Halfway across the world, in the Western Pyrenees, the brothers of Notre Dame de Belloc are preparing their sheep for the end of milking season and the beginning of breeding season. During the majority of the colder months, the herd will ruminate on winter grass, hay, and life. In the following spring, after the new lambs have been ushered into the world, milking and cheese making will resume.
The monks will transform the milk into a small tomme called Abbaye de Belloc. In the region, the style is referred to as 'ardi-gasna' (our/local cheese). Like other ‘fromage de brebis’ cheeses, Abbaye de Belloc exhibits a fresh, rich feel on your tongue and a subtle finish of straw and pasture.
Traveling back to the northeast corner of the U.S., cheese maker, David Major, is following similar practices on his own farm, Vermont Shepherd. He and his family are the first sheep dairy farmers to establish themselves in the United States. They use the unpasteurized milk of the Dorset, Tunis, and Friesian breeds to make Verano. The wheels showcase the symbiotic lifestyle of shepherd and flock along with traditional cheese making in a modern era. Using wooden boards to age the natural rinded tommes causes warm almond notes to harmonize with a luscious vegetal finish.
In our shop, we carry Abbaye de Belloc year round and Vermont Shepherd from Fall to late Winter. Early Fall is one of my favorite cheese eating seasons because I can settle in with a juicy apple, malty beer, and a hunk of good cheese. It’s the perfect preamble to Winter.