Beltane Farm takes visitors on casual cheese tours

Some of Beltane Farm's resident goats take a break from grazing. The farm is home to 100 dairy goats.
Some of Beltane Farm's resident goats take a break from grazing. The farm is home to 100 dairy goats.

Paul Trubey, owner of Beltane Farm in Lebanon, describes his goat cheese tastings as being very similar to wine tastings but more laid back.

"Hopefully people won't show up dressed up! It's very informal," he jokes.

The farm has hosted tastings every Sunday since early fall and they end Dec. 21. Cheese aficionados are invited to the farm's tasting house - decorated for the holidays - where complimentary warm local cider heated on a wood stove is served along with an array of fresh farm cheeses, all made on premises from goat's milk.

"We start with the chevres - plain, Herbs de Provence, dill, chive, and sometimes black pepper," Trubey says. "Also included is our chocolate chevre that we only make in December - it kind of goes with the season and also because it's a lot of work. First, we melt the semi-sweet Italian chocolate, then fold it into the cheese, adding local honey for sweetener, and then roll it in cocoa. It tastes a lot like chocolate cheesecake. It's a really nice mixture.

"Then we move onto French-style ripened cheeses," Trubey says, "including one of our most popular cheeses, Vespers, which has a Brie/Camembert flavor. It's perfect for plated cheese menus and goes very well with wine."

Next up are the aged goat milk cheeses that Trubey describes as being similar to Gouda or Manchego.

"This is a wheel of cheese aged for about three months. It's homemade with raw milk - you don't have to pasteurize it if it's aged for 60 days or longer," he explains, adding that it's much harder to get this type of cheese in the U.S. than in Europe.

Guests are also treated to a traditional feta, which Trubey says is great over salad greens or used in a main dish.

"We finish our tour of cheeses with our lovely thick and rich, Greek-style yogurt, layered with maple syrup from Sugar Maple Farms in Lebanon," Trubey continues. "It's like a crème fraîche and makes a great dessert or breakfast."

FROM SOCIAL WORK TO CHEESE-MAKING

Trubey is a clinical social worker by profession but says he was drawn to goats when he first met them around the age of 12.

"I love their personalities and the milk they give. They're really sweethearts," he says.

He began his new profession part-time in 1998 with 12 goats on a farm in Glastonbury.

"I would milk them in the morning, go to work, come home, milk the goats again, and make cheese at night," he recalls. "There was a lot of trial and error. At that time there wasn't a lot of information on cheesemaking on the Internet like there is now."

Trubey credits Elizabeth Cato from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester as helping him get started as a cheesemaker. He also visited cheesemakers in California and other locations.

Twelve years ago, Trubey purchased his farm in Lebanon with his husband Mark, who teaches Latin, while Trubey runs the farm, which now has 100 dairy goats and four full-time employees.

"We started adding different cheeses," he says. "Early on, people weren't as familiar with goat cheese, then palates began getting more sophisticated and we started going into the French-style cheeses, and most recently, the aged cheeses."

Today Beltane Farm supplies restaurants all over southeastern Connecticut. Its cheese and milk is sold at the Fiddleheads Food Cooperative in New London and the cheeses can be found at Whole Foods and various stores in the Connecticut, as well as Rhode Island. In addition, Beltane Farm participated in 18 farmer's markets this year around the state, including markets in Stonington, Mystic and Lyme.

Trubey points out that there are many misconceptions about goat milk.

"Goat's milk tastes a lot like cow's milk, although it might be a little lighter," he says. "A lot of people don't realize goat's milk is the most widely consumed milk in the world. It's just not quite as popular in northern America, but it's exceedingly better for you (than cow's milk). It's lower in fat, higher in vitamins, more easily digestible for human beings, which holds true for the cheese."

Where your goat cheese comes from and how long it sits in the dairy case in the supermarket is an important factor, too.

"I'm not exactly sure why, but the difference in (our cheese) versus what you get from a store is remarkable. It's much fresher tasting," he says.

He notes that unlike cows that give birth year-round, goats are seasonal milkers.

"The milk supply really ends in the winter, until they give birth in the spring," he says. "There's a bit of a hiatus, so our quiet time is January - that's when I take my summer vacation!

Therefore, Trubey urges people to get their fresh goat cheese now - or they'll have to wait until next spring.

BAKED SHRIMP WITH BELTANE FARM'S FETA

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons bottled clam juice (optional)

1 tablespoon white wine

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine lemon juice and shrimp in a large bowl; toss well. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add clam juice (optional) wine, oregano, pepper, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp mixture.

Place mixture in an 11- by 7-inch baking dish coated with olive oil. Sprinkle cheese evenly over mixture. Bake for 12 minutes or until shrimp are done and cheese melts. Sprinkle with parsley; serve immediately.

BELTANE FARM FANCY YOGURT DESSERT

This dessert is easy and good for you and can be made as an elegant finish to a fine dinner.

3 cups Beltane Farm yogurt

Local maple syrup or local honey

Crushed walnuts (optional)

Find four champagne flutes or any other small wine glass. Put two tablespoons of yogurt in each one. Then put one tablespoon of maple syrup or honey over that. Repeat so that the yogurt and syrup (or honey) makes another layer. Sprinkle the walnuts over the top and serve cold.

This layering makes a lovely presentation. The flavor is much like a sweet crème fraiche.

Recipes courtesy of Paul Trubey, Beltane Farm

Fresh chevre is among the cheeses featured on the tasting tour menu at Beltane Farm in Lebanon.
Fresh chevre is among the cheeses featured on the tasting tour menu at Beltane Farm in Lebanon.

IF YOU GO

What: Cheese tastings; in addition to the cheeses, local homegrown products,
including goat milk soap, are
for sale

Where: Beltane Farm, 59 Taylor Bridge Rd., Lebanon

When: Every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Dec. 21.

Information: Call (860) 887-4709 or visit www.beltanefarm.com

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