Kentucky pride coupled with Commonwealth know-how has been a successful recipe for Kenny Mattingly, who began his cheese-making business to ensure the survival of his family’s dairy farm.
“We like to say, ‘We’re damn Kentucky proud,’” says the founder of Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese. “We take pride in producing quality cheeses that are made on the same farm where the cows are milked. It’s a value-added model of agriculture that allows us to build a strong family business, create jobs and make a quality local product.”
And they make a lot of it. The 130 cows on the Mattingly dairy farm produce nearly 2.5 million pounds of milk (100 pounds of milk is equivalent to 11 gallons, which will make about nine pounds of cheese). Half of that milk is used for the cheesemaking operation, which translates into 120,000 pounds of Cheddar, Swiss, Havarti and other cheeses made on site each year. Specialty selections include other local ingredients, like a favorite Colby that is made with chipotles Mattingly purchases from a Kentucky Proud grower and a cheese that is washed in Amber Ale from Bluegrass Brewing Company.
Business is booming for Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, with an average of 25 percent to 30 percent growth each year. To accommodate for that growth, Mattingly recently opened a new facility on the farm that houses an underground cheese-aging room, a new creamery and packaging operations. They also have a store on premises where visitors can purchase cheese, and their cheeses are also available at local farmers markets, online and in restaurants across the region.
“Most farmers never meet the people they produce for,” Mattingly says. “They ship their commodities and don’t have the opportunity to interact with the customers who are buying it. We have the luxury of constantly facing our Kentucky customers. They tell us what they want, which makes us more accountable, but they also provide us with lots of support and encouragement.”
Ed Puterbaugh is a cheesemaker, too, but first, he was a microbiologist. His scientific background and interest in the local food movement inspired him to pursue artisan cheesemaking and open his own business, Boone Creek Creamery in Lexington, five years ago.
“All of the work is done by hand here,” Puterbaugh says. “We don’t use modern equipment, because we find that by gently processing the curds we can protect the butterfat and flavor of the cheese.”
Boone Creek Creamery cheeses are sold online, as well as at local farmers markets and grocery stores. “We produce a lot of cheeses, like old world Cheddars, that have almost become extinct,” Puterbaugh says. “I spend a lot of time perfecting recipes.”
Some of those recipes include Kentucky-inspired collaborations, like his Blackberry Serenade Gruyere, which is soaked in wine from Smith-Berry Vineyards in New Castle, and Kentucky Derby, a Cheddar made with bourbon from Woodford Reserve in Versailles. He has also just introduced a Scandinavian bread cheese that he says pairs perfectly with fresh Kentucky tomatoes.
“When people ask me the best way to enjoy artisan cheeses, I just suggest they enjoy them often,” Puterbaugh laughs.