Bellwether Farms, renowned for nearly 30 years of making award-winning sheep milk and cow milk cheeses, has unveiled its first mixed-milk cheese, named Blackstone. The handsome 3-1/4 pound wheels are a blend of local Jersey cow and sheep milk, dotted with black peppercorns and sporting a gorgeous dark rind. The rind results from a mixture of crushed black pepper, oil, rosemary and vegetable ash that is hand-rubbed on each wheel during its six-to-eight weeks aging at the creamery. The first wheels of Blackstone are arriving in Bay Area retailers and restaurants this month.
Bellwether’s proprietor and cheesemaker, Liam Callahan, developed Blackstone for an American market hungry for mixed-milk cheeses. “We like that Blackstone combines the best of both worlds,” says Callahan. “Our premium Jersey cow milk gives the cheese a creamy mouthfeel while our sheep milk deepens the complex flavor.” Callahan named the cheese Blackstone for its resemblance to the volcanic rock outcroppings surrounding the family’s Sonoma County dairy farm. Bellwether Farms is a family business founded by Cindy Callahan in 1986 with a flock of sheep needed to control grass on their Sonoma land. Today, they milk 350 sheep and every cheese, and yogurt is made on the farm by Liam and his crew, while business administration is handled by Diana Callahan, his wife.
Blackstone joins the roster of Bellwether’s popular aged cheeses, Carmody, San Andreas and Pepato. The creamery’s fresh and cultured products include top-selling sheep milk yogurts, Whole Milk Basket Ricotta, Crème Fraiche, Fromage Blanc and Crescenza.
Another cause for celebration at Bellwether Farms is an unprecedented fifth consecutive award for its Whole Milk Basket Ricotta from the esteemed Good Food Awards competition, honoring products that are authentic and responsibly produced. The exceptional flavor and texture of Bellwether’s Whole Milk Basket Ricotta comes from three specific steps: First, it is made using fresh whole Jersey milk delivered daily from a neighboring farm. Ricotta cheese is often made from only whey left over from cheesemaking. Second, traditional cultures are introduced to coagulate the milk for a slow fermentation, developing flavor and transforming it into moist, pillowy curds tasting of rich cultured cream. Faster-acting vinegar or citric acid are commonly used instead of cultures in ricotta making. Finally, the cheese is hand-ladled into perforated basket-style containers to protect the tender curds in transit to stores and restaurants. This distinctive ricotta cheese also took a bronze medal at the 2010 World Cheese Awards in the UK, competing against fresh ricotta from Europe. Bellwether Farms Whole Milk Basket Ricotta is available in specialty stores throughout the Bay Area and select regions across the U.S.