Thistle Hill Farm is a certified organic dairy farm located in North Pomfret, Vermont, owned and operated by John and Janine Putnam and their four children, aged twenty-two to twenty-nine. The Putnams have been farming organically for over twenty years, beginning with vegetables and beef, and culminating in organic cheese making. Other than incidental part time help, the family makes Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise from the ground up. Every aspect of creating the cheese, from caring for the hay fields and pastures, bringing in the hay and caring for and milking the Jersey dairy cows is done on the farm by the Putnam family.
Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise is an aged, raw milk, farmstead organic cheese which is handmade by John and Janine Putnam on their family farm in North Pomfret, Vermont from the certified organic milk of their grass-fed Jersey cows.
Tarentaise is unique to Pomfret, Vermont – its soil, geography, climate and flora, all of which combine to give Tarentaise its characteristic smooth, subtle nut flavor and complex finish, which chamges subtly with the seasons and weather. Tarentaise is made in a copper vat, the first in Vermont, in the tradition of the Savoie region of the French Alsp. The copper vat which is essential to the development of the proper flavor, is one of only a few in the United States and was custom built for Thistle Hill Farm in Switzerland.
Following the traditions of the Savoie, the Putnams use cultures imported from France and make their own rennet using whey from the previous cheese making. Much in the same way bakers use sourdough starter, this traditional rennet gives a complexity of flavor to the cheese which cannot otherwise be created.
Unlike many commercial cheese operations which use pumps that harm the curds, the curds used to make Tarentaise are taken from the vat by hand in a large cheese cloth to the various presses. The cheeses are turned four times in molds imported from France which create the distinctive concave sides which Tarentaise shares with Beaufort and Abondance, two fine cheeses of the Savoie. The aging room, made mostly of stone, contains only Tarentaise. Its atmosphere has been carefully created to foster the development of Tarentaises’ unique flavor. During the aging process, the cheeses are scrubbed a minimum of twice each week to develop the natural rind and warm butterscotch color.
From its humble beginnings as organic raw milk, to its natural aging and rind development, no preservatives, synthetic flavors or additives are added to Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise. No herbs are used to hide its flavor; no waxes or plastics simplify its aging process. From the hay that feeds the cows, to the end result, everything is done on the farm, by the Putnam family. Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise is as unadulerated a cheese as you will find.
This unique cheese is smooth textured, subtly nut-flavored and naturally rinded. It is ideal both for the table and for melting.
As stated by Giles Schnierle, owner of the Great American Cheese Collection, “There isn’t anything like it in this country…the layers keep opening-caramel tones, silky tongue feel, a balanced finish. It has gracefulness in its flavor profile.” (The Boston Globe, July 9, 2003)