American Cheese Month: Capriole, of Indiana

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October 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Judy Schad & baby goat

I can safely say that the American artisan cheese movement would not be where we are today without the considerable efforts of Judy Schad of Capriole Farms.  As with fellow cheesemakers of the time Mary Keehn, Paula Lambert and Allison Hooper Judy fell into making cheese at home in her own kitchen and ended up contributing to a pivotal shift in the American consumer’s ideas about and exposure to American made artisan cheeses.

Judy moved to Greenville, IN in 1976 with her husband, onto a farm that, unbeknownst to them, was previously owned by her husband’s great great grandfather.  The 80 -acre farm needed a Lot of work but over the next 4 years the pair turned the place around.  When their three children were old enough to start participating in 4-H programs the family acquired a goat, but (thankfully for the rest of us) the kids refused to drink the milk, so Judy started experimenting with cheesemaking.  She recalls tasting every cheese she could get her hands on during the initial learning process, discovering cheeses from “awful to delicious”.  She found that she especially loved the soft-ripened cheeses traditionally made throughout the Loire valley in France.  By 1987 the farm was a full-scale cheesemaking business, selling to restaurants, shops and farmer’s markets.  Twenty five years later the farm is co-owned by Judy and her daughter, Kate, who handles the business side of things.  They have a herd of 500 goats, a blend of Alpine and Saanan breeds who munch on a healthy diet of alfalfa hay and grain.  They are the last working dairy in the county.  Two of my favorites from Capriole  are the Wabash Cannonball and Mont St. Francis.

Wabash Cannonball, photo credit to Capriole Inc

This soft ripened, hand molded ball of chevre is delicate, dense and flaky.  Named after the Wabash River Valley it is creamy on the inside with a delicate interface.  The rind is formed with the assistance of Geotrichum mold, which creates a series of tight-knit wrinkles that appear similar to the surface of a brain.  As the Cannonball ages the ash layer beneath the Geo rind begins to peek through.  Edible as a soft and creamy ball or aged a few weeks to give a dryer texture and concentrated tang, this is a beautiful American emulation of classic French cheesemaking.  This cheese is exceptional with a more savory honey or with slices of honeycrisp apple.

Mont St Francis

Mont St. Francis, photo credit to Capriole Inc

This cheese is a member of the washed rind family.  These cheeses tend to be stinky, funky and inhibit your ability to make friends on the bus.  The cheese gets its name from a retreat which was formerly a Franciscan monastery.  The raw milk used for this cheese requires that it be aged a minimum of 60 days to be sold in the United States, but Judy ages this out a little longer, anywhere from four to eight months.  The texture is dense and fatty with some seriously beefy flavors along with the dirty-feet (and that’s a good thing!) aromas created by the Brevibacterium linens bacteria present in the brine used the wash and develop the aging rind.  On her website Judy suggests pairing this cheese with bourbon, and I couldn’t agree more.  Not only an excuse to drink bourbon but also a great way to see how warmer baking spice notes handle funk in a cheese, and an exceptional opportunity to expand your pairing prowess beyond the traditional beer or wine.  I would also suggest it with chocolate!

Upcoming American Cheese Month events…

Sunday 10/21, 7-8:30pm

Class: “American Cheeses & French Wines that Love Them” @ Provenance Logan Square,  Buy tickets: $25

Tuesday 10/23, 7pm

Dinner: “Vino e Formaggi: a trip from Italy to Wisconsin”,  A 4 course dinner at Due Lire Restaurant, featuring a pop-up cheese shop provided by Provenance Lincoln Square.  Buy tickets: $35/$55 with wine pairings

 Wednesday 10/24, 7-9pm

Dinner: Pastoral’s “Meet the Cheesemaker” dinner with Jerry Heimerl of Saxon Creamery at Nightwood Restaurant (click link to buy tickets: $90).  A ticket includes 4 courses with wine pairings, gratuity and a donation to the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award.

Thursday 10/25, 4:30-6:30pm

Tasting: Consider Bardwell Farms @ Pastoral at the Chicago French Market

Saturday 10/27

Tasting: 11:30-1:30  Consider Bardwell Farms @ Pastoral Loop:  53 E Lake st

Tasting: 5-6:30pm  Consider Barwell Farms @ Pastoral Lakeview: 2945 N Broadway

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One Comment

  1. Judy Schad says:

    Hi Adrienne

    So glad you are loving the Mont!! It’s driving me crazy right now, it’s so good & my favorite thing is to wash these till I have to come out of the B.Linen room for oxygen–really, you could die in there! I love the smell, but fellow workers insist I take a shower.

    Judy, Capriole

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