120-year cheese factory brings rich history to Big E

PLYMOUTH, Vermont (WWLP) – If you want to become a cheese vendor at the Big E, you’ll first have to beat out the competition.

22News traveled to Plymouth, Vermont to get an up close look at one of the award-winning cheese factories that has dedicated the past several months to making cheese samples exclusively for the Big E.

Jessie Werner, the owner of Plymouth Artisan Cheese explained that for their factory, it’s not just about making cheese, it’s about continuing traditions that began more than a century ago. “It’s the second oldest cheese factory in the country. It was started in 1890 by Calvin Coolidge’s father and has been making Plymouth Cheese ever since,” he said.

Before President Calvin Coolidge was even the Mayor of Northampton, his family’s cheese was sold in western Massachusetts. A tradition Werner expanded on 5-years ago, when they introduced the cheese at the Big E.

Werner said, this year, they’re bringing 500 lbs. of cheese to the Big E.

Many people will taste the finished product at the fair, but what they don’t get to see are the hours, days, and years of preparation. Plymouth Artisan Cheese has spent the past 2-years getting the cheese ready for this year’s Centennial celebration.

Werner told 22News the process starts in their cheese-making room, where they pour hundreds of gallons of milk into a metal bin, then turn up the heat. “We warm it to the proper temperature, we add the cultures that we’re working with for the type of cheese that we want to make. After that we’ll add the necessary ingredients to turn the milk from a liquid to a solid, which makes one big cheese curd,” he said.

Nine hours later, the cheese is ready to press, freeze, and age.

Once the cheese is ready to package, it gets dipped into hot wax. The packaging idea goes all of the way back to 1890, when the Coolidge family first opened the cheese factory, and plastic hadn’t been invented yet.

From the way it’s made and wrapped, to the places it’s sold and sampled, Plymouth Artisan Cheese is all about continuing traditions that have been around for the past century.

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