Chapel Hill, N.C. — Chapel Hill Creamery, located just 15 minutes outside the center of Chapel Hill, churns out award-winning artisan cheeses.
Last week Out & About got an inside look at the creamery during a media open house. Even though it was pouring, farm life goes on, and it didn't stop owners Portia McKnight and Flo Hawley from sharing their knowledge of cheese with us.
Before taking a tour of the farm and milking parlor, we got to sample a variety of cheeses:
Carolina Moon: Just this week, Carolina Moon was named Best Of Show at the NC State Fair. As a white skin forms, this cheese ripens from the outside in, giving the cheese a more acidic flavor at the very center.
Hickory Grove: A monastery-style cheese perfect for grating or melting...into an awesome grilled cheese sandwich. Made from raw milk, it is full-flavored and sharp.
Fresh Mozzarella: Soft and salty, and we got to watch Flo finish making it right in front of us. Hot, salty water changes the texture, and the cows' diet affects the color.
Calvander: A flavorful Asiago cheese good for grating or simply with an apple or bread. This cheese was given a gold medal in the 2012 World Jersey Cheese Awards – so you know it has to be good!
You can find more information about the creamery's various cheeses on their website. You can purchase Chapel Hill Creamery cheese at farmers' markets in Carrboro, Durham and Western Wake, as well as retail locations like Whole Foods, Weaver Street Market, Southern Season, Earth Fare and LoMo Market.
While Portia and Flo aim to be consistent while making the cheeses, factors such as the cows' seasonal diets can change aspects such as the color and texture of the cheese.
"We look for benchmarks and are constantly tweaking things," Portia said. "We have to remember that cheese is a living product."
The folks working at the creamery clearly care about their product and their livestock. Their jersey cows have ample room to graze the pastures, and they take care even with the little things, like naming new calves.
They also raise whey-fed pigs and produce sausages, pork cuts and rose veal – all under the Animal Welfare Approved seal.
If you haven't tried any Chapel Hill Creamery cheese yet, you might be missing out.