More than two decades ago, Judith Schad and her family left suburban Louisville, Ky., behind, settling on a farm near Greenville in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana. There, before words like "sustainable" and "locavore" became part of the argot of dedicated foodies, Schad began raising goats and using their milk to make cheese.
Her business, Capriole, is designated an Indiana Artisan – a program that promotes and supports select works of art and food.
Before long, Schad had garnered praise for such award-winning cheeses as Wabash Cannonball and Old Kentucky Tomme including a write up in People magazine. For Schad, a former college professor, it was somewhat like coming home particularly after the family discovered their new farm had belonged to her husband's great, great grandfather in the 1870s.
"One of the big distinctions between our cheeses and others is that we are totally farmstead and are nationally recognized," says Schad, whose cheeses are sold or served in many Chicago area restaurants and stores including Naha, Terzo Piano, Prairie Fire, North Pond, Terra Gusto, Fiddlehead Cafe, Uncommon Ground, Westown Tavern as well as Marion Street Market, Whole Foods, Pastorale, Fox and Obel. They are also available every week at the Chicago Green City Farmers Market in Lincoln Park.
But despite the success of Capriole, even now there are few artisan cheese makers in Indiana. Schad, who describes herself as still feeling like an anomaly, thinks that's because not enough Hoosier chefs support the trend.
"Compared to other states with a strong dairy core -- Vermont and most of New England, California, Washington, Oregon, New York and Wisconsin this is not a state with a strong, small dairy history," says Schad. underscoring another reason why farmstead cheese makers are rare in the state. "Critical also to development is a state with strong governmental and educational support. You cannot underestimate the value of state schools with strong dairy science programs and encouragement of alternative dairies."
But cheese lovers shouldn't despair. Capriole is among a handful of Indiana artisan cheesemakers making small batches of cheese, often from organic or grass–fed cows and goats.
For those with a passion for cheese, grab a cooler and hit the road, visiting one or more of these cheesemakers who are returning to the way cheese used to be made.
When their daughter Kate joined in to help Alan and Mary Yegerlehner make their farmstead cheeses at Swiss Connection Cheese she became the seventh generation to work on this family farm in Clay City, Ind.
The Yegerlehners raise their own mixed–breed cows, all of which are grass–fed with some seasonal hay supplementation.
"We don't use any grain, hormones, antibiotics, silage or pesticides," says Mary, noting that this produces cheese that not only tastes good but also is high in nutritional value. The family first made just cheddars, Colby and Monterey jacks but now have expanded into Parmesan, gouda and blue cheese.
Jane Elder Kunz and her husband, Richard, a hand surgeon in Indianapolis, look to the past at their Traders Point Creamery, located in Zionsville, northeast of Indy and about a 15-minute drive from downtown. The buzz on the creamery began with their thick, rich, prize-winning yogurt made from the milk of their cows grazing outside of the big barn-like building which also houses their cheese making equipment, milking stalls and the more upscale Loft Restaurant and Dairy.
Visitors are invited to take a tour and watch the cows being milked. The milk here is not homogenized and the thick cream that rises to the top is used in making the ice cream and yogurt.
Berne, near the Indiana and Ohio border, has both a Swiss heritage and an Amish population. And so when the Swissland Cheese Company started operating over a quarter century ago, it was called Swissland Milk and was a transfer station for Amish milk. Two years ago, owners Kirk and Mary Johnson began making a variety of organic cheeses from cow and goat milk and their large selection includes Feta Cheddar Style, Chedda Habanero, Chedda Wine, Colby, mozzarella, white cheddar and Chedda Choco Nut –– a sweet and salty combination of cheddar, cocoa, and English walnuts.
Watch cows being milked and cheese being made at Fair Oaks Farm, a consortium of large dairies that have turned dairy farming into a tourist destination in Fair Oaks, Ind. The milk used for both cheeses and ice cream comes from cows whose feed and care is centered around creating the best possible environment for producing great products including their havarti, Muenster, sweet Swiss, asiago and gouda.
The Weaver family produce raw milk dairy products eschewing chemical fertilizers, pesticides and synthetic hormones at their Sunny Meadow Farm in Argos, Ind. Their products will be available through Honored Prairie, a consortium of family farms, starting next spring. Their cheeses including cheddar based blends with such flavorings as hot pepper, Italian spices, chives, garlic–onion and garden herbs as well as Colby and baby Swiss, are also available at their farm store on Fridays and Saturdays or if you call ahead for an appointment.
Potato, Greens and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
1-1/3 cups (about 2 medium) 1/2-inch cubed, peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/3 cups (packed) coarsely grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
1-1/3 cups jarred salsa verde
4-2/3 cups coarsely chopped stemmed mustard greens, divided
4 (8–inch) flour tortillas
3 ounces chilled fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
DIRECTIONS: Place baking sheet in oven and preheat to 275 degrees. Steam potatoes until tender, about 8 minutes. Place in large bowl; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Toss to coat. Cool potatoes 15 minutes. Mix in Jack cheese. Meanwhile, blend salsa and 2/3 cup (packed) greens in mini processor until greens are finely chopped. Arrange tortillas on work surface. Divide remaining greens between bottom half of each. Top greens with potato mixture, then goat cheese and 2 tablespoons salsa mixture for each. Fold plain tortilla halves over filling, pressing to compact. Brush with oil. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place 2 quesadillas, oiled side down, in skillet. Brush tops with oil. Cook until quesadillas are brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to sheet in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into 3 or 4 wedges. Serve with remaining salsa.
Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Peach and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 slices French bread, 1/2 inch thick
2 large yellow peaches, each sliced into 6 wedges
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 ounces goat cheese
8 sprigs marjoram
DIRECTIONS: Preheat the grill to medium heat. Brush 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on the bread slices and toast or grill until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side on the grill, or 10 minutes on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven. Toss the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the peach slices, the lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Put the peach slices on 2 or 3 skewers and grill over a medium flame until slightly charred. Remove from the skewers and toss with the shallots. Spread the goat cheese on the bruschetta and top with 2 to 3 peach slices and a marjoram sprig. Serve warm.
Makes 4 servings.