Goat cheese, or chèvre, and cow’s milk fromage blanc have enjoyed a real surge in popularity over the past few years, and Southern Oregon is now home to several farmstead creameries rising to meet the demand.
Cheeses made from goat and cow’s milk, for instance, have more protein, they can be lower in fat, calories and cholesterol; they’re easier to digest – and they’re very, very tasty. The soft silky texture of fromage blanc, for instance, makes it the perfect partner with herbs, sundried tomatoes and garlic.
The year round temperate climate of Southern Oregon makes it an ideal region for a long list of agricultural endeavors, including the production of farmstead cheese. Here are the three micro-dairies that make a variety of cheeses for the adventurous palate.
No matter whether you prefer the creamy, mild flavor of fresh chèvre tortes; the firmer texture and saltier taste of feta; or the complex tang of aged goat cheeses, chances are high you’ll find something that suits your taste buds from one of these cheesemakers.
Pholia Farm Creamery and Dairy, owned by Vern and Gianaclis “Gia” Caldwell, and co-managed by their daughters Phoebe and Amelia in Rogue River, Oregon, specializes in aged, raw goat milk cheeses from their small herd of Nubian goats. The Farm, where Gianaclis grew up, sits on property that has been in the family since the 1940’s and operates completely off the grid.
Their cheeses can be found at their on-farm store, at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, or online. New to their lineup of award winning cheese is Gia’s Cheezorizo, the first ever cheese sausage. According to co-owner Vern Caldwell, you can “bake it, fry it, sauté it…and it won’t melt”. Guaranteed. It’s a perfect meat substitute for those tacos, bolognese sauce, and egg scrambles.
They also offer cheesemaking classes out at their farm, if you decide you love chèvre so much that you want to learn to make your own at home. such as a batch of goat feta.
Mama Terra Micro Creamery launched into the local chèvre market a few years back. Owner and cheesemaker Robin Clouser specializes in fresh cheeses made from a small herd of Nubian goats. Although the breed is known as “crybabies” (yes, they’re a bit on the more vocal side!), they produce milk with one of the highest butterfat content at 4-5%. That means big rich flavor for cheeselovers.
Her most popular flavors are Plain with Sea Salt, Tuscan Sun-dried Tomato, Caramelized Garlic (our personal favorite), and Mediterranean Lavender. Look for her at the local farmers markets, Ashland Co-op and Shop’n’Kart in Southern Oregon.
By George Farm has launched the newest microcreamery on the burgeoning Southern Oregon artisan food scene, Following on the yearlong participation in the Sustainable Valley business incubator, they are now on their maiden voyage with Fromage Blanc spreadable cheeses: Salt & Pepper, Garlic Thyme, Sundried Tomato Basil, and their new Jalapeño.
Owners Tyson Fehrman and Jonny Steiger (above), are embracing the idea that sourcing food locally, that doesn’t travel hundreds of miles, is what we need to be sustainable and have a future. They are doing what many of the next generation believe, that not living the status quo imparts the understanding that food can be delicious and good for you.
You can pick up By George chèvres at the Ashland and Medford growers markets in Southern Oregon.
Of course, you don’t have to get that fancy. For a picnic lunch or an al fresco dinner, bring along a chèvre torte, some crusty bread, fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, and maybe a bottle of Vermentino and – voila! – you have the makings of a perfect summer meal. Troon Vineyards was the first Oregon winery to plant this dry, semi-sparkling Italian grape with peach overtones, and it does not disappoint.
What’s your favorite way to use soft cheese?
Image: Charles Roffey, flickr