Tara Kirch, Senior Director of Marketing at Coach Farm, took the time to chat with me about the history of Coach Farm and the cheeses we are featuring and selling on the Cheese Grotto site. We talk about the signature flavor of Coach Farm's goat milk and how it informs their hand-ladled cheese.
Jessica: I am very interested in the history of the farm. It's related to the Coach Leather handbags, right?
Tara: The farm was founded in 1983 by Miles and Lillian Cahn who were known for founding Coach Leather handbags so in their Coach Leather life they traveled back and forth from Europe and fell in love with French goat cheeses. They felt as though in the US there were no good goat cheeses, so they started around the same time as other known brands Vermont Creamery and Cypress Grove. They had a weekend house up in Hudson Valley and they were planning to sell Coach Leather and retire. Little did they know, "retiring" meant 400 goats and a full-fledged farm.
They started making cheeses in 1985. They brought over a French cheesemaker, her name was Marie-Claude. She taught local people in the area who ended up being workers in the facility, how to make goat cheese.
The fresh cheese that really started it all for us. Interestingly enough, the biggest product that came out for us was our Yo-Goat, a drinkable goats' milk yogurt.
They are no longer involved in the business, it has changed hands a few times, but the facility, land, and recipes have stayed the same. There really hasn't been much change to the recipes except for the addition of new cheeses upon their departure.
Jessica: Is this a farmstead operation with 400 goats, where you make cheese and keep the goats on the same property?
Tara: Yes that's exactly right. At one point our herd was up to 1,000 goats. We have French Alpine goats and they've been bred year after year and have been really well known for their strong genetics. They are happy goats, and they aren't stressed. Our herdsman always says, happy goats make the best milk. They have free access to pasture.
We've also established an independent farm up the road for some of our milk source, because we found someone who wanted to produce milk for us, and that helped us because we were a bit overwhelmed with our milk production needs.
Jessica: I made cheese in France and worked with French Alpines. The protein structure of the milk makes it great for cheesemaking.
Tara: We feed them a specific diet that gives us the milk quality we want. This keeps the milk very clean and fresh so we don't get any off flavors.
Jessica: Sometimes with goat cheeses I find if the flavor is more all over the place, the customer base is a bit isolated because not all people love goaty goat cheese!
Tara: Absolutely. I tell customers our cheese is significantly different to what people have tried before. Usually you'll get a bitterness and a goatiness but our cheese is very clean and fresh. We also only use Grade A goat milk which is the top level so that also helps keeping in that clean nature.
We still hand ladle everything so it is very artisanal. While the rest of the world has gone modern and machinery we are keeping it handmade. This ensures that we handle the curd delicately.
Jessica: What is the story behind Triple Cream, Rawstruck, and Hudson Truffle, and what is your favorite way to enjoy them?
Tara: Triple Cream was first in 2002/2003. If I remember the story correctly, the cream was a by-product of our low fat product, and we were still in that era of people wanting reduced fat products so we had reduced fat cheese. Basically it was experimentation and the cheesemaker said I'm going to take all this cream and make a cheese out of it. He did it, and everyone fell in love with it, and so on Triple Cream.
Jessica: The cream component is still goat milk, right?
Tara: Yes, all of our products are 100% goat milk.
Jessica: That's a very unique element of that cheese. Most of the time it is cow cream that is added.
Tara: Some people still call us crazy because it is expensive to use goat cream. I think we're the only ones making a 100% goat triple cream in the country because of the cost-value component. We still have a market for low-fat cheeses and we have a strong following for this cheese.
Jessica: Was Rawstruck next?
Tara: Yes that was next in 2013. It was an innovation I worked on, and we made it because we saw there was a big boom and new interest in raw milk cheese, that cheesemongers were getting behind it, they want the most natural, authentic product. So we decided we would try to make a raw milk, soft-ripened cheese. First the cheesemaker said no way, but then when he tried and tested the recipe, he found it was an awesome idea.
We did a poll for the name among consumers, and one of our consumers helped picked the name Rawstruck and it has stuck ever since.
Jessica: Yes, when I had this cheese at my raw milk cheese event back in April, I was very excited by it. It was the cheese that made me want to carry Coach Farm on the site. Rawstruck is super unique. There are so many beautiful Loire Valley styles, so to have a delicate and creamy cheese in a large format like that....I was really excited about it.
Tara: You really get so much nuance in flavor with the Rawstruck. It is still quite special in the production, we make it to order, it is not widely available.
Jessica: So Hudson Valley Truffle next?
Tara: Yes, this happened in 2015. Everyone is on this truffle craze. We knew there was a truffle cheese on the West Coast, but we wanted to make an East Coast version. The truffle pieces and truffle salt gives intense flavor to the cheese but it really doesn't overpower the cheese.
Jessica: Yeah, the milk flavor still comes through
Photo credit by Coach Farm