For Dan Finn, cheese making was something generations in the making.
A lifelong farmer, Finn returned home to the Catskills in 2000, bought 160 acres of land and started Bovina Valley Farms. He began making maple syrup, raising beef cattle and soon pigs as well. Despite, the added numbers of animals, Finn was unable to make a full-time living off the farm.
So with a desire to devote himself to his farm and armed with an interest in dairy farming, Finn turned toward cheese making, just as his great-grandfather had done in the Catskills more than 100 years ago. His great-grandfather’s Cheddar cheese was so well regarded that the recipe is currently on display in the Bovina town museum.
In 2008, Finn bought two cows, took a few cheese making courses and started experimenting with cheese. In 2012, Finn “jumped in” and upped his number of dairy cows to 30 and started selling milk to Horizon Organic.
It was around that time that he started making cheese with Jos Vulto, of Vulto Creamery.
“Jos had a lot more experience,” Finn said. “He helped in a lot of troubleshooting areas.”
At the very beginning, Vulto made the cheese for Finn. But over time, Finn grew more involved in the process until eventually Finn began making the cheese on his own at Vulto Creamery.
Finn finished construction of his own creamery in the spring of 2015 and the production moved back to Bovina.
Finn is in this fourth year of selling his cheese commercially. He makes just one kind: a raw milk French-style tomme named Alderney.
It takes about four milkings of his 30-head herd of Jersey cows—about 232 gallons—to get enough milk for one batch.
After the milk is pumped from the bulk tank into the creamery, cultures are added and the cheese sits for about an hour. Then rennet is added to form the curd, which takes about 45 minutes. The curd is then ladled into baskets and allowed to press under its own weight for one day before going into a salt water brine for 24 hours.
The final stop is the aging cave, which is held at 52 degrees and 90 percent humidity. Finn ages all his cheese on wood boards for at least two months, but said he has aged cheeses up to nine months.
After two months, the semi-soft cheese is mild, with a nutty, earthy rind and only a hint of piquant sharpness. The distinct sharpness starts after two to four months and by nine, the cheese packs quite a punch.
“There’s definitely quite a flavor change,” Finn said. To sample & purchase Bovina Valley Farms' Alderney please join us at The Great Northeast Cheese & Dairy Fest on December 10th! For event details and to purchase tickets, please visit here.