Cato Corner Farm
BY LISA ZWIRN / PHOTO MICHAEL PIAZZA
Mother-and-son team Elizabeth MacAlister and Mark Gillman own Cato Corner Farm, a lovely spot 25 miles southeast of Hartford. She manages the herd of 40 or so Jersey cows and he makes cheeses using the milk, rich in butterfat and protein, from the mostly grass-fed cows. Gillman makes a dozen different cheeses, all of which spend time, from two months to 18, in the small underground cheese cave on the property.
“Many of the cheeses are based on European recipes that we’ve adapted,” says Gillman, including the buttery Dutch Farmstead; young Vivace Bambino and slightly more mature Vivace, made like Swiss Emmental; and Dairyere and Dairyere Reserve (aged 12 months or more), made in the Alpine style like Gruyere and Comte. The latter won prestigious American Cheese Society awards in 2010, 2011, and 2014. A riff on Spanish Manchego called Womanchego, a semi-soft wheel aged three to five months, is made with cow’s milk instead of sheep’s milk. Other popular wedges are the Hooligan, a “stinky” washed-rind cheese with a creamy-soft texture, and Despearado, similarly concocted, but washed with Pear William eau de vie (clear pear brandy) from nearby Westford Hill Distillers. Bloomsday, a semi-firm, cheddar-like cheese and the English-style, medium sharp Jeremy River Cheddar, aged 10 months or more, will undoubtedly appeal to less adventurous palates.
The farm’s happy cows are milked twice a day, allowing Gillman and his team to make about 1,000 pounds of cheese a week. No matter a person’s taste preferences, the cheese maker is positive he has a style that will please. At the farm shop, Gillman likes to say, “We have something old, something new, something stinky, and something blue.”