Located just west of Petaluma in Sonoma County, California, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese is a certified organic farmstead dairy. Cheese is produced by owner Larry Peter, whose herd of pasture-grazed Jersey cows provide the high-butterfat milk. The Petaluma Creamery, which was founded in 1913 and purchased by Peter in 1987, produces a range of products including quark, butter, and several cheddar and jack cheeses. The creamery also provides a place for neighboring farmers to process their milk into value-added products.
Production of cheese at Spring Hill begins with the production of feed for the farm’s cows, which is grown on-site. The forage silage mix includes red and white oats, bell beans, rye grass and fava beans, which enable the cows to have a nutritious diet during the winter months when they aren’t grazing outside.
Cows are milked twice daily, and milk is delivered directly to Petaluma Creamery, where it is pasteurized. Starter cultures are added as well as vegetarian rennet, and the curd is cut. The whey is removed and sent to the dairy for the cows to drink, or is made into other by-products. The curd then forms a mass, which is placed in a trough, eventually cut into blocks with a knife and turned as they continue to drain. After draining the cheese is put through a curd mill, which cuts the cheese into small pieces, allowing cheesemakers to then incorporate salt, herbs and seasonings. Mixtures are tied in cheesecloth and formed into 8-pound wheels. After 12 hours of pressing the wheels are vacuum-sealed and refrigerated for aging, a minimum of 30 days.
Spring Hill’s Organic Jersey Jack comes in both regular and smoked versions. The non-smoked version has a mild, creamy flavor. The smoked version is approachable with a subtle, savory flavor that lingers, reminiscent of campfires and beef jerky, and perfect for topping a hamburger.
Pair the regular version with a zinfandel. The smoked version would go well with a strong dark beer.