By MADELINE HUGHES
Maddy Born swaps her shoes for Crocs, puts on an apron and hairnet, scrubs her hands and then turns on some Beyonce tunes before she begins “cheddaring” Shelburne Farm’s award-winning cheese.
The farm’s youngest cheddar won first prize for this year’s American Cheese Society’s Cheddar – Aged Up to 12 Months – Made from Cow’s Milk category.
Born is one of seven cheesemakers at Shelburne Farms who every day oversee the process they like to call “cheddaring” as they make each of the aged cheddars that Shelburne Farms is known for. The farm’s herd of Brown Swiss cows provides the milk for all of the cheese.
Early in the process, the cheesemakers place big blocks of cheddar cheese into a vat and flip them every 10 to 15 minutes to drain liquid whey out. Then the cheese is aged, sent off to be smoked, or wrapped in cheesecloth, depending on what variety is being made.
The recent national cheese competition was notoriously tough. Shelburne Farm’s cheddar cheese was selected as a winner among nearly 2,000 cheddars from 259 different producers.
Shelburne Farms was one of 13 Vermont cheesemakers to win medals at this year’s conference in Pittsburgh.
“These awards are the ‘Oscars’ of cheese,” said Shelburne Farms Head Cheesemaker Andi Wandt. “We’re all thrilled.”
The cheddar competition is one of the largest and most competitive of the conference.
Born said this award really “celebrates the Brown Swiss ladies, because this is the freshest cheese.”
After cheddaring, the cheese ages. Shelburne Farms has cheddars ranging from six months to three years, each with a different level of acidity based on how long it ages. The youngest cheese maintains the closest resemblance to the milk it is made from.
The farm has been using the same recipe for cheddar since the 1980s, Born said, although, “we are always tweaking things based on the day and week and time of year.”
The award honors the farm’s process and product that Perry describes as “buttery and grassy milk.” The dairy also is certified humane and the cheese is non-gmo certified.
Other Vermont first place winners were: Cellars at Jasper Hill, Boston Post Dairy, Consider Bardwell Farm, Vermont Creamery, Spring Brook Farm, Parish Hill Creamery and Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company.
Perry said the honor was particularly sweet given that the competition every year gets more crowded.
“We are very proud to be part of the Vermont cheese community, and are excited at everyone upping the game of cheese,” Perry said.