Over the last decade, Texas has become a very big cheese in the world of cheese production. With delicious dairy creations that can rival the legendary delicacies coming out of Wisconsin or England, it would behoove any cheese lover to spend a little time getting to know the boutique dairies of the Lone Star State.
Today, you can find as many as 30 such select dairies across the state, and several have won awards from the American Cheese Society. In fact, it's safe to say that the artisanal delights coming out of these businesses are impressive enough to rival their French and Californian counterparts.
Don't believe it? Here are 5 dairies across the state that will convince you otherwise.
1. Marfa Maid
Deep out in West Texas there is a 15-acre spread that owners Malinda Beeman and Allan McClane like to call their "Little Dairy on the Prairie." However, 'prairie' is just a name. Their farm is actually located on an expanse of high desert, a perfect environment for the goats they raise.
McClane has been around diaries since her childhood. Her grandfather introduced her to the artisan cheese business through his Cape Cod dairy. The result of her lifetime of dairy experience is the array of exquisite goat cheeses she offers.
It doesn't matter whether you select the chèvre or the herbed feta. It's all good. Plus, she lovingly wraps each cheese inside grape leaves and ties it with twine to make her product look as wonderful as it is to taste.
2. Licon Dairy
For 50 years the Licon Dairy has been an El Paso mainstay. Begun as a kitchen business, founders Soltero and Isabella Martinez carefully crafted small batches of cheese that they hand delivered to their neighbors. That was, however, two generations ago. Now on the third generation of family owners, the Licon Dairy has expanded to serve a nationwide audience and cheese is no longer made in a home kitchen.
Despite the company's growth, the attention to craft has not slackened. The Mexican style string cheese is still made by hand just as it was all those years ago.
3. Mozzarella Company
After traveling through Europe and sampling the exquisite cheese offerings, Paula Lambert came moved home to Dallas and set up shop. For 32 years her moxie has driven this business. Originally a humble cheese making outfit, chefs around the country now revere cheeses from The Mozzarella Company. Wolfgang Puck has even endorsed her cheeses.
Originally beginning with ricotta and mozzarella, she has now expanded to 30 different varieties and uses both cow and goat's milk.
Today, not only can you purchase her cheeses, but Lambert offers monthly cheesemaking classes and tours. You can also book privately to enjoy a personalized cheesy experience.
4. Brazos Valley Cheese
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Waco is growing. So naturally, so are its artisanal food shops. At the Homestead Heritage Crafts Village, traditional handcrafted goods are showcased, and one of the most popular handcrafted creations comes from Brazos Valley Cheese.
With a 510-acre farm, the cheesemakers at this dairy are able to 2,250 gallons of milk per week. With this milk they make about 2,000 pounds of delectable, artisan cheese.
5. Pure Luck Farm and Dairy
Yesterday, herd Queen Amelia hosted the boys from Lick Honest Ice Creams and a small but excellent film crew from American Lifestyle Magazine. Chad and Anthony had her giggling most of the day while filming a mini documentary covering the story of Lick and local flavors. Deep shade, gin and a beautiful day kept the laughs coming too.
In 1979, Sara Sweetser purchased eleven acres on Barton Creek to raise her daughters. Over the years, her love of land and animals lulled her into experimenting with different farmstead products before she eventually settled on a goat dairy. Although organic farming still occurs on the old homestead, the cheese that they produce is what people are taking note of.
Pure Luck's highly respected cheeses have won numerous awards over the years including a 1st place in the category for goat milk Feta and a 2nd place for their Hopelessly Bleu at the American Cheese Society Competition.
Personally, I highly recommend the feta and June's Joy.