2008 ACS Conference Blog: Away We Go!

We woke up in Brockville, Ontario and my Dad took a walk while I re-iced the cheese. I had some re-frozen ice packs to insert, along with ice from the ubiquitous motel ice machine. I also had a digital temp gauge stuck in one of the boxes to monitor how fast it was warming. Yesterday it started at 37 degrees F and didn’t change even after I crossed the CAN border, so I switched the probe to the other box, which was at 39 degrees F in Montreal and then to Brockville. In the morning it was still at 39 degrees F. I added ice and re-frozen paks to all the boxes, and then put the big boxes in the trunk under a sleeping bag. The biggest box stayed at 39 degrees F through the day, even when we stopped for lunch and couldn’t find shade, so we covered the trunk with a white cloth anchored by the boxes of brochures that Jennifer provided.


The day started overcast, but the sun came out for real by 11am, and stayed out until we reached our stopping point. This seemed especiallhy brutal as we inched over the Point Huron, MI bridge and customs crossing, but the temp gauge was solid at 39 degrees F the whole time. At the border I was terrified that the border agent would see the wire for the gauge sticking out of the box and immediately call the Marines in, but he didn’t — he had more of a problem with the boxes of brochures…!?! (He said, “you know, using an international bridge for commerce could make you liable for stiff duty fees…” but he let us go with ‘just a warning’ — ouch.)

When we stopped in East Lansing, MI the probe read 41 degrees F. I re-iced everything before we retired — this room didn’t have a refrigerator in it, but they provided a tiny one when I asked. Still I could fit about nine of the smaller paks in the little freezer section overnight. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember that even though they were flexible when I put them in the tiny freezer compartment, they were very stiff when I tried to take them out. It took quite a bit of manipulation to wiggle them all out, but I did, and then iced everything else. Those extra plastic bags that Cathe had offered when I picked up the cheese really came in handy. I made sure to park on the south side of the motel building so that any morning sun would be blocked.

2008 ACS Conference Blog: Pick Up And Go

The Maine Cheese Guild has sent Eric Rector to represent them at the 2008 ACS conference and competition, to be held July 23rd – 26th in Chicago, Illinois.

At last year’s conference, held in Burlington, VT, many Maine cheesemakers attended the seminars, classes, and other knowledge diffusion events at the conference. In addition, MCG members won 17 awards in the largest US cheese competition every held. We very much hope to build on that experience and success this year.

Eric left a week early to also deliver many of this year’s competition entries from the Guild; below is a semi-regular entry of his experience.


After tying up loose-ends around the farm, and delivering a last batch of yogurt (until I return) to the Belfast Coop, I arrived at The State of Maine Cheese Co. on schedule at 8:30am, with a cheerful greeting by Cathe Morril, who had helpfully agreed to serve as a drop-point for the competition entries. We sorted through the boxes of entries, I cataloged all of them against their packing lists, and made sure to pack them so they could be easily “re-iced” but not soaked in the process, and compact enough to fit into my 2001 VW Jetta, along with all my other stuff. At 9:00am on the dot I pulled out of Cathe’s parking lot (after admiring her new sign), and I was off.

Route 17 through Augusta, to Wintrop, left in Jay, right in W. Paris, and another right in Bethel to get onto Route 2. Gorham, St. Johnsbury, and then Derby Line before I entered Quebec. Eventually I made it to Montreal where I picked up my father at the airport (he found a cheap flight to join me on the drive). We left Montreal and got about 100 miles down the St. Lawrence River before stopping at Brockville, Ontario for dinner and the night. Our motel offered a refrigerator (to refreeze ice packs), and an industrial size ice machine (for more cooling) to keep the cheese in good shape.

Our dinner (on a roof-top patio) featured blooming thunderstorm clouds to the east over the river, sparked by the occasional bolt of lightning over northern New York, lit in the dying light of the sunset behind us. Our big day of driving lay ahead tomorrow, but we enjoyed the show while it lasted. Unfortunately, neither of us remembered to bring our camera! Next time…

Guild Wins 17 Ribbons at 2007 ACS

Cheese makers of the Maine Cheese Guild won 17 ribbons including six blue ribbons for first place in their category at the 2007 American Cheese Society (ACS) Competition. Ten of the participating Guild cheese makers won at least one award. The judging took place at the annual ACS Conference, held in Burlington, VT this year, and included a record 1208 cheeses entered from 200 North American cheese producers making this the largest US cheese competition in history.

The winners from Maine competed in a broad range of categories and styles using cow’s, goat’s , and sheep’s milk, several of them organic. Because the competition provides useful feedback to cheese makers from the judging in addition to the chance to win a nationally recognized award for their efforts. This is the first year that the Guild organized as a group, with help from the Maine Department of Agriculture and other supporters, to generate as many competition entries as possible, which resulted in over 30 entries from Guild members up from 5 entries in 2006.
The ribbons were awarded on August 3rd in the Emerald Ball Room of the Sheraton Burlington in front of hundreds of conference participants including many of the competing cheese makers. Mid-way through the ceremony, after Maine Cheese Guild members had won several of their awards, the announcer commented to the crowd, “it’s nice to see so many new names appearing as winners this year.”

2007 American Cheese Society Competition Award Winners from the Maine Cheese Guild are:

key:Maine Cheese Guild Member, Location, Place, Ribbon Description, Cheese Name, Category Description, ACS Category

Appleton Creamery, Appleton, 1, 1st Place, Sheep Yogurt, Cultured Milk Products / Cultured Products Made from Sheep’s Milk, QS

Hahn’s End, Phippsburg, 1, 1st Place, City of Ships, American Made / International Style / Open Category Made From Cow’s Milk, DC

Oak Leaf Creamery, Kennebunk, 1, 1st Place, Roja, American Originals / Monterey Jack – Cows Milk, CJ

Pinelands Farm, New Gloucester, 1, 1st Place, Onion-Garlic Jack, American Originals / Monterey Jack – Cows Milk, CJ

Silvery Moon Creamery, Westbrook, 1, 1st Place, Tuscan Herbed Curd, Marinated Cheeses / Open Category Made From Cow’s Milk, PC

York Hill Farm, New Sharon, 1, 1st Place, Chevre Roll – Green Peppercorn & Nutmeg, Flavored Cheeses / Cheeses Flavored with Crushed or Whole Peppercorns or Savory Spices, KP

Hahn’s End, Phippsburg, 2, 2nd Place, Eleanor Buttercup, American Made / International Style / Open Category Made From Cow’s Milk, DC

Hahn’s End, Phippsburg, 2, 2nd Place, Ragged Island, American Made / International Style / Open Category Made From Cow’s Milk, DC

Liberty Field Farm, Saco, 2, 2nd Place, Feta, Feta Cheeses / Feta Made From Goat’s Milk, IG

Silvery Moon Creamery, Westbrook, 2, 2nd Place, Creme Fraiche, Cultured Milk Products / Creme Fraiche Products Made From Cow’s Milk, QF

Sunset Acres Farm & Dairy, Brooksville, 2, 2nd Place, Boulette (herbed) Fresh, Fresh Goat’s Milk Cheeses / Flavor Added: Spices Herbs Seasonings Fruits, NF

York Hill Farm, New Sharon, 2, 2nd Place, Chevre Roll – Black Peppercorn & Garlic, Flavored Cheeses / Open Category Made from Goat’s Milk, KG

York Hill Farm, New Sharon, 2, 2nd Place, Chevre Roll – Dill & Garlic, Fresh Goat’s Milk Cheeses / Flavor Added: Spices Herbs Seasonings Fruits, NF

Monroe Cheese Studio, Monroe, 3, 3rd place, Blue Thistle, Blue Mold Cheeses / Blue-Veined Made From Cow’s Milk, FC

Painted Pepper Farm, Steuben, 3, 3rd Place, Dairy Delights Goat’s Milk Yogurt – Plain (certified organic), Cultured Milk Products / Yogurts Made from All Milks, QY

Pinelands Farm, New Gloucester, 3, 3rd Place, Salsa Jack, American Originals / Monterey Jack with Flavors – Cows Milk, CP

Sunset Acres Farm & Dairy, Brooksville, 3, 3rd Place, Fresh Chevre Cranberry/Honey, Fresh Goat’s Milk Cheeses / Flavor Added: Spices Herbs Seasonings Fruits, NF

According to the ACS web site, in order to qualify for the competition, cheesemakers and their products must meet the following basic criteria:

* Entering companies must hold current membership and be “in good standing” with the ACS.
* Cheeses entered into the competition must have been available for sale to the general public at least 12 months prior to the competition.
* Cheeses entered into the competition must be characteristic of the accepted guidelines for the category in which the cheeses are entered.

Entries are judged by teams of technical and aesthetic judges, with each team scoring the individual entry based on a cumulative point system. In order to be eligible for a First, Second, or Third place ribbon, scores must meet a minimum number of points for each level. If no entries meet the minimum score for a placement level, such as first or second place, then an award is not given for that level.

Point total ties were recognized for second and third place, but first place ribbons were given only to a single cheese in each category.