Artisan shows craft of cheesemaking

NEW HAVEN — Visitors to the Addison County Fair and Field Days last week could follow the “Fresh cheese curds” sign and find themselves next to the Milking Parlor and Dairy Bar, at a simple white trailer with a window on one side.
Veronica Pedraza, wearing a net cap, guarded the sterile environment of her mobile cheesemaking unit. She was spending the summer traveling with the Orleans County Fair mobile cheese unit to county fairs around Vermont.
Pedraza took a winding path to Vermont: from Florida to Wisconsin, where she discovered dairy science, to Georgia, New York and then Vermont.
After a stint making cheese at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, she jumped aboard the mobile cheesemaking unit.
Most of the time, she works alone, but last Wednesday at the New Haven fairgrounds Kirsten Quesnel of Perry Brook Dairy in Whiting spent the day helping out.
Quesnel’s family farm milks 920 cows of all different breeds, and she and her sister have been breeding a small herd of Brown Swiss on the side.
Quesnel said she’d been more and more interested recently in adding value to the milk by making it into cheese. That afternoon, Pedraza and Quesnel were in the middle of cooking up a batch of cheddar.
Quesnel said Pedraza was giving her a crash course in cheesemaking, running through a list of all the errors that can destroy a batch of cheese — and lose you your money.
Pedraza, for her part, said after this summer she plans to go back to school to study more food science at the University of Vermont. After that, she’ll open up her own sheep dairy and cheesemaking operation.
“It’ll definitely be in Vermont,” she said. “It’s the easiest place to be a cheesemaker.”

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