Hawaii — Iowa
Hawaii: Guava-Wood Smoked Pyramid from Hawaii Island Goat Dairy in Honokaa
With wild goats freely roaming our nation’s 50th state, it’s no surprise that the cheese on the islands are predominantly made from goat’s milk. On the Big Island, this 10-acre farm and creamery is housed on a former macadamia nut tree orchard, nestled into the side of the now-dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The cheese is fresh, soft, and tangy, and smoked with subtle and semi-sweet guava wood. Some call it "aloha flavor," we just call it outstanding.
Idaho: Danish Pearl from Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese in Gooding
Steve and Stacie Ballard moved to Idaho to from San Diego to start their small dairy farm with just a few Jersey calves. Today, they continue to make farmstead cheese the old-fashioned way, specializing in a variety of cheddar products from fresh curds to rich and aged cheese. Made in a gouda-style, their Danish Pearl is creamy and melty, with a flavor the Ballard’s say can only be achieved in arid Idaho (they say that their land is particularly mineral-rich).
Illinois: Huckleberry Blue from Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery in Champaign
Former professors Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell opened Prairie Fruits in 2005 as a small-scale seasonal creamery. Named after one of their 60 goats, Huckleberry is made only in October–December and March–April, when the milk is richest, resulting in a super-creamy blue that’s then aged and washed with Rhine Hall Distillery’s apple brandy, made in downtown Chicago.
Indiana: Wabash Cannonball from Capriole Farm in Greenville
“This is the cheese that made me quit my corporate job,” says Thorpe of these ash-dusted balls of ripened creamy goat cheese. The cheese itself was first made in 1992, but Capriole Farm cheesemaker Judy Schad has actually been in the business since 1976, decades before goat cheese became really popular (she first made it for her family/friends, way before artisan farmstead cheesemaking was a thing and prior to starting their own creamery in the '90s). “She’s a pioneering artisan cheesemaker,” says Thorpe.
Iowa: Maytag Blue from Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton
In the span of just 100 years, the Maytag family created a successful washing machine company as well as a legendary cheesemaking facility. Maytag blue cheese is a nationwide favorite, with its firm, moist, and crumby texture riddled with blue veins. Wheels are aged in hillside caves over four to six months for a slightly salty and savory taste.
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