Rich in history, devoted to cheese

By Lisa Zwirn
Globe Correspondent / February 10, 2010

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When the Vermont Butter & Cheese Co. was established in 1984, it was one of the few producers of fresh goat cheese in the region. Much has changed from the early years, when cofounder Bob Reese drove around collecting whatever goat milk he could find, to the present company, which grew to earn accolades for its cheese and cream-based products. “The artisanal cheese movement has really grown in the last 10 years,’’ says cheesemaker and cofounder Allison Hooper. “We started when it wasn’t groovy to make cheese.’’

In celebration of their silver anniversary, the Websterville, Vt.-based company has published its first book, “In a Cheesemaker’s Kitchen,’’ a combination cookbook, company history, and product guide. The project was “a 25th anniversary gift to ourselves,’’ says Hooper. One of her goals was to highlight the company’s European-style (cow’s milk) specialties such as crème fraîche, fromage blanc, and mascarpone. “Even after all these years, people don’t know how to use some of our products,’’ she says. Crème fraîche, a rich tangy cream, is used for thickening sauces and topping shortcakes, crisps, and pies. Fromage blanc, a skim milk product, is similar to plain yogurt but thicker and can be eaten with fruit or used for dips. And mascarpone is a thick, sweet cream that goes into tiramisu, but can be swirled into risotto, vegetable purees, and polenta.

Hooper and Reese also decided it was time to change their name to the Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. With 12 distinct products made from cow’s or goat’s milk, says Hooper, “a creamery is, in fact, what we are.’’ As to the old name, she says, it “never communicated well that it wasn’t a company that mixed butter and cheese together.’’

The cofounders haven’t changed their commitment to working with local farms and using classic, European-style techniques. Making artisan cheese is cool now.