Last month, a small creamery in Websterville, Vermont, took home a top prize at the Annual American Cheese Society Conference & Competition — essentially the Super Bowl of cheeses, butters and other dairy products. For many artisans, the award would be a bucket-list achievement, something to tell the grandkids one day. For Bob Reese and Allison Hooper, founders of Vermont Creamery, it’s par for the course. Over the years, their 34-year-old creamery has won hundreds of awards, including six others at this year’s ACS Conference & Competition.
Reese and Hooper (who was given the James Beard Foundation’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award in April) started their creamery by total accident: Reese was organizing a dinner helmed by a French chef that was required to source provisions from Vermont exclusively, and the French chef needed goat cheese. Reese scrambled, found Hooper, who he learned had interned at a French dairy farm, and asked for her help. What followed was nearly three-and-a-half decades of dairy dominance.
The pair were the first American producers of French-style cultured butter — butter made with cream harboring live bacteria, like some yogurts. They were also the first American producers of Mascarpone cheese and aged goat cheese. They have also been the recipients of so many awards from so many organizations it’s difficult to comprehend. Reese and Hooper are retired of last year, but the creamery they founded — wedged between a middle school and a cemetery — continues to dominate.
Winner of the “Best Salted Butter” category at the American Cheese Society, Vermont Creamery’s Lightly Salted Cultured Butter has a tangier, richer, silkier followthrough than most supermarket butter, thanks to the cultures (live bacteria) found in the cream used to make it. Use it as you would any salted butter, though it shines best unadulterated, spread solo over a slice of fresh toast.