While a young man Randal lived in Italy for a few years. Here he had his first exposure to dairy sheep and the wonderful flavor of Alpine style sheep cheese. Randal and Carol were again inspired by the alpine sheep cheeses when they visited Italy in 2004. That experience influenced their decision to consider a venture into a sheep cheese business of their own.
Alpine style cheeses have their origins from Mediterranean sheepherders who lambed their flocks in the valleys of Europe. Following the lambing season, the sheep flocks were grazed in the steep but lush alpine meadows following the snowmelt. The cheeses were made and stored in alpine caves. At the end of the grazing season the sheepherders brought the sheep and the cheese back to the valley for the winter. Therefore, all alpine- style cheeses are made from whole sheep milk and are typically aged from 3-6 months. Mountain Valley Farmstead, to the extent possible, follows this traditional method of grazing, cheese making, and aging.
Farmstead products must be produced, processed, and packaged at the same location. All of Mountain Valley Farmstead products are truly farmstead.
Artisan products must be hand made in small batches and are not mass-produced in large volumes in highly automated production plants. Mountain Valley Farmstead products are truly artisan.
First, we want to thank our loyal customers who purchase our high quality, alpine, farmstead, artisan sheep cheese. We recently celebrated our 8th complete year of selling our high quality sheep cheeses at the Annual Trailing of the sheep Festival in Sun Valley Idaho. At this important milestone, we want to provide an update on our expanding selection of high quality, alpine, farmstead, and artisan sheep cheeses.
As some of you may already know, our “Manchego-style” Carmen Carrano cheese is our “signature” cheese in more ways than one. Carmen is the location of our Idaho farmstead. The name “Carrano” comes from the first three letters of our first names: “Car” is from Carol, and “Ran” is from Randal. We added an “o” on the end to bring out a little of our love for Italy where our love of sheep cheeses first sparked our interest in starting up a sheep dairy here in our beloved Idaho. Our regular Carmen Carrano is over 6 months but less than 1 year of age. Carmen Carrano is a smooth, buttery, and full-flavor cheese. We especially like Carmen Carrano with Wheat Thins and fruits like apples, grapes, raspberries, blackberries and pears. It also makes a great Mac-n-cheese, known in our family as “Mac-a-rrano!”
As many of you know, our Aged Carmen Carrano (aged over 1 year) takes on a very distinct and more pronounced flavor. Aged Carmen Carrano typically develops some delightful crystals and the taste can vary between a “sharp” and a more “developed” flavor. Our wedges of Aged Carmen Carrano (over 1 year of age) carry a bright red AGED sticker. Although we try to manage our inventories to be able to continue to provide Aged Carmen Carrano, it is only available as long as our inventory holds out. We really like Aged Carmen Carrano on a Ritz Cracker with raspberry or blackberry jam or honey.
Our washed-curd “Gouda-style” cheese is called Mountain Gem. The curds are rinsed or washed with water which takes away some of the acidity. This gem of a cheese ages a minimum of 3 months and is a milder, slightly sweeter and nuttier cheese. Those who prefer a milder but still creamy and flavorful cheese have come to love our Mountain Gem. Mountain Gem melts nicely and makes an excellent grilled cheese sandwich. Mountain Gem is an extended family favorite.
Our most recent addition is our cold smoked Mountain Gem. Wedges of Mountain Gem cheese are exposed to natural apple wood smoke in a chamber where the cheese never warms to over 55 degrees F. The flavor of the natural apple wood smoke is a wonderful addition to the charcuterie board.
Our “Pecorino Romano-style” cheese is appropriately called Pecorino Idaho. This wonderful cheese ages a minimum of 9 months and is a very strong piquant cheese. This is a harder and drier cheese and is used primarily for grating. A little bit goes a long way on pasta, salads, and soups. We especially like it grated on a Caesar salad. Still, some people who prefer a stronger cheese enjoy it just the way it is.
We are experimenting and perfecting a Sheep Cheese Feta. This world favorite will be marinated in a virgin olive oil flavored with garlic, peppercorns, and basil. We hope to have this new cheese available in 2023. We also hope to introduce “Whitewater Fresh Sheep Cheese Curds” that will be sold exclusively local in Lemhi County and at our Farmstead in 2023.