Cato Corner Farm - Colchester, CT Located on a 75 acre farm in the rolling hills of Colchester, CT (26 miles southeast of Hartford), Cato Corner Farm has rapidly developed a reputation for making world class, traditionally made farmstead cheeses.
The cheesemaking adventure started in 1997, when Elizabeth MacAlister enrolled in a cheese making course at California Polytechnic University and then participated in several workshops with European cheese masters. Searching for a value added product that would help make the farm sustainable, she began the long, arduous process of experimentation-attempting to craft a farmstead cheese from the raw milk of her small herd of Jerseys.
Several years later, she was joined by her son Mark, who left his career as an English teacher to assist with the farm and management of the cheese making operation. Today, with a herd of 30-40 cows, primarily Jerseys, along with several Brown Swiss, Elizabeth and Mark hand craft aged, raw milk, farmstead cheeses. The flavor, texture and color of each cheese is an expression of the land, the freshness of the cows' milk and the cheesemaker's craft.
Originating on the Island of Jersey, off the coast of France, the Jersey is one of the oldest dairy breeds and highly regarded for its milk and butterfat production. "Good cheese starts with good milk," says Mark Gillman "and our happy, healthy cows produce the best milk we could ask for! Our cows graze freely on a rich diet of healthful native pasture grasses, wild flowers and herbs. We use no growth hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics and treat our animals with respect."
(Photography by Constance Schiano)
(Cheesemaker Mark Gillman takes core sample of aging cheese.)
If there's a common thread among these cheeses it's their creamy, smooth consistency, although they can vary considerably in style and taste. Cato Corner makes 12 different styles of aged, natural rind, farmstead cheeses from mild to strong with the majority using animal rennet and the Vivace line (Bambino, Molto Vivace) using vegetable rennet. Some of the cheeses are seasonal, and the mix of seasonal and year round cheeses offers the cheese lover a complex palate of flavor and texture. The natural rind cheeses are aged and cared for in an underground cave where they ripen to peak condition under the watchful eye of Mark Gillman.
(Gruyere/Comte style Dairyaire aging in the cheese cave)
Photography by Constance Schiano
Several of our favorites are:
Bridgid's Abbey - Made from a traditional Belgian recipe, this cheese is medium mild, smooth and creamy with a buttery, round flavor, a slight truffle aroma and a subtle, earthy complex finish. Bridgid's Abbey is aged 2-3 months and pairs well with Pinot Noir wine. Cato Corner's most popular cheese also melts well and is a wonderful flavor complement to a variety of foods.
Hooligan - A washed-rind cheese (washed in brine - sea salt and water), with a distinct earthy smell, creamy texture and a long lingering finish. Aged 2-3 months. Rated one of the top aged raw milk cheeses in the country by Saveur Magazine. Gold Medal Award Winner-Gallo Family Vineyards-Gold Medal Awards. Pair with Shiraz or Cotes du Rhone wines. Other members of the Hooligan family are: Drunk Monk (beer wash), Drunkin Hooligan (wine wash), Despeardo (wased in Pear William eau-de-vie), Rapple-Ree (Apple Brandy wash) and Fromage D'O Cow (brine wash).
(Aging washed rind cheeses-Photography by Constance Schiano)
Dutch Farmstead - Creamy, supple and well balanced with a smooth finish. A Gouda style cheese with a hint of ripeness and a medium bite. Aged 3-4 months. Named a "Slow Food" favorite in 2003. "One of the top fifty artisanal cheeses made in America." Saveur Magazine (April 2005). Pairs nicely with Cotes du Rhone.
Vivace Bambino - Smooth, supple textured with hints of Emmentaler and Swiss Jarlsberg. Made with vegetable marzyme rennet. Aged 3-4 months. Try it with a light bodied Pinot Noir or Merlot wine. The older version of this cheese called simply, Vivace, is aged 6-8 months and has the flavor of a young Provolone.
(Aging Vivace Bambino-Photography by Constance Schiano)
Womanchego - Inspired by the classic Spanish sheeps' milk cheese, Manchego, this cheese is medium sharp, slightly sweet with hints of fruits and nuts and a subtle cheddar influence. Aged 4-6 months. Wonderful paired with Pinot Noir or Chianti wine.
Cato Ransom Blue - A creamy, mild raw milk blue with a slightly cheddary finish. Pairs with Shiraz.
(Cato Ransom Blue-Photography by Constance Schiano)
Vivace - The older version of Vivace Bambino, this cheese is aged 6-8 months and has the flavor of a young Provolone. Made with vegetable marzyme rennet it pairs with an Alsace Pinot Gris or a dry Rose.
Bloomsday - Alpine style, medium firm, tangy and nutty building to a sharp finish. Named after the James Joyce character in Ulysses. Two versions of this cheese-the younger one is aged around 6 months and pairs nicely with Pinot Noir or Beajolais while the elder statesman, aged close to a year, goes well with Sangiovese or Chianti Reserva.
Over the past several years, Cato Corner Farm cheeses have been getting rave reviews in the press including mention in the NY Times, Saveur and Gourmet Magazines and Slow Foods-USA. Their washed rind cheese Hooligan received a Gold Medal at the Gallo Family Vineyards-Gold Medal Awards. The farm was also selected as the winner of the Gallo Family Vineyards "Never Stop Growing Award" for Outstanding Family-Owned Artisanal Food Production in April 2006. At the 2010 & 2011 American Cheese Society Annual Competition Dairyaire, Cato's Gruyere/Comte style cheese won Third Place.
Creative, innovative and good stewards of the land Cato Corner Farm is on
the cutting edge of American farmstead cheesemaking.
Purchase Cato Corner Farm Cheeses including Gift Baskets. Click here!