This year’s competition and judging included nearly 2,000 cheeses from more than 250 companies located in the United States, Canada and Central and South America.
“FireFly Farms is proud of its respected place among American cheese makers,” said Mike Koch, FireFly Farms’ president. “Since we started making cheese in 2002, American cheese making has really boomed. We’re proud that as the competitions grow, our cheeses continue to be recognized among the best.”
Merry Goat Round Spruce Reserve won a first-place ribbon in the category of goat’s milk cheese aged over 60 days.
Launched in 2017 to mark the company’s 15th anniversary, Spruce Reserve has previously been recognized with gold medals at the Good Food Awards in January 2018 and at the World Cheese Awards in October of 2017.
Spruce Reserve is a brie-style goat’s milk cheese round wrapped in a natural spruce-wood strap and aged until the cheese body is fully ripened, creamy, and spreadable.
Spruce Reserve is the first strapped goat’s milk cheese of its kind and is noted for its flavor and texture.
Cabra LaMancha won a third-place ribbon in its category for washed rind cheeses made from goat’s milk.
Launched in 2005, Cabra LaMancha has been recognized for excellence and has previously earned a gold medal at the Good Food Awards in 2016, as well as eight first place finishes in national and international competitions.
Cabra LaMancha, or “goat from La Mancha,” is a Spanish-inspired washed rind cheese. It is a higher-moisture cheese with a smooth semi-soft texture and robust vegetal and earthy flavors.
“These new awards for our handmade cheeses are just fantastic,” said FireFly Farm’s chief cheese maker, Dan Porter. “We are committed to the art of cheese making. It’s so nice to see the efforts of farmers and our cheese makers recognized for their results: cheese that is superior in aesthetics, taste, freshness and quality.”
High Country Creamery’s Sparky’s Fury won a first-place ribbon in the flavored cheese category. This cheese is a cheddar-style cheese flavored with hot peppers. It is noted for its full flavor with a slow and spicy heat.
“We at High Country are so pleased to receive winning awards from a very competitive judging competition two years in a row and look forward to many more,” said Linda Kling, general manager/co-owner. “It takes a team that puts in a lot of hard work and consistency along with excellent quality milk that is sourced from a local farmer to get these wonderful results!”
Sparky’s got its name from Kling’s grandfather. He was a welder, and when he got a few sparks too close to his jeans that ended up going all the way through to his skin, his friends nicknamed him “Sparky.”
“Sparky’s Fury burns slow after a few bites,” Kling said.
High Country Creamery’s Trailhead (Green Peppercorn) Cheddar won a second-place ribbon in the same flavored cheese category.
Trailhead is High Country’s newest cheese, just released in time for the competition. The mild, creamy cheddar is flavored with a warm rustic blend of green peppercorns, onion, garlic and paprika, which Kling noted is broadly appealing to many taste buds.
Trailhead is named from the Appalachian region’s many hiking trails.
In addition to the recognition for its cheeses, FireFly Farms’ co-founders, Mike Koch and Pablo Solanet, were recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to American cheese making. They were inducted into the new world chapter of the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers at its induction held at the conference.
The International Cheese Guild
is a non-profit organization which aims to unite and support the dairy sector at all levels. Active internationally in 33 countries, its mission is to promote the nobility of dairy products as well as the men and women professionals who work in the dairy sector.
“It’s with great honor that the Guilde des Fromagers welcomes both Mike Koch and Pablo Solanet into the Guilde recognizing the positive economic, environmental and social contribution they have made through their work at FireFly Farms for both the artisan cheese industry and Garrett County, Maryland,” said David Gremmels, Ambassadeur, Guilde des Fromagers New World.
Solanet said he and Koch are humbled to be recognized and join the organization.
“The guild’s work is so important; among its members are countless people we have admired for decades,” he said. “They have been professional examples to us as our business has grown, and we are honored to be in their company.”