I have a special fondness for the Fraser Valley of BC. Just outside of busy Vancouver is a wonder of country farms and cows. About twice a year my family will drive out to Harrison Hotsprings to stay at the hotel and lounge in the hotspring pools. Imagine my great surprise to learn that all this time I have been driving right by a local fromagerie! Guess where I’m going to stop next time I have a hankering for hotspring? The Farm House Natural Cheeses is a small family dairy farm located in Agassiz, just beside Harrison. It is owned by Deborah-Amrein Boyes and her husband, George Boyes. Happy cows and goats graze their fields and produce the fresh milk used for the cheeses made on farm. It’s old school fermiere cheese and so close to me, I can almost taste it.
Debra and her family moved to this farm in 1986. They only started making cheese in 2004 as a response to changes in the dairy industry- it was time to either grow or diversify. George grew up on a dairy farm in England and Debra lived in the Swiss Alps for 10 years and learned cheesemaking there, so it seemed like a natural fit. The entire family is involved in the work on the farm. George looks after the animals and the farm operation, and Debra does the cheesemaking.
This farm also offers farm tours. Visitors can connect with the farmer and the animals while touring the farm and also while visiting the on-farm cheese shop. If you can believe my wretched luck, both are currently closed at the time of this writing. Wah!
Debra Amrein-Boyes, isn’t just some lady from the valley making cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that) she was recently inducted into the French Cheese Guild, the “Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon. ” This recognizes “those who protect and continue the tradition of cheesemaking around the world.” I don’t really know what is cooler than that. Seriously. Debra has also written a book for home cheesemakers called “200 Easy Homemade Cheese recipes: from Cheddar and Brie to Butter and Yoghurt.” I’m starting to get a crush Debra…I mean, seriously!
Although I can’t tell if the cheese made here is raw or pasteurized, I am leaning towards raw as it is made on farm, and that’s kind of the whole point. If it matters, you really should ask. All the cheese here is made from the milk of their own herd of Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Holstein cows as well as the family farm goats.
Castle blue is one of the 21 cheeses offered by Farmhouse with cow and goat milk versions of many of my favorites available. I’m not really sure what a Castle Blue cheese is. There is reference around the net to other “Castle Blues” so I am guessing it may be Debra’s twist on a cheese classic. For instance, there’s another “Castle Blue” from Scotland that gets a lot of press called “Fatlips Castle Blue.” Alas, I can’t say how long it’s aged (probably not long from the looks of it) or what else is done to it (probably mould is introduced, and a lot of that by the looks of it) it’s a bit of a cheesy mystery. Alas.
My Castle Blue looks like a brie gone mad. It’s actually the first cheese in 85 that has frightened me. It really is a heinous looking cheese. It’s kind of reptilian in appearance-the rind is green and blue and looks wet and scaly. The interior is creamy yellow and shot through with mould. Yikes! I am repulsed, yet fascinated simultaneously. If there’s no blog tomorrow, it was the Castle Blue.
Hmmmm. Looks can be deceiving. It’s just a fabulously creamy, wet almost liquid cheese. It reminds me of Vacherin Mont d’or-this one’s a runner. It sticks, it runs, it clings to my teeth, it invades my tongue and my taste buds! The texture is actually the selling point here, it’s a carnal and knowing little cheese, and I like that! It’s actually pretty mild in taste for how heinous it looks. It’s creamy and savoury and yes-there is that hint of blue-but there’s no unctuous ammonia hit. It’s just a sticky little foray into the fascinating world of controlled rot.
Close your eyes and make love to this ugly little local. It’s my slice of cheese!