Food Startups / Launches

Collective Creamery: Cheese-Only CSA from Birchrun Hills and Valley Milkhouse Creamery

birchrun-valley-milkhouseCheesemakers Sue Miller and Stefanie Angstadt are collaborating to get their small ­batch, traditionally made cheeses to new customers with Collective Creamery, the duo’s cheese subscription program.

Miller, farmer and cheesemaker at Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs, and Angstadt, owner and cheesemaker at Valley Milkhouse Creamery in Oley, have combined their offerings through a new CSA­-style cheese share subscription serving areas of Berks, Chester, and Philadelphia counties, with pickup sites in the Lehigh Valley coming soon.

Collective Creamery is one of only two cheese-­only CSA-­style programs in the region and the only one in which two cheesemakers are working together to build off the strength of their existing businesses.

Collective Creamery subscribers pay up front at the start of each three-­month “season” for six biweekly deliveries of cheeses –­ most pickups are on Thursday evenings. Subscribers can choose from the Artisan Cheese Share, which will include three cheeses totaling 1 ⅓ to 1 ½ pounds each delivery, and the Petite Cheese Share, which includes two cheeses totaling around 1 pound each delivery. Cheeses will vary each week and include special limited editions not available elsewhere.

Subscriptions are available now through their website, CollectiveCreamery.com, for the inaugural season of cheese, starting in mid-­October and running through mid­-December.

To jumpstart this new program, Miller and Angstadt brought on Alex Jones, a former local foods buyer, CSA manager and cheesemonger based in Philadelphia. Jones has long advocated for southeast Pennsylvania’s artisan cheesemaking community.

In addition to the cheese shares, subscribers can purchase small “add­-ons,” like a pound of Angstadt’s flavorful, traditionally ­made cultured butter, to be delivered with each share. The Pairings add-­on provides a rotating selection of the cheesemakers’ favorite locally produced cheese accompaniments ­­– spiced pear butter from Buy the Farm, Charlestown Farm’s tomato jam, Cottage Kitchen’s pickled green tomatoes, and crusty breads from Berks Bakers Collective — that will harmonize with that week’s cheeses to make the perfect cheese board.

Collective Creamery pickup sites are located in areas of Berks County (Covered Bridge Farm in Oley, Hidden River Brewing Company in Douglassville) and Chester County (Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester Springs, The Bottle Room in Downingtown) as well as the Bryn Mawr Farmers’ market.

There are also several Philadelphia locations: Local 44 in University City, Martha in Kensington, Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, Crime & Punishment Brewing Co. in Brewerytown and a private home in Queen Village.

“Cheese and beer go so well together, so our first instinct was to reach out to some of our friends and wholesale customers in the area who serve really great beers,” Miller says.

Miller has been making cheese since 2006; she handles cheese production while her husband and two grown sons manage Birchrun Hills’ supplemental feed crops, pasture, and herd of 75 milking Holsteins.

Her flagship cheese, the fudgy, delicately flavored Birchrun Blue, can be found on menus across the region, along with her other cheeses: Equinox, a nutty Alpine style; Fat Cat, a grassy, tangy natural rind cheese; and Red Cat, a rich, pungent wheel with a sherbet ­orange washed rind.

Angstadt is in her second full season of business as Valley Milkhouse Creamery, which she started in the Oley Valley as a way to reconnect with the land her father’s ancestors settled around three centuries ago. She purchases 100 percent grassfed milk to make her cheese, sourcing from farms like Spring Creek in Wernersville, Seven Stars in Kimberton, and Dutch Meadows Organic Dairy in Paradise.

Witchgrass, a pyramid-­shaped bloomy cheese with a snowy rind, hides a fine layer of food­grade vegetable ash beneath its white coat. The ash creates a dramatic presentation once the cheese is cut and enhanced the subtle yet piquant flavor of this soft, creamy cheese.

Her savory, raw milk Lady Slipper is inspired by Tomme de Savoie and washed weekly with a brine made from hard apple cider, adding a fruity, funky note. And Clover, a tangy, spreadable fromage blanc style, is perfect for a cheese board alongside seasonal fruits ­­ or crumbled into a salad, schmeared on breakfast bread, or folded into an omelette.

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