A couple years ago, Amy Marcoot and her sisters faced a tough decision on the future of their family's farm.
Their father, who had carried on a seven-generation family tradition of raising Jersey cattle, was approaching 60 years old and knew he couldn't keep up with the rigorous cow-milking schedule for much longer.
"He said that he couldn't continue, and he asked us what we wanted to do," Amy says.
They considered taking on a commercial herd and milking as many cows as possible to make ends meet but ultimately decided against it. The more they thought their options over, the more they realized that they wanted to return to their family's Swedish roots and make raw-milk, cave-aged cheese.
In August 2009, they started building a production facility, complete with public-viewing windows of the cheese-making and milk-processing. Almost a year later, they were up and running, crafting the first wheels of cheese on March 29.
The Marcoot Jersey Creamery's aging cave is modeled after the man-made cheese caves in Switzerland. Some of their cheeses are made from raw-milk, and will age from a minimum of 60 days up to 12 months, according to the Marcoot Jersey Creamery's website.
The entire family now pitches in to make the cheese, which comes solely from the milk of the Marcoot's grass-fed, registered Jersey cattle. The 60 milking Jersey cows pasture on the paddocks of a variety of grasses to provide abundant natural nutrition, according to the Marcoot Jersey Creamery's website. No hormones are given to the cattle, and homeopathic remedies are the first line of defense when necessary.
In selling the cheeses, the Marcoots started with an ambitious 12 to 15 kinds. They offered them at Illinois and Missouri farmers' markets during the summer, and then, based on customer feedback, narrowed down the selection to about six or seven kinds.
The Sappington Farmers' Market and http://www.localharvestgrocery.com" target="_blank">Local Harvest Grocery now carry Marcoot Jersey Creamery cheeses, and they will be more widespread throughout the St. Louis region starting Jan. 3, as all Dierberg's locations will be carrying the cheeses.
Here's what Marcoot Jersey Creamery offers so far:
- Cheese Curds - 8 oz
Plain, Garlic, Garlic Dill, Dill, Taco, Italian, Cajun, Tomato-Basil
- Block Cheese - 8 oz
Monterrey Jack, Dill Jack, Tomato-Basil Jack, Pepper Jack, Habanero Jack, Mango Heat Jack, Cheddar, Baby Swiss
- Specialty Block Cheese - 8 oz
Smoked Gouda (Coming Soon: Havarti, Gouda, Smoked Cheddar, Smoked Swiss)
- Cave-Aged Cheese - 5 oz
Tomme, Gouda (Coming Soon: Alpine)
Marcoot Jersey Creamery, 526 Dudleyville Road, Greenville, Ill., 618.664.1110, http://www.marcootjerseycreamery.com" target= "_blank">marcootjerseycreamery.com