Cabot was no stranger to blue ribbons and national titles going into the 22nd Biennial World Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin in 1998. Still, it was quite an international coup to take home top honors in two categories, distinctions which really put Cabot's line of classic and flavored cheddars on the map. Since winning world honors in 1998, Cabot has gone on to collect a staggering number of additional awards.
So yes, when you visit and tour the Cabot Creamery, you will hear a bit about the company's awards and accolades, but you'll also learn about the fascinating history of this farmer-owned cooperative, see the cheese making process in action and, best of all, sample some of the delicious cheeses and other dairy products proudly produced in Vermont. If you're traveling in northern Vermont, put a visit to Cabot on your "must do" list.
Our tour began with a short video, which detailed the origins of Cabot and major milestones in the company's history. From the original 94 farmer owners, who each contributed $5 per cow and a cord of wood to fuel the boiler, the Cabot cooperative has grown to more than 1,200 farm members throughout the Northeast. In 1992, Cabot merged with Agri-Mark, another New England dairy cooperative, but it is still owned by dairy farm families who are dedicated to quality and to preserving a way of life.
Before taking us into the manufacturing plant to see the cheese making operation, our tour guide, Doris, also shared with us some interesting facts about Cabot products and about cheese.
· In addition to its star cheddars, Cabot also makes cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, dips and Monterey Jack cheese at the factory in Cabot, Vermont.
· It takes 10 pounds of milk, mostly from Jersey cows that produce milk with a high butter fat content, to make one pound of cheese.
· At any given time, Cabot has about 18 million pounds of cheese aging naturally in storage.
· Age determines a cheese's grade--mild, sharp or extra sharp. Extra sharp cheese is aged a year or more. All Cabot cheeses are hand-graded by experienced tasters.
· Cabot cheddar was the first to be imported by England.
· To get the longest possible life from a block of cheddar, it should be re-wrapped in fresh plastic wrap after each use and refrigerated. If a cheese is past its expiration date, don't throw it away--as long as there are no visible signs of mold, you simply have a new, sharper cheese.
The tour itself takes about a half hour, and you can get a preview of what you'll see by coming along with me on a photo tour. Leave plenty of time for tasting Cabot's cheeses and other products at the end. Like me, you just may discover a new favorite cheddar flavor.
If you're going... The Cabot Visitor Center is located at 2878 Main Street (Route 215) in Cabot Village. From I-89, take exit 8 at Montpelier and follow Route 2 East. In Marshfield, turn left onto Route 215 and proceed five miles to the Cabot Creamery. From I-91, take exit 21 in St. Johnsbury for Route 2 West. In Marshfield, turn right onto Route 215 and proceed five miles to the Cabot Creamery.
It's always a good idea to call ahead to confirm that cheese is being made on the day of your visit. Call toll free, 800-837-4261. Tours are available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily from June through October and Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through May. The Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday in January.
As of March 2013, tour admission, including the free tasting, is $2 per person over the age of 11.
If you can't get to Vermont... Take my photo tour of Cabot Creamery, or run straight out to your grocery store, buy some Cabot cheddar cheese and try one of these delicious cheese recipes from Cabot at home.
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