Goats, and sheep, and buffalo, oh my!
As the landscape of food and nutrition evolves, so does the relationship between humans and dairy, and with the animals that provide it to us. Most Americans are more than familiar with cow’s milk and cheese. Many are also familiar with goat cheeses too. But what about sheep, or even buffalo? Although cheesemaking is an ancient art, it seems like there’s always more to learn, try, and enjoy. It’s time to expand your cheese palate! Maine’s cheesemakers are keen as ever to explore the possibilities.
The Maine Cheese Guild supports cheesemakers of all sizes across Maine, connecting them with cheesemongers, chefs, enthusiasts, and more. Maine’s cheesemakers boast an impressive variety of types and blends of milk. All these variations contribute to the exciting, dynamic atmosphere of the Maine artisanal cheese scene.
For example, Balfour Farm in Pittsfield has a herd of up to twelve cows at a time, and only uses organic milk from their herd of Normande cattle in their cheeses. They produce an exciting array of fresh soft cheeses and cave-aged hard cheeses with a range of flavor profiles, as well as a few other dairy products.
Fuzzy Udder Farm of Whitefield is creating some of the most new experimental cheese blends in Maine. One of their signatures is using sheep’s milk, which has a distinct, rich flavor. They use it to make fresh soft cheese and aged hard cheese, yogurt, and more. They also blend together different types of milk to create delicious new cheese recipes.
In Sidney, Kennebec Cheesery keeps a herd of Alpine and Saanen goats. Each year, the kids of the herd are given names that start with whichever letter of the alphabet is next in the order. Using their goat’s milk, they make an impressive variety of different types of cheese and yogurt. They also make cajeta, a thick liquid goat’s milk caramel traditionally made in Mexico (similar to dulce de leche).
ME Water Buffalo Co. in Appleton describes water Buffalo milk as “creamy & a tad bit sweet.” Due to the high butterfat content and solids, it is great for cheese making. Also, it can be easier to digest for those who have issues with cow’s milk.
The cheesemakers mentioned above are “farmstead” cheesemakers, meaning they use milk from their own animals. There are also new plant-based cheese options emerging as well. Recently, some cheesemakers started experimenting with nut-based and other non-dairy cheese recipes. They continue to explore what ingredients work best while still capturing the essence of farmstead cheese.
Where to find cheese near you
There are many ways to find Maine-made cheese! Real Maine lists nearly 100 cheese makers. Many of them have farm stores on site. You can also find wonderful artisanal cheeses at specialty shops and local foods stores. Nearly every Maine farmers’ market also boasts at least one cheese vendor as well. For more information on where you can find our cheesemaker’s products and who’s making what, visit the Maine Cheese Guild.