, made from cow’s
milk. A big, luscious cheese that’s aged for more than a
year, it’s so creamy and complex it inspires
contemplation. Next to it are two types of cheeses labeled
Robiola-style Hummingbirds. In the spring and summer, they’re
made with milk from cows and sheep. The rest of the year, it’s
cow’s milk only. One small round is mild; the other is
layered with black trumpet mushrooms for a hint of umami.
the back is Dragonfly, a lively combination of cow’s milk
and goat’s milk that’s tangy and grassy. It’s followed
by Hop Devil, a cow’s milk cheese with an assertive
flavor. The rind is washed with Pennsylvania’s Victory
beer of the same name.
most popular cheese at the farm is the cow’s milk Seven
Sisters cheese and the Seven Sisters reserve. Both are named
for the original seven cows on the farm and speak to the
Dutch-inspired variations they’re producing. The latter is
aged more than a year, which results in rich caramel notes.
like to name our cheeses after inspiration from the
land," says Hettlinger. "It’s a reminder that
cheeses reflect the character of a place."