WEST PIKELAND >> A locally-made goat cheese recently took top honors at the inaugural Pennsylvania Farm Show cheese competition, held in Harrisburg in January.
Yellow Springs Farm’s Cloud Nine cheese came in first place in the surface-ripened cheese from goat milk, and then went on to come in second overall against all the other champion cheeses.
“We’re excited,” said Catherine Renzi, who, with her husband Al, is co-owner of the farm. She called winning an award on the state level an “honor, and we think that it’s great that we could win.”
The Renzis purchased the 8-acre farm in 2001 and own about 100 goats, of which more than 20 are usually on the Yellow Springs Road property at any given time. Nearly all the goats are purebred Nubians, grown specifically for the quality of the milk they produce, Catherine Renzi said.
Historically, she pointed out, the farm had been part of a colonial-era dairy. It includes a native plant nursery raising as many as 200 species that were in the area in William Penn’s day.
As for the goats, Renzi said nearly all the milk they produced was used for making cheese, but also some yogurt and caramel sauce.
“We do not use antibiotics or hormones,” she added. “Our cheese is all made with no artificial ingredients.”
Renzi said the goats were pasture-fed, with, as needed, mineral supplements, local hay and grain, and electrolytes.
“We take care of them like athletes. We want them to be well-nourished and ready to do the job for us,” she explained.
Renzi pointed out Yellow Springs Farm’s commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, including the use of plants grown on the property, such as herbs, walnuts and sycamore leaves, in its cheese-making.
Yellow Springs Farm makes about 25 varieties of cheese, with availability depending on the season, she said.
While the farm’s varieties include fresh cheese, which is soft like cream cheese, and aged cheeses, with a firm consistency like cheddar, they more often are ripe cheeses, such as Cloud Nine, with a texture and white outside layer comparable to brie or camembert, Renzi added.
She said Cloud Nine cheese has been produced for about five years.
“It’s an original recipe that’s certainly inspired by other ripe cheeses in the French tradition, and it’s hand-made, hand-formed into a little ball,” Renzi added.
The resulting appearance, like a cloud or puff, was part of the reason for the cheese’s name, she explained, also acknowledging “the metaphor of being on Cloud Nine. It’s like a happy place to be.”
Describing Cloud Nine as “our best-selling cheese” and “clearly a customer favorite,” Renzi said, “Everybody loves Cloud Nine because it’s so rich and creamy … and it has a little tang in the finish, but it’s not sharp.”
For wine-lovers, the cheese “goes really nicely with a buttery Chardonnay or a pinot noir. … But,” Renzi said, with a laugh, “most people tell us they simply get out a baguette, and it’s gone. It doesn’t last too long.”
She suggested it was Cloud Nine’s combination of texture and flavor that proved to be award-winning at the recent Farm Show competition.
Renzi said Cloud Nine can be purchased online, and also is sold at Kimberton Whole Foods, selected Whole Foods markets and at the Fair Food Farmstand at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market.
Cloud Nine is produced through most of the year, except in periods of very hot or cold weather, Renzi said.
For more information about Yellow Springs Farm, visit the website at www.yellowspringsfarm.com, or contact Renzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-827-2014.