ESMONT, Va. — Funky, nutty, rich or smooth––the personalities of Virginia-made cheeses are unique gifts to share with the individuals in your life this holiday season.
The gift of old-world cheeses infused with the essence of Virginia’s seasons are a dramatic gesture for cheese-loving friends, or as the centerpiece of a holiday charcuterie board.
Virginians can shop and select handcrafted cheeses through Lulus Local Food, a nonprofit entity of the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability, in partnership with the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Seasonal changes, the weather, humidity, the vegetation, it really makes a difference,” said goat cheesemaker and chef Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm in Albemarle County. She markets her handcrafted cheeses through Lulus online sales platform. “Your job as a cheesemaker is to channel the components of that milk into the right cheese at the right time.”
Hobbs-Page opened Caromont in 2007. She produces 25,000 pounds of dozens of styles of goat cheese each year.
She said spring is the time for fresh cheeses. Blues and dense cheeses are produced in the heat of the summer. Then the composition of the milk changes, with more fat and less protein––perfect for holiday cheeses or washed-rind cheeses, also known as stinkers.
Familiar flavors of Virginia and the influence of international cheese-making styles set the stage for drama at Locksley Farmstead Cheese Co. This sister company of Chrysalis Vineyards in Loudoun County was established in 2018.
“Each cheese has such a character to it,” said Locksley creamery manager Erin Saacke. “Like people.”
Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss cows produce hundreds of gallons of milk a week for a list of cheeses named for familiar characters from Robin Hood tales.
The King Richard blue cheese is aptly named for royalty, with a spreadable yet crumbly texture. The Little John black wax cheddar is crumbly too; the result of a stirred-curd process. Nottingham gouda is smooth and nutty, listed beside Friar Tuck’s tangy, salty fromage blanc. Locksley’s pungent washed-rind cheese is named for the villain, Prince John.
Visitors can stock up on cheese, wines and preserves crafted from the vines and milk produced on-site––pairings worthy of an encore.
“Our Norton grape jelly and Maid Marian cheese is an incredible pairing,” Saacke said. “That sweet grape jelly with the earthy camembert cheese––so good!”
–Virginia Farm Bureau