In the 17th century Rensselaer County, New York was colonized by Dutch settlers, who instituted a system of landholding in which landlords, or ‘patroons,’ collected rent from many tenants. The final patroon to oversee the county was named Stephen Van Rensselaer. Stephentown, where this creamery is located, was named after him. He was known as the “Good Patroon” because of the low rent he charged to his long-term tenants: 10-20 bushels of wheat per 100 acres, a day’s labor, and “four fat fowl,” the inspiration for the creamery’s name.
The name also fits because of the creamery’s four-person managing team: cheesemaker Willy (previously from Coach Farm and Old Chatham Sheepherding), his wife Shaleena, who has worked in sales for multiple cheese businesses, Willy’s brother Seth, who oversees business development, and his wife Josie, assistant cheesemaker and Vice President of Marketing.
After renovating an old pizzeria, the team released their first cheese, triple-cream St. Stephen, in 2014. The Jersey milk and cream used to make St. Stephen is sourced from Dutch Hollow Farms in Schodack, NY, not far from the Stephentown.
The use of high-butterfat Jersey milk and added Jersey cream gives St. Stephen a soft and creamy texture with a rich mouthfeel. The thick but mild rind contributes mild aromas of mushroom and sour milk, and the paste is buttery in both texture and flavor. Overall a tame yet decadent cheese.
Serve with a glass of sparkling wine, a pale ale or a toasty dark beer.