Lake End Cheeses, Vermont
by Patricia Welsh

The Lake Champlain
Islands region of Vermont
is a haven of beauty and
serenity, dominated by
lush, rolling farmlands
and expansive views of Lake Champlain and New York’s Adirondacks
Mountains. While it is little known outside of Vermont as a relaxing getaway,
many Vermonters make their homes and summer homes here.

On the northern tip of these islands, closer to the Canadian border than the city
of Burlington, is the town of Alburg. It is here that Joanne James began making
cheese with a neighbor's extra goat’s milk.

From hobby cheesemaker into a business
What began as a hobby grew into a passion, and today it is a rapidly growing
business encompassing more than cheese making—a passion for local produce
and sustainable agriculture, as well as caring for the animals who produce the
foods.

Shoreline Chocolates, the farm’s retail store, was the first stop in Joanne’s
incredibly informative tour on a chilly spring afternoon. In addition to
homemade chocolates, there were various Vermont specialty foods, including
the ubiquitous maple syrup, candies and assorted jellies and jams. Joanne spoke
about how her business began, quite accidentally.

An avid cook, Joanne was already making chocolates and selling them under the
business of Shoreline Chocolates in 1996. Cheese making was something of
interest to her, and when a neighbor had extra goat milk, Joanne took it on and
found that she loved the process. She began buying milk from local farms, and
took courses at the nearby University of Vermont.

As her business began to grow, Joanne realized that it would be important to
have animals of her own, as the milk she bought from other farms would result
in inconsistent cheese; not because they were inferior, rather, Joanne believes in
a
terroir of cheese: different animals on different land produce cheese with
different flavors and nuances.

A tour of the cheesemaking facility
A detour behind the counter of the retail shop brought us into the heart of
cheese making at Lake's End Dairy. Enormous rounds of different types of
cheeses rested on the counter, waiting to be retired to the humidity-controlled
aging room. A small room adjacent to the packaging room set the stage for those
rounds of cheese on the counter.

The cheese making process begins in this room with 2-3 days worth of milk from
the goats and/or cows, depending on the cheese Joanne is making. The collected
milk is first pasteurized in a large stainless steel machine which heats and then
stirs the milk.

While the machine is working, Joanne adds culture to the milk to increase
acidity and create rennet, a solid milk mixture that, when stirred, becomes whey.
A curd cutter cuts the whey to the size of a grain. The acidity of the mixture is
checked regularly to ensure it reaches the appropriate level for the type of
cheese.

Once the pasteurization process is complete, the milk mixture is placed into
molds and then in a wooden contraption, called a Dutch press, which presses
the cheese into a solid form while the cheese cools. The cheese is pressed
overnight and then set in a brine solution for several hours.

Once the cheese has been sufficiently brined, the rounds are air dried on the
counters, marked, and placed in the humidity-controlled cooler to age anywhere
from four months to one year, depending on the cheese. Joanne typically begins
testing the cheese after about four months to determine if it is ready. She sells
much of her cheese from the retail shop, and the rest is sold in various shops
and grocery stores in Vermont.

A trip to the newer barn was interesting and delightful. Joanne owns Jerseys and
Holsteins, as well as several goats. As the visit occurred in early spring, there
were many new calves and kids who were very curious about the new visitors.
The kids were the most outgoing, vying for space along the fences, and, in many
cases, propping up their front legs on the top of the fences to get a better look.
Joanne also recently acquired a large black llama to serve as a protector to the
kids from predators.

Very much in the spirit of New England, and specifically Vermont, Joanne
turned an interest in cooking into a passion for cheese making with a swiftly
growing business to include her own animals, materials, machinery, and barn. It
is clear that Joanne is dedicated and involved with her work, and her cheeses
demonstrate that commitment: her Misty Cove Blended won 5th place at the
World Cheese Contest in 2002.

All of the cheeses have their own distinctive flavor and character and are
wonderful to eat by themselves without cooking and without adornment. The
flavors are full and rich, and the texture incredibly smooth.

To Joanne, cheese making is not a mechanical process, or even as much science.
As she herself describes it: “Cheese making is 90% art and 10% science.” Her
cheeses are proof of that philosophy.

Lakes End Cheeses
1-800-310-3730
212 West Shore Road, Alburg, VT, 05440

About the author: Patricia Welsh is a freelance writer living in Quincy, MA. This story
is copyrighted by the author and may not be reproduced in another online or print
publication without permission.
Lakes End Cheeses
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