The Scoop: Plymouth Cheese operates one of the oldest cheese factories in the United States, and it uses traditional production methods that date back to the 1600s. It uses local raw milk, spices, and flavorings in its handmade, small batch cheeses and has earned a national following, including from people who enjoy savory cheeses on at-home date nights. Couples visiting Vermont will soon have a chance to tour the factory again, and cheese lovers from around the country can order Plymouth Cheese products delivered to their door.
John C. Coolidge, the father of President Calvin Coolidge, was once a dairy farmer who wanted to sell a product that wouldn’t spoil as quickly as milk. He decided to produce cheese, so he looked to an old curd recipe that Vermont settlers used in the 1600s.
He also established a factory, which would become Plymouth Cheese, in 1890 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.
The Coolidge family operated the factory for many generations, but in 2009, the family put it up for sale. Local Vermont resident Jesse Werner purchased it and wanted to keep its traditions alive.
As an expert on cheese, Jesse wanted to make products the same way John C. Coolidge did — even following the same curd recipe. He also wanted to use all of the factory’s original equipment.
Jesse achieved his vision of restoring the second-oldest cheese factory in America. Now, the Plymouth Cheese team makes small batches of wax-dipped cheddar.
The factory has always been a family affair. The Coolidges kept it in the family for generations, and now Jesse operates the factory with his wife Sarit Werner, a graphic designer who creates packaging and merchandise, and oversees its growing social media presence.
In fact, it was the cheese factory that brought Jesse and Sarit together. When he first purchased the factory, Jesse hired Sarit, his long-time friend, to design the packaging.
“He hired me to do the labels. We were friends before we worked together, and then we started dating and got married. It’s a very cheesy love story,” Sarit said with a laugh.
That love is also evident in the company’s products, which is why they have become popular with couples looking to savor an at-home date night.
Crafting Artisanal Cheeses Like No Other
Plymouth Cheese products are tastier than the standard varieties at the grocery store because of their ingredients and the cheese-making process.
The most essential ingredient is the raw milk the team uses. This milk, which comes from a neighboring farm about 40 minutes away, is free from additives, antibiotics, and rBST, a type of artificial growth hormone that increases milk production.
The cheese recipe is also unique. The 500-year-old granular curd recipe uses one of the oldest cheddar cheese production methods in the world.
“The rich, open-bodied texture of granular curd cheese requires skillful cutting and continuous stirring of the curds,” Plymouth Cheese explains on its website.
The Plymouth team uses a historic recipe, but that doesn’t mean its products only appeal to a select group of cheese lovers. Instead, Sarit said that fans of their products run the gamut.
“Kids love it. Millennial women and men love it. Cheese lovers of all ages, really. People are first attracted to the graphic, taste the raw-milk cheddar, and then they’re hooked,” she said.
Couples can make a date out of visiting the factory in rural Vermont, as well. The facility is one of the only cheese production factories in the U.S. that’s open to the public. The Plymouth team looks forward to welcoming visitors back once COVID-19 pandemic regulations are lifted.
“Customers travel here to watch the cheese being made. People love that interaction with what they’re eating. We have big windows so you can see how it’s done,” Sarit told us.
One TripAdvisor reviewer commented on her stop at the factory and museum.
“Upstairs is a great museum, showing the original processing vats and pressing equipment. Very informative, assisted by a docent to explain the process. We sampled some of the cheeses, and purchased a small block to enjoy.”
Cheddar Options Help Create Sophisticated Cheeseboards
If couples want a cheese-focused date, but can’t make the trip to Vermont, they can order cheeses shipped anywhere in the United States. Some of the most popular options are the Hot Pepper, Garlic Peppercorn, and Black Truffle flavors.
“We noticed that a lot of people love Black Truffle, so that’s why we came out with that one,” said Sarit.
Perhaps these flavors are so popular because Oprah chose them — in a sampler box — as one of her Favorite Things in 2015, a designation that makes the team proud. The company’s products were also featured on “Today with Hoda and Jenna” in 2019.
If a couple is planning a cheese board for a date night, Sarit recommends choosing one of the company’s gift boxes, which lets them sample three or more varieties.
She recommended the Sampler Gift Box, which includes East Meadow, Plymouth, and Hot Pepper cheeses. Those are the mildest to sharpest cheddars the company offers.
“People like really sharp cheddar. The Hunter is aged for two years. The East Meadow is aged for 60 days, so it’s our youngest cheddar,” she said.
Historic food lovers often opt for the Sage and Herb, one of the oldest flavor profiles for flavored cheeses. Couples don’t have to use the cheeses only for boards and appetizers, either. Many enjoy cooking with these cheeses.
“I like the Hot Pepper cheese for nachos. Our Garlic Peppercorn tastes like dinner and is great for macaroni and cheese. And they’re all great melted into grilled cheese,” Sarit told us.
Plymouth Cheese: Building on Its Legacy
Plymouth Cheese has operated for more than 125 years and is a heritage food production operation. And, to put it simply, its cheeses just taste better than mass-produced options.
“All of our cheeses are handmade with raw milk and local ingredients, so it’s a labor of love to make them. People on dates can feel great that they’re eating real cheese with raw milk from a single dedicated farm,” Sarit said.
The team looks forward to opening the factory to the public again soon. Right now, it can only ship cheeses around the United States, and it offers curbside pickup for locals.
If couples want to enjoy Plymouth Cheese products regularly, the company plans to offer a cheese club subscription box, which will ship fresh cheeses at regular intervals.
Sticking to her roots as a graphic designer, Sarit and the team are working on new merchandise and branding materials for the cheese.
Plymouth Cheese is excited to continue to make quality, local cheeses by following a tradition hundreds of years old. Cheese lovers are discovering their offerings for the first time.
“We’re excited to connect with our fans and provide an old-world staple to people all across the country. We love hearing how people love to cook with it and serve it on their cheese boards, and we love the positive feedback that we get,” Sarit told us.
Jesse and Sarit said they continue to enjoy working together at the cheese factory as it enters its second decade in operation.