It’s Sunday Morning: Time to Talk Cheeses – Interview with Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove Chevre
The first goat cheeses we reviewed here on the website was Humboldt Fog, an elegant, ripening cheese with a layer of vegetable ash that looks like a delicate cake with a snowy, fluffy frosting. Overtime, we became fans of Cypress Grove Chevre and Mary Keehn, as we learned more about her, her love of life and her family of cheeses. One of the great thrills of her trip to Italy last fall and the Bra Cheese Festival was meeting Mary and working with her in the American Booth. The Lady also became a fan of Mary’s hubby, Roger, and from their friendship saw an important correlation in the relationship she has with The Man: simply stated, a partner that loves to laugh and can make you laugh is a gift.
Spaulding Gray: Mary, First of all thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions for our website. The Lady told me that you first bought goats for milk because your children had allergies to cow milk. How did you get from there to making award-winning cheese?
Mary Keehn: Close – I first got goats so that I would have healthy milk for my daughter. Later, when traveling I found that one of the girls had a serious cow milk allergy. I was really glad she had been raised on fresh goat milk. I was biology major in college and got very involved in the back-to-the-land movement of the 60’s – quite a serious hippie. We built a log cabin with logs we drug from the woods with our horse, grew a huge garden, and had goats for milk. Making cheese was a natural progression of the lifestyle – mine and the goats with their 2.2 kid per year average.
Spaulding: I love the names of your cheeses… they show a whimsical 60′s-esque sense of humor. Please share how some of these names came to be.
Mary: We take our cheese and our fun seriously! Some names were my crazy thoughts from way back and some were collaboration. We had so much fun with the most recent Flash Back family of cheeses. Their names were a group effort from all the folks here are CGC. The dill pollen was so much more complex and intensely more flavorful than regular dill that it almost named itself – “PsycheDillic” is a perfect description. We already had Purple Haze and Herbs de Humboldt so went big with the 60’s theme for Sgt. Pepper for our spices of the world offering and Ms. Natural for the natural.
We now have a “big money” contest that gives the person who comes up with the name we use $100 and lifetime bragging rights. Family, friends, all the “Grovers” as we call ourselves and even pre school groups bring in names that we choose from.
(Editor’s note: Put on your thinking caps… and think cheesy 60 flashback thoughts…)
SG: What is your favorite grilled sammy?
MK: Like many folks this is a comfort food for me so I like it to be yummy and easy. We have a great bakery here that makes olive bread – so I use a slice of that with a black olive tapenade and Midnight Moon or Lamb Chopper under the broiler for a quick melt. When I’m making grilled cheese for friends I bring out Laura’s book and go crazy.
Spaulding: I ascribe to “eat locally and think globally” and am curious as to which of your cheeses you would pair with the Humboldt County delicacy Pseudacris regilla? Would that pairing go better with a local wine or beer and please recommend one.
Mary: We do love sitting in the forest with our tree frog friends and are always sure to invite their big buddies, Ariolimax columbianus the 5 – 6 inch long banana slugs that live in our Pacific Northwest rainforest but as guests, not as part of the meal.
At this time of year I prefer making something fresh from the garden. A few of my favorites are:
- Sautéed kale with frizzled leeks mixed with Herbs de Humboldt fresh chèvre on some great bread from our local bakery and a Redwood Curtain Brewing Company IPA
- Cucumber soup made with PscheDillic fresh chevre with some great bread from our local bakery and a crisp glass of Fieldbrook Winery Piccola.
- Sweet pea pasta with whole wheat penne and Sgt. Pepper fresh chevre and a Briceland Vineyards Pinot Noir
SG: Finally, what is the most obscure cheese you have ever tasted and where did you find it?
MK: Unfortunately I don’t remember the name but the most unusual was a selection of small, randomly shaped cheese that I saw in Bra, Italy. They were hard and brown, aged by being buried in dirt.
Spaulding: Please add any thoughts, tips, suggestions you’d like to share with our readers and your many fans.
Mary: I’m not sure everyone knows that we have made a full circle and are back in the goat dairy business again. A bit less than a year ago we purchased a 38 acre farm about half a mile from our first location in McKinleyville. We raised the does from babies and now have about 125 milking and are raising our own kids to grow the herd. It is such a treat to get back to our roots as milk and cheese producers.
We have lots of cheese, beer, wine and care tips on our web site.
SG: Again, thanks for taking the time.