PORTLAND, Maine — Creamy goat cheese with fresh herbs, a bloomy cow’s milk cheese, a perfectly aged sheep’s milk cheese. If you’re a cheese aficionado, Maine is the place for you! With 65 registered creameries across the state, Maine cheesemakers are producing some incredible artisanal products that sing the unique song of place and celebrate the beautiful bounty of our state. It helps that Maine’s Department of Agriculture encourages small cheesemakers and only requires a simple heat treatment process to pasteurize milk as opposed to the federal standards that require prohibitively expensive equipment. These state regulations help promote creativity by allowing cheesemakers the freedom to explore different products and techniques without having to make a substantial capital investment. Unfortunately, they also prevent many Maine cheesemakers from selling their cheese out-of-state or entering it in national and international cheese competitions, which has resulted in a lot of amazing cheese not getting the same amount of fanfare and attention that, say, some of our neighbors in Vermont may receive. The Maine Cheese Guild wants to change by finally providing an opportunity to recognize the state’s amazing pool of artisans and celebrate Maine’s outstanding cheeses with its inaugural Maine Cheese Awards this September.
“Maine has an incredible amount of talented cheesemakers, but it really is a story of undiscovered talent,” says Holly Aker, President of the Maine Cheese Guild. “We want to provide the real exposure and recognition our cheesemakers deserve. Even if a farm submits just one cheese to the competition, it’s exciting that they can be a part of this and we can highlight smaller cheesemakers.”
The Maine Cheese Guild will be hosting its inaugural Maine Cheese Awards this September. The event is open to all licensed Maine cheesemakers, who can submit up to eight cheeses to be judged in the categories of fresh cheese, flavored fresh cheese, bloomy rind, washed rind cheese, aged natural rind cheese, aged flavored cheese, and blue cheese. There will be a panel of five guest judges and cheese will be assessed based on appearance, texture, consistency, and taste. Each category will have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place award and there will also be an overall Best-in-Show and a Special Recognition. The winners will be announced at the Maine Cheese Festival on September 12 in Pittsfield, Maine and the Maine Cheese Guild will offer a Best in Show Award box so cheese-lovers can take home a selection of the winning entries.
The Maine Cheese Guild wants you to love cheese and the Mainers and animals who produce it. Their mission is to support and encourage the Maine cheesemaking community, educate cheesemakers and consumers, and share the joy and art of regional cheeses. An incredible resource for cheese-lovers everywhere, the Guild offers classes and product information, and organizes community events such as the Maine Cheese Festival and the Maine Open Creamery Day. For there is much joy to be had, and much cheese to enjoy!
Please contact Holly Aker at 207.370.7176 for more information on the Maine Cheese Awards rules and regulations and the Maine Cheese Festival. Or visit:
–Maine Cheese Guild
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