Making Cheese a Pipe Dream at Pipe Dreams Fromage

Pipe Dreams Fromage goat cheese

It took visits to two continents to get Brad Parker into making goat cheese. During college, he worked in France's Loire Valley tending goats for a family of cheesemakers. He didn't make much cheese there, but he soaked up the farm life like a sponge. A few years later, while in the Peace Corps in Malawi, Parker met with dairy owners to learn more about working with milk. One of them convinced him to work with compact goats rather than cows, which are larger and tougher to handle. Soon after he returned to the U.S., he and his wife Jenny bought a homestead farm in Pennsylvania. Parker got some goats and got to work. That was in 1991. "I've been doing the same thing now for more than 30 years," he says.

Call it a pipe dream made real.

Pipe Dreams Fromage is the maker of our Pipe Dreams Buche, an ashed log of tart and lemony goat's milk that slices beautifully on the cheese board. It's made in the style of a traditional cheese called St. Maure, a Loire Valley specialty that's one of the largest origin-protected goat's milk cheeses in France. Parker's version is a little different. It's pasteurized, for one, in keeping with federal cheesemaking regulations, and it doesn't have a stalk of hollow straw down the middle, which French producers use to hold the cheese together during making. But Pipe Dreams Buche is as good as American cheesemaking gets: old school heritage with some modern innovations, and a smooth, clean taste from exceptional homegrown milk. We only get this cheese during the spring and summer, when Parker's goats are milking, and it's a treat year after year.

Pipe Dreams Buche goat cheese

Parker can't remember how exactly he first learned about the style of ashed log goat's milk cheese. But he can recite how he makes it like a monk doing the morning catechism. He pasteurizes milk at a lower temperature for a longer time than industrial producers, preserving its delicate flavors, then hand-ladles the cultured dairy into molds he's used for decades. Once the cheese drains for a couple days, he salts the exterior of the logs and sifts a fine layer of vegetable ash over them. In a couple weeks, a downy, wrinkled rind forms on the logs, and the cheese is ready to meet a grateful world.

30 to 40 goats on Parker's farm graze and play on nine acres of open field. That's too small for a larger agricultural operation, he says, but perfect to keep his small herd fed and active. He and his wife live in an old log cabin where they raised their three children. "There was a greatness to the privacy afforded us" by living on a homestead, he says. "Where I was in France when I was 21 years old, it was a magical time for me." On his property, he tries to "reclaim the miracle of being on a farm and producing milk. Those original smells, those hours in the morning when no one else is moving..."

Pipe Dreams Buche goat cheese

Here Parker gets a little wistful, and he admits that the tenor of his work has changed in recent years. His youngest child is 26, and farm life takes its toll on the joints. "My wife was the mortgage payer and I was the stay at home dad," he reflects. He's not sure how many more years of cheesemaking he has in him; retirement is tempting. 

For now, there are still logs of Pipe Dreams Buche to make, and his personal stash of raw goat's milk that he loves to drink ice cold, especially with a graham cracker dipped in first. "When I ferment milk from a liquid to a solid, and it gets compliments," he says, "it's still very moving."

Try Pipe Dream's wonderful cheese for yourself!

Farm photo courtesy of Pipe Dreams Fromage.

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