I have been buying Valley Shepherd cheeses for a long time at our local greenmarket. Almost every week. I can’t help it, Valley Shepherd’s Crema de Blue is one of my favorite blue cheeses, maybe my most favorite cheese, period. Not to mention the Caremeaway, a Dutch style cheese infused with caraway seeds. And Perlita... And Trioche... Yet, after all these years of being a loyal customer, only a couple of days ago it occurred to me to inquire about the possibility of visiting the creamery. And so I learned that not only it is OK to visit, but they have tours too, and a cheese making class, and a lot more of additional hoopla at the farm shop. “But do hurry up,” tells me the lady at the stand, “because next weekend is our last tour of the season”.
The night before the expedition I make my cranberry port jam to accompany the cheeses we plan to bring. My cranberry port jam is specially designed for Crema de Blue. The night before the expedition I also conduct a tiny bit of research to prep for the visit. My research reveals that Valley Shepherd started in 2005 on 120 acres of land in Long Valley, New Jersey. The creamery currently produces about twenty mainly raw-milk cave-aged cheeses. Eran Wajswol, the owner of the creamery is a champion of green markets – throughout the week the Valley Shepherd cheeses are sold on over 20 farmers markets in the area (see here for the map). They can also be found at the haute restaurants like Le Bernardin and Jean-Georges, and at Valley Shepherd’s new store in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
On Sunday morning, I wake up Dr. V and Miss Pain at, according to their standards, brutal 10 am. They hate me for that, but the mood soon picks-up with a promise of free cheese tasting and we find ourselves on an hour plus ride to Long Valley. Along the way we pick up some squashes, apple butter and Jersey tomatoes, and visit a couple of antique stores. I score a magnificent milk glass cake stand. Miss Pain scores a pink beanie baby. Dr. V scores a cup of hot cider and a muffin. We are all very happy in our own special way.
And we arrive happily to the creamery. We take a happy tour of the facility, we peek at the cheese making class, we see the sheep being milked. We taste the cheeses, despite Miss Pain who walks around and warns everyone about the dangers of unpasteurized milk. Pain is worse than FDA, but she is six and cute and everyone loves her nonsense. And then we take that last hayride of the season to the cheese aging caves, where tens and tens of precious Crema de Blue wheels, plus some other goodness is patiently ripening to their fullest, waiting to make me happy in the months to come.
At the end of the tour I see the owner surrounded by a worshiping crowd, and I wish I could gather the courage to stop by and tell him how much we appreciate everything he does, and how lovely the tour was. But I am way to shy, and Pain is still screeching, “unpasteurized milk is dangerous”, so I think “probably not”. We buy some more Crema de Blue, because one can never have enough of Crema de Blue, and we buy some Trioche and Carameaway and some fresh bread, and we arrive home early because miraculously the Holland Tunnel is kind to us.
And we have a dinner fit for a king.
Cranberry Port Jam
* 14 oz fresh cranberries
* 1 1/2 cup raisins
* 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 1 cup ruby port
* 1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
* 1 sprig of rosemary
* 1 cup apple cider
* 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
* 1/4 tsp ground cloves
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/2 tsp pepper
1. Add all the ingredients to a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, bring the mix to a simmer, and simmer for about 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the jam gets too dry and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan add a little bit of water and continue to simmer.
2. Remove from the heat and pour into jars. The jam can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Stir in a little water if the jam seems too thick.
Makes about 2 cups of jam
p.s. And to spare you from googling:
Valley Shepherd Creamery
50 Fairmount Road
Long Valley, NJ 07853
Park Slope Shop
211 7th avenue
Park Slope, Brooklyn