It’s all just beginning for the Breiteneicher family and their farmstead cheeses. We predict that in the not-so-near future, their cheeses will win many awards and they will be very well known in the cheese world. Max worked and learned at Jasper Hill, Chase Hill and Sidehill, so he knows his stuff! (He was actually the first intern Jasper Hill ever had.)
5 years ago, Max and Amy bought a farm house in the remote Western Mass village of Cummington. The house had been the property of one family since it was built in the 1700s, but it had been empty for many years.
The first year was more or less a camping experience! There was no heating system, so they put in a wood-fueled masonry heater, which you can see in the picture with Charlie.
The farm is located high on a hill near The Old Creamery (a wildly popular combination of deli, grocery store and food co-op). This seems entirely appropriate because the Creamery used to be the home of a dairy co-operative.
The farm came with 120 acres of land, 20 acres of which is pasture. Years ago, it had, in fact been a dairy farm and a sheep farm, so there are old stone walls throughout the property.
In 2012, when they purchased the farm, there were no other buildings besides the house, so they had to build their creamery, their barn, and their milking room. They did this in just 2 years using the latest farm management techniques.
The barn is called a “pack bedding barn” – a clear span structure where the cows sleep in the winter.
There is a good explanation for how it works at their website:
Pack-bedding barns are a wonderful way to house animals during the winter. The barn is an open, bright space that we fill with wood chips and then add a layer of sawdust every day to cover the manure and give the cows a clean, dry place to sleep. The pack builds up over the winter to about four feet deep. As this material breaks down (composts) it gives off heat – creating a warm surface the cows love to sleep on. In the spring we clean out the whole thing and spread the rich compost on the fields. Healthy animals, no piles of manure, no smell, and plenty of food for the fields.
Next to the pack bedding barn, there is a light and airy calving barn where the cows breed and receive medical care if needed.
The milking parlor was a challenge to install. They bought the equipment from a farm in another county and it was completely un-assembled. They had to put it together and pour the concrete below it to coordinate with the cow’s position while milking.
The most time a cheese maker spends is the make room and cave. They are both located in the building you see here:
The vat pasteurizer holds over 200 gallons of milk. The previous one held half as much and it wasn’t able to pasteurize. Now, with this one, they will be able to make some fresher cheeses, because, as you probably know, in the US, raw milk cheese has to be aged 60 days or more.
They make cheese every other day with the milk from their 10 cows (7 Ayrshires and 3 Normandes). They dry off their cows in the winter, so the cheese making stops from January-March.
They make a mold ripened chaource called Cheesecake, a blue (Hilltown Blue), a gruyere-style called Wild Alpine, a clothbound cheddar and a Raclette-style melting cheese called Valais.
You can order them by calling the farm and they will ship them to you.
All the cheeses have natural rinds.
If you live in the area, there is usually one or another type of cheese available (24 hours) at their farm stand, along with raw milk.
There is a long list of stores and restaurants where you can buy their cheese at their website. Or, you can call to arrange shipping.