In New England we tend to associate cheese-making with Vermont, which is only natural given the copious amounts of Vermont Cheddar we see on menus everywhere. It turns out there are a ton of cheese artisans right here in MA that produce amazing (and even more local!) cheese as well.
On a recent trip to some dairy farms in Central MA with MA Wine & Cheese Trails, we got to see what the cheese industry here in MA is all about. AND it’s 2 hours closer than Vermont, so if you want to spend a Saturday out of the city learning about local cheese (and why wouldn’t you?), look no further than our very own state. MA Wine & Cheese trails are ever-expanding and now have a ton of different tour options. If Central MA is too far for a day trip, they have North Shore and South Shore farms to visit as well and there are even a few out on the Cape. Here’s a map of the tours.
The Central MA cheese haven is a town called Hardwick, population 3,000. Known for its dairy farmers and civil war era stone walls (see first pic), Hardwick is a beautiful town that makes you forget you’re anywhere near the city.
Our first stop was Ruggles Hill Creamery where the name of the game is goat cheese. Cheese-maker Tricia Smith specializes in French-style goat cheese which she calls “classic french lady cheese.” Her name describes the product perfectly, it’s soft goat cheese (often made with ash that you see in cheeses like Humboldt Fog) that is creamy, earthy and tangy.
Tricia’s cheese is bad ass. Not only has she won a ton of awards from The American Cheese Society recently but her product is the talk of the town. Word on the street in Hardwick is that the demand for her product is really high. She only makes her award-winning cheese in small batches.
She is very careful not to contaminate the cheese area, so no shoes allowed. And we had to wear hairnets…unfortunately that is a picture the internet will never get to see.
Fresh goat milk for our coffees.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – a cow farm right down the road from Ruggles.