Culinary Pleasures at Mecox Bay Dairy
Originally Posted: May 04, 2004
Arthur Ludlow is a dairy farmer on a gracious mission to bring artisan cheese to the Hamptons and beyond. On the border of Mecox Bay and Swan Creek in Bridgehampton, sits the Ludlow family farm. A visit to their property, purchased by Art Ludlow's great grandfather in the 1870's, takes you back to a bygone era. The buildings seem to own the land and there is a true sense of tranquility. It is here with his wife Stacy and their two sons Peter and John that he is handcrafting cheese from a small herd of Jersey cows.
Artisan cheese production, a growing trend, is sweeping the country and has found an eager audience on the East End. With domestic specialty cheese production increasing annually and consumer desire for these products rising, Mecox Bay Dairy is poised to feed the great demand. With plans to create a selling room on the farm and current distribution to local markets and a few fortunate restaurants, Art Ludlow is eagerly anticipating the challenges of the summer season.
He speaks eloquently and with focus about his craft. In listening to him you find enthusiasm about the process and affection for his cows. It is contagious. The cows are full of personality with names like Clara Belle, Mannix Sprinkle and Alf Aspen. In the details of their lineage, you learn that they have all been artificially bred - Mecox Bay Dairy doesn't keep a bull - except for one. Bosco, the result of breeding a Jersey cow and Scottish Highland Bull, was sired by a bull owned by the Green Thumb. He stands out in the mix with his reddy brown coat, but seems to be holding his own.
The old potato barn which houses the small cheese making "factory" is an amazing contrast of shiny machinery protected by glass and remnants of burlap and wooden crates left from the building's previous life. An almost laboratory like setting, you momentarily question whether the cheese is "handmade" at all. Then Art Ludlow patiently takes you step by step through the process.
The cows must be milked twice a day. Jersey Cows were selected for the herd because they have a better protein to butterfat ratio than for instance the more common black and white Holstein breed. They are not given bovine growth hormone. Mecox Bay Dairy uses only milk from their cows in the cheese making process, so they are able to experiment with different types of feed to achieve different qualities in their product. Cheese has to be made every three days or the production cycle is broken. In a small operation like his, Art is constantly monitoring the cheese for acidity, moisture, butterfat and salt content. After 60 days, the acidity level is tested and if it is at the proper ph the cheese is ready for eating. Raw milk cheeses are not pasteurized; the monitoring that occurs over the two month period allows the maker time to measure the acidity level and confirm that no harmful bacteria exists in the product. It is a safe and time honored tradition.
This year Mecox Bay Dairy is offering three delicious cheeses. Shawondasee, mold ripened and aged for 2 -3 months, is a semi hard cheese. Named for a Native American word meaning "prevailing southwest wind," it has a subtle, mild, nutty flavor that pairs well with fruit. Mecox Sunrise, a washed rind semi hard cheese is aged for 2 - 4 months, named for its characteristic orange rind. It has a more intense flavor than Shawondasee. Atlantic Mist is rich, creamy and delicious with a white rind.
Atlantic Mist pairs well with Wolffer Estate Selection Chardonnay. Rated "best L.I. Chardonnay" by Wine Enthusiast it is a superb choice at $27 per bottle.
Shawondasee is excellent accompanied by Wolffer Estate Selection Merlot at $35 per bottle. Sliced pear, apple, champagne grapes or fresh figs are also wonderful accompaniments.
Wolffer La Ferme Martin Merlot, a medium bodied traditionally crafted red wine with a soft long warm finish, is a terrific match for Mecox Sunrise and is $13.50 per bottle.
Mecox Bay Dairy Cheeses are available at:
Mecox Bay Dairy
855 Mecox Road
Bridgehampton Country Market
Village Cheese Shop
11 Main Street
105 Love Lane
For more information, click here.