May 3, 2020
New England Living, 07/08/16
Tim Stone started his cheese-making business, Great Hill Blue, 16 years ago at Great Hill Dairy in Marion, Mass. The farm had been in his family since the early 1900s, run by his great-grandfather first and his grandfather after that. Stone restarted the dairy with Guernsey cows in the mid-1980s but couldn’t make a living as a dairy farmer so he sold the herd.
“I wanted to stay on the farm and looked at all different possibilities,” Stone says. “I landed on the idea of making cheese and decided to make blue cheese, since none was being produced in the east at that point.”
He converted a barn basement into a cheese plant and contracted with local dairy farmers to buy milk. Delivered by truck on the same day the cows are milked, the raw milk is not pasteurized or homogenized: “I think we get a little bit more variability making our cheese with raw milk because there are more organisms competing for the same food source,” says Stone. “It can be a little bit more unpredictable, but I think the end result has an enhanced flavor profile.”
He heats the milk and adds cultures and a liquid form of mold. Once the cheese coagulates, the curd is cut and stirred until the desired consistency is reached, at which time the whey is drained off. Each cheese form is hand-filled to ensure proper whey expulsion and curd structure.
The resulting six-pound wheels are aged for at least four to six months. Great Hill processes cheese three times a week and makes 1,200 pounds per day. Compared to varieties augmented by bleach or food colorings, Great Hill Blue presents a slightly more dense, yellow curd and is a favorite of many restaurants. It’s particularly delicious used raw on crackers, in salads and dressings or melted on top of filet mignon.
“It’s great to see the recent emphasis on local, quality food,” says Stone. “We were making cheese before the movement began, but it has really gone a long way towards helping our cause.”