Photo by Melanie Rieders. Text by Polly Fossey.
Located in Mid-Hudson Valley/Catskills and established in 2003, Acorn Hill Farmstead Cheeses started out of a humble home kitchen, but quickly grew into a widely respected cheese producer, garnering positive attention from local publications all the way up to Bon Appetit Magazine. It has even earned a prestigious Slow Food Snail of Approval for its quality, authenticity and sustainability.
The milk comes a well-loved and beautiful herd of goats, whose cast of characters includes names like Lightning, Desi and Cappuccino. Since it is a small herd, these animals can be given individual attention in order to catch signs of illness early so that organic remedies can be attempted before conventional antibiotics are called in. A farmer is present at the birth of each new kid. I contacted Joyce at Acorn Hill and she was more than happy to answer my questions about their process. Mostly, I wanted to know what they did with all the whey! She explained that none of the whey is wasted. It is used as fertilizer, pig food and as a broth for soup. She says, “Farming is an organism that must have a feedback loop and that is what we try to do. Not always easy but we aspire to do our best.”
The company offers a variety of small batch products ranging from ricotta and yogurt to aged hard cheeses. The cheese are made using organic practices and vegetarian rennet. The soft cheese and yogurts are especially delicate and extremely fresh. Make sure you get it home and into a cold fridge as soon as you can. Spoilage can seem devastating when you consider the effort that both goat and human expended bring it to you. I had a package of chevre spoil before I could enjoy it and it nearly broke my heart.
Look for the Acorn Hill Farmstead products at the Bushwick Food Coop. The chevre is delicious as snack with pita chips, olive oil and cherry tomatoes. You can also try using their ricotta in ravioli or as a tart filling. Finally, their goat milk yogurt is mild, tangy and makes a nutritious breakfast when paired with fresh fruit and nuts.