The pungent smell of victory was in the air at the World Cheese Awards as Grey Barn & Farm took home the silver medal for their washed-rind Prufrock.
The soft and nutty Prufrock was among 3,800 other artisan cheeses from dairies and creameries across the world.
Washed-rind cheese treats the rind with a brine, and typically has a moist or sticky exterior, some variety of reddish-orange rind, and an intense aroma.
“It’s a funky little cheese; we’ve won a couple American Cheese Society awards with this one,” creamery manager Joe Alstat said. “Washed-rind cheeses aren’t necessarily on everybody’s list, but this one is particularly special.”
Alstat has been making cheese for 10 years, and he said each final product is unique, even when using the exact same ingredients. “Someone could be using the same recipe and process as me, but they aren’t going to be the same cheese, because the milk and ingredients don’t come from our cows and our farm,” Alstat said.
He said everyone on the farm works hard to create delicious cheese that changes with the seasons, but the real winners are the cows. “We really focus on milk quality, and are always stressing that we are a pasture-based dairy,” Alstat said. This means the cows are fed only fresh grass from the pasture.
“We are certified organic, and really put the taste and quality of our milk before everything else. It is amazing raw milk that creates amazing cheese,” Alstat said.
Although Grey Barn’s Prufrock took home the silver, Alstat said there’s no reason to be overly focused on who wins, because each cheese is unique and contributes to the small-batch, local food community.
“We have so many world-class cheeses in Massachusetts, and we really respect all those farms and dairies because we know how much work it takes to make a great product,” Alstat said. “People always act like there’s this intense competition between creameries — there isn’t.”
At the World Cheese Awards, there are multiple silver and gold winners in each category, further promoting the diversity of the artisan cheese market. “The beauty of artisan cheese is there is such a huge variety of different tastes, textures, and colors,” Alstat said.
Grey Barn & Farm was up on the awards stage with cheesemakers from across Europe, and Alstat said that was a particularly great honor.
“We know that we are on the same level as a lot of these creameries from Europe and across the world; it’s a really nice feeling,” Alstat said. “But what we are really focused on is bringing something special from our farm on the Vineyard to the rest of the world.”
Alstat said he and other farm employees aren’t focused on awards, although getting recognized for a standout product reinforces the fact that people really enjoy Grey Barn’s cheese.
“We just want people to enjoy our cheese. We do it for the people that eat it, not the medals or awards,” Alstat said. “Besides, it’s the cheese’s award, not mine.”