All You Need Is ... Cheese
On this month’s Locavore trail, I spent time at Bill and Sheri Noffke’s diversified farm located on 80 beautiful acres in Pleasanton, Kan., about an hour south of Kansas City. In a society that believes bigger and faster is the best way, this family farm subscribes to a different philosophy.
Cheese is the main focus of Skyview Farm and Creamery and all the other components are the complements. It wasn’t always that way, but as the family work crew changed over the years, the family changed its emphasis, too.
The Noffkes built a Grade A creamery, complete with a milking parlour, milk room, cheese-making room and underground aging cave. The cow’s milk is from the herd of Jerseys which spend their day out on prime Kansas pasture. They are fed a minimal amount of organic grain and, of course, lots of hay in the winter. The cows’ rich, whole milk is used for making a variety of delicious Skyview cheeses.
The Noffkes’ daughter, Christin, manages a small herd of registered Alpine dairy goats as her enterprise. The goat milk is sometimes blended with cow’s milk to produce a signature co-mingled cheese creation. Of course, the milk is also used to make sublime goat cheese.
Although Skyview produces local, free-range eggs and grass-fed beef, too, it’s the cheeses that caught my attention and taste buds. They produce several varieties — and I sampled each one:
Skyview Farm’s underground aging “cave” is constructed from concrete to simulate conditions found in a natural cave. Thick walls insulate the space and create a cool, humid environment. Rounds of cheese are turned regularly on rough oak boards to keep the internal moisture even. Workers occasionally wipe the cheeses with a brine-soaked cloth to keep mold growth at a minimum. The cheeses can be kept in this environment for months or even years — they improve with age.
Goat Milk Cheeses
Skyview’s Alpine goats produce milk that is the foundation of their goat cheeses. Goat’s milk is naturally white in color, no matter how much beta-carotene from forages the goats consume.
|Goat's Milk Cheeses|
|Cow's Milk Cheeses|
Goat’s milk also contains the enzyme lipase that gives goat cheese its distinctive flavor, but Skyview’s profile is not a “goaty” flavor found in some goat cheese. By paying careful attention to the feeds and keeping living conditions sanitary, Skyview produces goat cheeses absent of off-flavors.
Some of Skyview’s handcrafted, artisanal cheeses are made with a combination of cow and goat milk. The cow’s milk lends a creamy texture to the cheese, while the goat’s milk adds a bold flavor. There are few cheesemakers that offer a co-mingled cheese from milk produced by their own animals.
Cow’s Milk Cheeses
The milk is what makes Skyview’s cow’s milk cheeses so good. Their Jersey cows are treated to the healthiest diet possible and cheeses are made without pasteurizing the Grade A milk. They are aged a minimum of 60 days — and usually much longer — so the raw milk cultures add depth to the cheese.
For more information, visit skyviewfarm.net.
Q&A with Skyview Farm and Creamery
Jasper Mirabile: How did you get into making artisan cheese?
Sheri Noffke: It was natural after we got our first cow to find a way to make use of extra milk at times. A friend I met at the county fair who also had Jersey cows taught me what she learned. I read books, talked to a few more people and was off and running. We built the creamery about two years ago so we could focus on the dairy aspect of our farm.
JM: What makes your cheese stand out above the rest?
SN: Really good cheese starts with really good milk. That comes from happy cows eating their favorite food — grass. Our cows are on pasture all the time except to be milked twice a day. We give them a little organic grain when they come to the milking parlour. The goats get high-quality alfalfa and organic grain. One unique feature about our farm is that we have both cows and goats. I believe we are the only Grade A dairy in Kansas that produces its own cow’s and goat’s milks and then can co-mingle them in their cheese.
JM: If you were putting together a “local” cheeseboard, what would you include?
SN: I think of a cheeseboard as having a nice variety of flavors that complement each other. I would have to include mild Gouda, a Swiss-type cheese that we call Pleasant Prairie, and then a little sharper Asiago for the cow cheeses. Then I would move to the co-mingled Alpine Prairie that is creamy with a hint of goat milk in the background, or the Montasio, which is a little denser and slightly stronger. I would finish up with a nice goat Cheddar or Linnchego, our Linn County version of Manchego. They are packed with flavor but don’t have a strong “goaty” flavor.
JM: What cheeses are on the horizon for Skyview farms?
SN: The co-mingled cheeses are what we will continue to work on. Unfortunately, it takes at least two months to discover how the cheese turned out. The Alpine Prairie, Montasio and Himmelsburg are very popular co-mingled cheeses because they take the nice texture of the cow cheese with the complex flavors of the goat cheese.
JM: Where can we find your cheeses locally?
SN: We have cheese at Better Cheddar, Howard’s Organic Market and Fritz’s Smoked Meats. Our cheeses are also served at Renee Kelly’s Harvest and Affäre Restaurant.
Grilled Cheese Toastie
Cheese producer Sheri Noffke suggested Asiago and Alpine Prairie for my toasted treat and it was delicious. I also tested other Skyview Farm and Creamery cheeses and came up with this easy toastie: