Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Close Up on this Week's Tasting Plate: Bellwether Farms Pepato

Photo Courtesy of Bellwether Farms
Whenever we have Pepato on the tasting plate we marvel at it. One of us always ends up declaring, "this is one of my favorite cheeses." Usually, it's me. An aged raw sheep's milk cheese studded with black peppercorns, Pepato is full of surprises. The texture is slightly crumbly, but with a smooth mouthfeel. The flavor is buttery and sweet with intriguing notes of blueberry, citrus, and, of course, black pepper.  

The Callahans make Pepato on their farm in Sonoma County. Cindy Callahan started Bellwether Farms in 1986. Her son Liam later joined the dairy as cheesemaker. Theirs was the first licensed sheep dairy in the state of California.

When first making aged cheese, they attempted to emulate Italian pecorino. With time, and multiple trips to Tuscany, they adapted the Italian recipe to highlight the unique characteristics of their milk.

Their sheep are East Friesians, a great dairy breed. Even so, they produce much less milk than a goat or cow would; on average less than a half gallon per day. What the milk lacks in quantity, it makes up for in richness and flavor. The sheep graze on green pasture year-round, supplemented by grain and alfalfa. 
photo courtesy of Bellwether Farms
Aged for at least 2 months, and usually closer to 4 months, Pepato wheels have a natural rind and weigh about 3 to 4 pounds each. 

Visit us this week and we'll taste it with you!

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