In celebration of National Raw Milk Cheese Day, we are delighted to be featuring Birchrun Hills Farm. This Chester County first-and-second generation family farmstead is responsible for our favorite raw milk blue cheese, Birchrun Blue. Be sure to stop by the market on Saturday, April 20, between 10am-1pm to sample some, and grab a fresh wedge to take home!
On a recent tour of Birchrun Hills Farm, we learned how raw milk impacts the composition of a cheese. When you consider all the factors that influence a milk’s flavor, you are taking in what is known as “terroir,” that which makes it unique to its region- the seasonality, what the cows are eating, the breed of cow. When the milk is pasteurized, we lose these nuances. To a certain extent, you can manipulate these flavors on the back end by adding different cultures during the cheese making process, but it’s really not the same as just letting the milk speak for itself right from the beginning.
As we were led through the sparkling new cheese-making facility and aging room, the Miller family, along with cheese maker, Drew, briefed us on the current state of the dairy crisis. As the price of milk continues to drop on the large-scale commodity market and the cost of maintaining a working farm steadily climbs, small dairy farmers are increasingly pursuing cheese making as an opportunity to yield a higher profit margin. To this end, the crew at Birchrun Hills employs cutting edge advances in technology to both take better care of their cows and increase sustainability. The farm uses automated milking machines that empower the cows to milk themselves.
The cows enter when they please to be relieved of their full udders, and they munch on sweet feed while they do so. Internal microchips provide such vital information as temperature, blood cell count, and overall levels of health in the animals. Optimal soil health and crop rotation play an integral role in the operations at the farm, as the cows feed exclusively on non-GMO grass and grain grown on premises. Happy, healthy cows produce excellent milk, and excellent milk yields exceptional cheeses. With products like Birchrun Blue, Birchrun Hills Farm is guaranteed to succeed for generations to come.
At the end of the tour, we all crowded around the sumptuous display of cheeses. Bite after bite, imbued with our new knowledge of provenance, struggle, and transformation, we let the cheeses speak for themselves the story of their journey. Today, as we savor the flavor of our favorite raw milk cheeses, we can take a moment to celebrate farmstead cheese making operations worldwide, and the uniquely transformative nature of cheese making.