The Cheesiest Spot in Dudley
From as long as I can remember, I have always loved cheese. This is no secret among my family and friends. One year my mother gifted me a wheel of my favorite Gouda cheese for my birthday, and I cannot describe how genuinely content I was. Seriously, I have an adoration for cheese. So when I tell you that I discovered a cheese farm in Dudley, Massachusetts, you can only imagine my excitement. Last week I found the hidden gem, Couet Farm and Fromagerie. Marie-Laure, the owner of this cozy cheese shop, gave me a taste of what it’s truly like being an entrepreneur, the art of making cheese, and working with family.
I assume that your reaction of learning there is a local cheese farm was the same as mine. Although, maybe your mouth didn’t immediately water, you were probably utterly surprised. It’s not very common in our area to casually stroll upon an all-natural homemade cheese shop. Frankly, we could make an entertaining game out of counting how many take-out and fast food restaurants we have on one block but, I cannot think of one homemade cheese shop around here. This made me curious as to what inspired Marie to start her own cheese shop in little ol’ Dudley.
The truth is, Marie didn’t grow up knowing that she wanted to chase a career as a cheese producer and have her own farm. In fact, Marie pursued a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies. After graduating college in 2009, she found herself in a rut. The economy was down and jobs were scarce. “What am I to do now?”, she asked herself. Marie decided to take a step back. Even though she was not sure where she was going, she was positive where she had always belonged. In fact, her roots and her heritage is what truly inspired her. Marie had one childhood memory that she was never able to forget. “When I was younger, my Mom, Dad, and I went to visit family in France. Hiking in the Alps, we discovered a cheese maker. It was a one-room place. When I tasted that cheese, I had never had anything like it. So, that was a memory that always stuck with me.” Marie became immersed in her inspiration drawn from her childhood memory. She knew she was going to open her own cheese shop. She had nothing else at that moment, and wasn’t interested in an office job. Besides, what’s life without a little risk? Once Marie had set her mind on it, she had a new-found determination. She packed up her things along with her passion, and headed off to Europe. “Since I have a European citizenship, it was pretty easy for me to hop on a plane.” Marie stayed in Europe for two years studying under many cheese makers, including the well-known cheese mongers.
Amidst Marie’s captivating story, I had the pleasure of meeting her Mother. Her mother, just as I imagined, is a sweet, little French woman. After stopping to chat for a short time, she said her goodbyes and kissed her daughter on the forehead. She then turned to me and said, “How many people can kiss their boss?” We all laughed. But, I couldn’t help but wonder how her family supported her during her business venture. “My mom was not supportive at first”, Marie explained to me. “She was surprised and nervous.” My parents have never run a business; they have never worked on a dairy [farm]. ‘Don’t you know it’s so hard to farm?’, Her mom asked her. “My dad said, ‘If that’s what she wants to do, she should do it.’” Although her parents may have not jumped on the wagon immediately, they soon grew very fond of the idea. Marie says, “I would not have been able to start without them. What I had hoped for, would be that my parents would be able to help me when I got started and we would live close enough together that we could do that. And later on, when they needed my help, I would be there.” Naturally, I had to inquire about the challenging moments involved in working with family. “It can be hard to work with family”, she explains. “We’re not necessarily always on our best behavior, but what’s wonderful about them is that I know they have my best interest at heart. I can trust them completely.”
I guess you could say the rest is history. This is the second year Couet Farm and Fromagerie has been open. This is also the second year that Marie and her family are perfecting their cheese recipes. Marie has four cheeses: Franciszka, Adelisca, Karolina, and Evelina. Marie is very picky about what products she chooses to use for her cheese. “For me, keeping my product as local as possible and coming from animals that are well-treated is important. It’s important that you have healthy and happy animals that are eating wholesome food and are well taken care of”, Marie explained. Marie uses sheep and cows milk to create her delicate cheeses. She primarily gets her cow milk from Walnut Lane Farm in Dudley and her sheep’s milk from an Amish farm in Fultonville, New York.
The cheese-making process is truly an art. Marie explained to me that on her farm, she makes two types of cheese based on its process: lactic cheese and enzymatic cheese. The lactic cheese is mostly a lactic fermentation to coagulate the dairy. The enzymatic process is done by adding an enzyme during this cheese-making process, which transforms and coagulates the dairy. Franciszka and Adelisca are both lactic cheeses. It takes five whole days to produce. Marie named Franciszka after her Polish great grandmother, a strong matriarch and an immigrant in the flat land and expansive grey skies of northern France. This cheese is a cow’s milk cylinder of tangy, butteriness that coats your mouth with a creamy paste. For dessert, cover it with berries and drizzle honey on top for a satisfying meal’s end. Adelisca takes the shortest amount of time to create, at a whopping three-day time span. Marie named Adelisca after her great grandmother from Québec, mother of thirteen children. Adelisca is a fluffy, citrus, fresh cow’s milk cheese. You can use it as an alternative to cream cheese in your cheesecake recipe or accompanied by garlic and chives as a summer breakfast spread. It is un-aged and offered at its peak brightness and freshness. Finally, Karolina and Evelina are produced through the enzymatic process. Karolina is named after Marie’s great grandmother, a farmer from Goszczewice, a small village south of Warsaw, Poland. Karolina is a semi-firm, raw cow’s milk cheese with a natural rind. It is aged at least 60 days in our cave d’affinage. This cheese has a creamy, balanced mouth feel that lingers on the palate with notes of fresh cream and fermented grass. Evelina is named after Marie’s great grandmother Evelina, from Québec, who worked night and day cooking, cleaning, repairing clothes, to care for her nineteen children and her lumberjack husband. “Evelina is a semi-firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese with a natural rind. It is aged at least 60 days in our cave d’affinage. Evelina is savory, with a delicately gritty mouth feel and has notes of sour cream and nuttiness.
Marie’s story was genuine and refreshing. Her background and her culture inspired her to accomplish everything she has today. Even down to the inspiration of the names of all her cheeses. Each family member’s characteristics were taken into account when comparing their personalities to the individual attributes of the cheeses. I was initially stoked to learn more about Couet Farm and Fromagerie because of all the homemade, natural cheese. But, I left humbled with a bigger lesson. When it comes down to it, your family is truly everything. If you’re just as interested as I was and want to know more, check out their website: www.couetfarm.com. Visit Marie and her family at the Couet Farm and be sure to check out her cheeses at the Douglas Farmers Market, Canal District in Worcester, Ashland Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, Tuesdays in Lexington, Thursdays in Belmont, and Sundays in Acton.