Mass. Cheese Guild makes its debut in Concord
Sue Rubel of Maynard, owner of Nobscot Artisan Cheese in Framingham, is one of the founding members of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild.
Folks only familiar with Velveeta and its relatives have a chance to experience cheese made with a distinctive difference and promoted by a new organization.
The Massachusetts Cheese Guild celebrates its official launch tomorrow, Oct. 29, with a gala cheese tasting from 4 to 7 p.m. at Verrill Farm, 11 Wheeler Road, in Concord.
Based in Westport Point, the guild is a 50-member, not-for-profit organization formed to
n educate each other, as well as consumers, retailers and distributors, about the cheeses being made in Massachusetts.
n to encourage and support the production of farmstead and artisanal cheeses made from Massachusetts milk, including cultured products like yogurt
n help cheese artisans promote their products and their achievements
n to draw the attention of the cheese-loving public to the wealth of varieties available throughout the state, which represent almost every type of cheese, from Alpine to blue, from Nubian goat to Ayrshire cow, from fresh and soft to cave-aged and hard.
Tuesday's tasting should help in that regard. "It's going to be a great event because people will get introduced to a lot of the different cheesemakers and cheeses from Massachusetts," said Sue Rubel, owner of Nobscot Artisan Cheese in Framingham and one of the guild's founding members. "They will also get to understand a little bit more about the cheesemaking process and the health benefits of cheese."
As for that distinctive difference, Guild president Barbara Hanley, who is a partner at Shy Brothers Farm in Westport, points out that the milk used by its cheesemakers, unlike its factory brethren, is not chemically corrected or "balanced." "Every time one of the our cheesemakers makes a batch, the milk is different, as opposed to every time say Kraft makes a batch, the milk is identical. What we do is really quite an art and craft." What it boils down to, so to speak, is do you prefer uniformity or creativity in your cheese flavor?
Artisanal cheese is certainly no stranger to Massachusetts with the guild calling the state "the birthplace of American artisanal cheese." To prove its point, the guild notes that the first dairy cows were brought to the Boston area by English settlers in 1624. Today, the guild's 21 artisan and farmstead cheesemakers not only have continued this tradition, they've excelled at it, winning more awards per capita than any state in the nation.
The guild came to fruition following a meeting in 2011 of three cheesemakers: Hanley, Pam Robinson of Robinson Farm in Hardwick and Ann Starbard of Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling. "The three of us were at an event together and we realized that none of us ever got a chance to connect to learn from each other," said Hanley. "We also heard about the Boston Public Market being formed. We wanted to get a place at the table so that Massachusetts cheeses could be represented there rather than cheese from Europe. That was the beginning. Since then, we've found tremendous benefit from (the guild), sharing expertise and information."