This month’s special cheese is Shepsog, Grafton Village Cheese Company, Grafton, Vermont
The Grafton Village Cheese Company was founded in 1892 as the Grafton Co-operative Cheese Company, to convert surplus milk from local dairy farmers into cheese. In 1912, the cheesemaking factory burned down and the community had no cheese facility until 1962, when the Windham Foundation restored the factory and brought cheesemaking back to the community. The Foundation is dedicated to promoting the rural communities of Vermont. The profits from Grafton Village Cheese go back into the Foundation to further its commitment to keep rural Vermont alive and thriving. Today, quality and taste are still the hallmarks of the company’s products.
The Grafton Cave Aged line of fine cheeses takes Grafton beyond its roots in Vermont Cheddar cheese. The cheese is carefully matured in Grafton’s own cave aging facility using raw milk from small Vermont family farms that is thermalized and contains no artificial hormones. The rennet used is non GMO microbial rennet, suitable for vegetarians.
Shepsog is the Algonquin word for “sheep”, which once covered Vermont’s hillsides during the booming wool industry of the 19th century. The forest has since reclaimed the hills, but Grafton still sources top quality sheep and cow milk to make this mixed-milk, cave-aged beauty.
The sheep milk comes from an Amish co-op two hours west of Grafton, where they still milk the sheep twice a day, by hand, year round. The sheep are on clover grass based pasture usually May through October, and spend the winter in barns while eating hay and a little grain grown by the co-op.
Made from raw sheep and cow’s milk and aged for 4-6 months, Shepsog has a dusty gray and white mottled rind, with a firm texture that echoes the curd structure of the cheese. Expect aromas of cultured butter and fresh buttermilk, alongside bright flavors that are lemony and sweet, with notes of caramel and a clean, nutty finish.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and fry the eggplants until light brown. Remove and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Fry the onions in the remaining oil.
- Stir in the meat and fry until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Stir in the tomatoes, white wine, salt, a pinch of sugar and cinnamon and ground black pepper.
- Cover and braise on a medium heat for 5 min.
- Add the parsley and oregano and braise for a further 5 min, then leave to cool.
- Heat the oven to 400°F
- Add the breadcrumbs (set aside 2 tbsp) and half the cheese to the meat mixture.
- Heat the butter in a pot and stir in the flour. Gradually add the milk and bring to the boil.
- Cook for a good 4 min on a low heat, stirring continuously.
- Season with salt, ground black pepper, nutmeg and lemon juice and leave to cool.
- Beat the egg and stir into the sauce along with the remaining cheese.
- Brush 4 ramekins with butter and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs.
- Place half the eggplant in the ramekins, add the meat mixture and top with the remaining eggplant and the sauce.
- Sprinkle with the Shepsog and bake for around 35 min.
- Knock out onto plates and serve immediately.
- 3 oz. shredded Shepsog 2 eggs
- 2 oz. butter
- 1/2 c water
- 3 oz. flour
- Salt and pepper
1. Put butter, water and a pinch of salt in a pot.
2. Heat on low until the butter is melted, turn off the heat.
3. Add all of the flour then mix with a
4. Put the pot back on the stove on medium heat and stir continuously until the dough forms and detaches from the sides of the pot. Put it in a bowl to cool down for a few minutes.
5. Preheat the oven at 350°F.
6. Add the eggs, one at a time, mix well in between each. The first egg has to be fully incorporated before you add the second one. Dough must be smooth but not too tough. 7. Add shredded Shepsog, a pinch of pepper and mix well.
8. Transfer the dough to a piping bag. Pipe thick circles on a baking tray, covered with parchment paper. Don’t pipe them too close, they will puff up.
9. Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F. They must be puffy and golden.
For more recipes using Shepsog see our November 2022 page.
Cave to Co-op is a partnership between Provision International and the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) to support local, artisanal cheese producers in our region and make their products more easily available to co-op shoppers. The NFCA is a network of more than 40 food co-ops in our region — including yours — that are working together to advance their vision of a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. For more information, please visit www.nfca.coop.