We make all of our cheese by hand with raw milk from our 45 cows, mostly Jerseys, on our small Connecticut farm. We never use growth hormones, sub-therapeutic antibiotics, or animal-based feeds, and our cows graze freely so that they have happy lives with a rich diet of fresh pasture grasses, local hay, and a small amount of grain. All the rinds are natural and have natural surface molds that are integral to developing the full flavor of the cheese. We age and care for the cheese in our underground cave, ripening all varieties to their peak of flavor.
Cato Corner Farm is owned and managed by the mother-son team of Elizabeth MacAlister and Mark Gillman. Here’s a bit of their story:
Liz MacAlisteron Maintaining the Herd and Preserving the Land
I began making cheese in 1997. After raising goats and sheep since the 1970s, along with a few cows and chickens, the farm was not self-supporting. I saw cheese as a value-added product that would allow me to keep farming and earn a living. I started with 13 cows, selling cheese at farmers’ markets and a few area stores.
We’ve come a long way since then! Since Mark took over the cheese making, I am now in charge of the farm and the herd, as well as managing our NYC farmers’ markets. We are milking 45 cows twice a day, and we have another 40-50 heifers and calves. Our cows are mostly Jerseys, but we have one Brown Swiss and we’ve just started to breed with Normande bulls from France. We have a closed herd, which means we don’t buy cows from other farms – we keep the best of our heifers and sell the rest to other dairies.
Mark Gillmanon the Milk that Makes Great Cheese
Our cheese starts with our cows and the pastures they graze. If you taste our cheeses throughout the year, you will be able to appreciate the changes that come from changes in the cows’ diet. I love the sweet, grassy flavors and the gorgeous yellow color that the pasture milk brings to our aged cheeses in particular. In the winter we feed local hay, and the cows produce a lower volume of a much richer milk – this makes for a super creamy texture that’s ideal for Hooligan and our other semi-soft cheeses.
Cheese making produces a lot of whey – for every 100 pounds of milk, we get only 10-15 pounds of cheese and the remaining 85-90 pounds is whey. We feed our whey back to our milk cows, since it contains protein and many nutrients and is an excellent way to recycle a waste product. The cows love it!
Special thanks to our staff for your work! And thank you to our customers for supporting us. We couldn’t make cheese or run our farm without all of you.