It is rare indeed that a dog began a dairy, but that is exactly what happened in the case of Everona Dairy. At a Food Festival in 1992, the late Dr. Patricia (Pat) Elliot came upon a demonstration of the skills of Border Collies and was so impressed, she took a puppy home with her. Soon it became obvious that the dog needed something to keep occupied, and what is the best thing to keep a Border Collie occupied? Sheep. So, sheep were purchased and in time began to drain the good doctor’s bank account. In an effort to have the sheep pay for themselves, Dr. Elliot began milking them with a view to developing a cheesemaking operation.
Whereas some people might be daunted by the prospect of taking on an additional new cheesemaking career with no previous knowledge of sheep or making cheese, Dr. Elliot was undeterred. A medical doctor who had raised seven children and adopted two others, while simultaneously putting herself through medical school, she was well equipped with the determination to teach herself how to make cheese. Pat was also a life-long DIYer and, after reading books on the topic, at age 67 took classes at the University of Wisconsin to learn the scientific side of cheese making.
By 1996, she had also travelled to Greece for further education. While it took a long time to reach the skill-level necessary to produce great cheese, in 2005 the ACS awarded Everona‘s Piedmont with its top honors in the Farmhouse Sheep’s milk cheese category. Until her death in 2013 at age 85, Dr. Elliot continued to practice medicine as well as helping to run the Dairy with her son, Brian, and daughter-in-law, Carolyn.
In August 2011, the strongest earthquake to hit the east coast in 100 years was centered 15 miles away from Everona Dairy. As the earth shook, Pat and Carolyn were inspired to create a new cheese, Earthquake. This is a raw sheep’s milk cheese with an erratic line of ash running through the middle of the paste, signifying how the earth shook that day. The cheese has a cream colored interior and a slightly nutty, lactic and sweet grass flavor. Earthquake’s rich, semi-firm texture is the result of washing the rind and aging it for just 2 ½ months.
With its grassy flavor, it is best to pair Earthquake with a German Rieslings. However, if red is the wine of choice, Zinfandels work very nicely. If beer is the preferred beverage, choose a Hefeweizen; the light wheat beer works nicely with the texture and flavor of Earthquake. The cheese has very subtle flavors, so it is best to serve this cheese with fruit such as grapes. In cooking, keep it simple in order to fully appreciate the character of the cheese.