By Ann E. Duckett of Little Bleu Catering & Events
Cal Snow of Snow Farm Creamery in Brooktondale (which is located outside of Ithaca) is generous with his time and history lessons, pulling from farm diaries his great-great-grandfather Francis Snow kept. His notes provide snapshots in time from the early-to-mid 1900s and mention the original creamery that churned out butter and cheese for sale.
“The cheese was probably a dry, hard cheese like cheddar that shipped well to Ithaca or Binghamton; some was shipped to New York City by train,” says Cal. “So, we have a history of cheesemaking in the family. I’m sure there’s a gene or chromosome no matter how small in me.”
Having been “born to farming” Cal took over in 1974 staying true to its rich legacy, following best animal husbandry and crop sustainability practices. Eventually looking for a value-added product, cheese was the obvious answer.
“Small-scale farmstead cheesemakers are small businesses and our cheese is part of the local community,” he says. “I’d been making cheese since 2000; the creamery started in 2010 after I took a few classes at Cornell and with Peter Dixon.”
Cal is one of just a few cheesemakers in the region using raw cow milk instead of pasteurized, and he explained why.
“The less you disturb the milk the better it is,” he says. “The milk goes from cow to set curd in less than two hours. That’s part of us having a good product and I believe it’s healthier for you.” And using vegetable rennet versus animal rennet? His wife Jean is a vegetarian.
Cal makes five European-style cheeses, and all are aged. Lacking self-control, I ordered every one of his available cheeses, ranging in hues of milky creams to buttery yellow.
Dream Street: dense and rich; a smooth Gouda-style with sweet cream, caramel notes and a mild floral aroma.
Caerphilly: a Welsh cheese layered with earthy and subtle milky notes, a dryer texture with a citrusy finish.
Tiara: reminiscent of a young, mild Asiago, it’s subtle with a clean finish.
Fetish: Cal’s feta-style cheese aptly named for its addictive quality, in both plain (the most intense cheese on my plate) and black pepper (almost umami). Both briny with buttery notes, robust and savory, with a lingering richness.
Now 70 years old, Cal reflects on the changes that have shaped the landscape of the farm.
“This past year COVID-19 impacted so many small farms,” he says. “We decided to sell our herd of 40 so I can focus more on making cheese. Working with my son Aaron who handles the marketing, we’re a good pair. We have a love of what we do. I enjoy doing the work and want to have my hands in the curd. I want to be more directly involved in the process. I just hope I can keep some small part of this craft going.”
Online ordering is quick and easy; you’ll receive your cheese in a few days. Visit www.snowfarmcreamery.com/onlinestore or call 607-539-6328.
Snow Farm Creamery’s cheeses are also available at GreenStar Food Co-op or at Brookton’s Market in Ithaca, and through CSAs.
Ann Duckett is a writer, cheese educator and recovering cheesemonger. She delights in helping others find their cheese bliss through classes, events, and sharing stories of whey, wheels and wedges.