COLCHESTER'S CATO CORNER FARM BRINGS ARTISANAL CHEESE TO CONNECTICUT
Though they're located only about 100 miles apart, there's a long divide between the raw ingredients on a rural Connecticut farm and the artisan cheese menu at Palomino, a posh Greenwich restaurant. But that's the journey Womanchego, a cow's milk version of the classic Spanish sheep's milk cheese, Manchego, recently made. Sampling this firm, slightly acidic cheese, with its hints of fruits and nuts, few diners think about its source: high-quality milk, in this case from 40 Jersey cows.
The cows in question reside at Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, about 25 miles southeast of Hartford. As Mark Gillman, a former middle-school English teacher who now co-owns the farm with his mother, Elizabeth MacAlister, says, "Good cheese starts with good milk, and our happy, healthy cows produce the best milk we could ask for."
Perhaps that's because the diet of these coddled cows includes no hormones, antibiotics or animal-based feeds. For six months of the year, they feast on a range of local plants—including native and ladino clover, blue grass, fescue and seasonal wildflowers—as they roam the farm's 40 acres of pastureland. This warm-weather fare results in flavorful, golden-hued milk. During the colder months, the animals feed on hay, which produces milk that is whiter in color and higher in butterfat and protein. Due to these seasonal changes—and the fact that the cheeses are handmade—the same type of cheese varies in taste and texture from batch to batch and throughout the year.