Pine Stump Farms
Cheese people love a good micro-creamery. A place that’s tucked away in the outreaches. One that the locals covet, and for the lucky cheese devourers who have caught wind of the place and its limited bounty, it becomes a destination drive. Pine Stump Farms is one such hidden gem in Washington. This farmstead, artisan creamery and its vast acreage is situated on a Native American Reservation near Omak in the north-central part of the state. The terrain is known as shrub-steppe, which means little rainfall, but enough to support perennial grasses and shrubs. This is ideal browsing territory for a herd of goats.
Pine Stump Farms creates hand crafted caprine goodness with vegetarian rennet and meticulous detail. Their freshies are made with pasteurized milk (them’s the rules), but their aged cheese is made with raw milk. Their dairy products range from yogurt and chèvre to feta, asiago, and even mozzarella!
| Sustainable Bustle
Pine Stump Farms have been operating a sustainable, farmstead creamery in Omak, Washington for thirty years, which is a generous amount of time to learn the benefits of sustainability. They are a well-rounded enterprise indeed. Besides raising a herd of a blend of Alpine and Nubian goats (and, of course, all the cheesemaking that ensues), Pine Stump Farms also grows and harvests 200 ton of hay annually, curates the Ponderosa Pine Forest (242 acres that they own), manages 30 head of cows, has a poultry production operation, and raises horses, livestock guard dogs, and cats. How do they find they time for respite? Having a sustainable, farmstead undertaking is no small feat, but these folks do it with finesse.
| Join the Cheese Club
Did you know Pine Stump Farms has a cheese club? From November thru May, they offer up their fromage to help sustain fervent turophiles during those months when we all could use that extra bit of organoleptic salve. As a microcreamery, Pine Stump Farms’ cheese is most accessible in the vicinity of Omak. This club is an excellent opportunity for Washington cheese lovers to try this creamery’s not-so-readily available fare. For information on how to get in on the goaty goodness, check out their website.
| A Palatal Tour
Written by Rachael Lucas, ACS CCP, CCSE
Tucked away in north-central Washington lies a town called Omak. Omak is fortunate to have a micro-creamery in its midst known as Pine Stump Farms. It is a small, family operation in which the creamery is one functioning part of a sustainable whole. Besides cows, chickens, dogs, and horses, Pine Stump raises goats that produce delicious, high quality milk for the farm’s cheesemaker, Carey Hunter. She creates superb, small batch fromage, and I recently got my hands on some. Carey has a varied selection of cheeses, and I mean to try them all; this time I chose her Asiago, Feta, Farmhouse Cheese, and Black Ash.
The Asiago has a blondish hue that makes it less obvious that it is a goat’s milk cheese—most goat’s milk cheeses are alabaster in appearance. The aroma is nutty and earthen, and the flavor is warm and comforting, like warmed milk. I think this cheese would be outstanding coupled with a bone-dry, mineral-forward, acidic Chenin Blanc.
The Feta is unlike any other feta that I have tried. It is not in brine, which gives it a more aged, rustic appearance. The texture is rather open, and the paste on the inside maintains a higher moisture than the outside. Since there is good salinity to this cheese, I recommend serving it on a plate with a dessert wine, like an Australian Sticky. The salty/sweet juxtaposition is certain to please.
The Farmhouse cheese is an adorable, washed rind disc. Since there is a skosh of (benign) fuzzy mucor on the surface, I surmise the washings are minimal. On the nose, I glean sour cream and dusty hazelnuts. The flavor profile is quite round with up front notes of citrus and cream. The paté is rich and coating, leaving one with a tart, breathy finish. Organoleptically, this one gets an A.
Black Ash is a small, soft-ripened, ash-dusted stunner with a layer of ash in the center. This cheese smells of mineral. Not hay or forest floor or goat. Mineral. I have never been taken aback by a softie’s minerality before, but here we are. This cheese is full, yogurty, unctuous, and clean. It has a distinct minerality in the mouthfeel to boot. Black Ash will be participating in my next cheese and wine tasting—it is too extraordinary to pass up kicking around ambrosial phenolics.
My favorite cheeses that I tasted from Pine Stump Farms are the softies. These small-batch, artisanal cheeses have astoundingly unique flavor profiles and aromatic nuances. They are an honest representation of terroir—I now feel I have a better understanding of Omak’s topography.
The best part about this selection of cheese, moreover, is how clean they all taste. Sometimes cheese can taste of farmyard, feed, or plain animally. Then there is the malady that exists in goat cheese known as “bucky”. Bucky cheese smells and tastes of just that—caprine buck. This occurs when the does (female goats) are milked in proximity of the bucks. It provokes the males to express their pheromones which get into the milk. This makes said milk/cheese notably animalesque. It is considered a defect by U.S. standards, and in my opinion, it shows a lack of attention to detail. Pine Stump Farms’ fromage, however, is neither bucky, farmy, or anything that one might find aversive. Rather, Hunter’s cheese is palatally satisfying, aromatically interesting, and made with care.
As a shameless turophile, I am constantly on the look-out for cheese that is not readily available. Being a micro-creamery so far out of Seattle’s vicinity, Pine Stump Farms sells their products locally, particularly at farmer’s markets. Therefore, dispersed Washingtonians are not as apt to get their taste buds on Carey’s cheeses. Fortunately, there is a solution! During the colder months, Pine Stump Farms has a cheese club in which a paying individual can get a monthly selection of hand-made fromage mailed directly to her/his home. You can sign up and get the details directly on their website: pinestumpfarms.com. In a year full of toil, a little palatal titillation is merited. So what are you waiting for?