There are several things which make Tarentaise cheese different and special.
Tarentaise is local. You know where it was made, by whom, when, and with what. This is a rare quality these days. We plant the seeds, mow and bale the hay, take care of and milk the cows, and make the cheese. All of these things include the supporting tasks such as maintaining the tractors, cleaning the calf hutches and taking care of all the various and sundry along the way. If any quality issues arise, we know about them immediately.
Local also means that you can buy high quality cheese that was not flown 5,000 miles and is often so heavily subsidized that it lands on our coast at a price that would not pay for the milk that goes into a locally produced cheese such as Tarentaise and the other fine cheeses being made here.
Tarentaise is organic, which assures you that an independent certifying agency (Northeast Organic Farmers Association) has reviewed the farm's records and examined its operations to ensure that the farm, and the hay, grain, and farming practices which culminate in Tarentaise are in compliance with Vermont's (and now national) organic standards. This means that Tarentaise is made without pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, or artificial hormones and that the farm strives to operate in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. Tarentaise is as natural a food as can be found.
Tarentaise is made in the traditional method. Tarentaise is made in a copper vat, which is essential to creating the flavor that is distinctive to this style of alpine cheese. The vat was made to our specifications in Switzerland and is the only copper vat Vermont, and one of only a few in the United States. We use the cultures and techniques developed over the years in the Alps. The curds are cut by hand with a harp, stirred and cooked and then transferred in a large cheese cloth to the presses, rather than being pumped which can hurt the curds and smooth consistency of the cheese. The only mechanical devices are the small DC motor which stirs the curds as they cook, the boiler which heats the vat and wash water , and the little air compressor which provides pressure to the fore and final press. The extra hot water from making the cheese makes the wash water and heats the building in the winter.
After the cheeses enter the aging room, the rinds are rubbed by hand with a culture as has been done in Savoie for hundreds of years. These steps are crucial to ensure the unique taste of Tarentaise. Such attention is given to each individual wheel of cheese that we recognize them from another and can tell when the cheese was made.
The individual attention paid to the certified organic Jersey cows is also important to the quality of Tarentaise. Each cow has a name, and we know them all by sight. We milk with buckets, which, whiles less efficient than a pipe line system or parlor, permits us to know exactly what each cow is feeling and exactly what the components are of that cow's milk, twice a day every day. This means that only the best of our cow's milk goes into Tarentaise. Other operations either buy milk, or simply use whatever mix their herds produce on any given day. Just as we are able to identify each cheese and cow by sight, as we feed the cows we can identify where each bale of hay was cut and when. This permits us to ensure the highest possible quality for the end of the process; Tarentaise.
Tarentaise is made from the organic milk of grass fed cows. Cows are meant to graze, and our cows' access to the outdoors and natural feeding environment makes them happy and healthy. The cows' grass based diet is important not just to their health but also to ours. The warm butterscotch color of Tarentaise is testament to the high betacarotene, vitamin E, conjugated linoleic acid ("CLA") and omega 3 fatty acids found in the milk of these grass fed cows. All of these elements have been found to be healthy components of our diet and, especially the omega 3's, are linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity and other diseases. Grazing animals get more omega 3's because they get them directly from the grass. These omega 3's are ultimately passed to humans at the top of the food chain.