We got the inside scoop from the team at FireFly Farms, Maryland’s most awarded cheesemaker, on their sustainable practices, dedication to all-natural cheeses, and some tasty pairing suggestions for their most popular cheeses.
FireFly has an amazing dedication to sustainability—how does that focus shapes your cheesemaking practices and the daily life on the farm?
We believe strongly that a functional and sustainable food system is extremely important as a society moving forward, and we have taken several measures to ensure that we are as friendly as possible to our environment and community. We invested over $150K in order to have solar panels installed on the roof of our creamery, as well as energy conservation actions throughout our facility. We also go to great lengths to recycle our whey whenever possible; whey is a bi-product of cheesemaking, and this sweet, protein rich substance makes excellent feed for local livestock or fertilizer for fields. Beyond this, we are increasingly active in managing all of our waste streams including the on-going evolution of our packaging.
Similarly, you place an emphasis only using four quality ingredients in your cheeses–how does that tie into FireFly’s core values?
FireFly Farms has indeed committed to only using four ingredients in our cheeses: fresh milk, vegetable rennet, salt and bacteria cultures. We believe that the simplest approach is the best approach, which is why we stay away from unnatural ingredients or preservatives. We have also committed to only sourcing fresh, local milk from family farms, and we are proud to support our local farming community and economy. It is our desire to grow alongside our farms, and maintaining our values as we increase production in the future.
As the most-awarded cheesemaker in Maryland, you’ve obviously got an amazing selection of cheeses. Are there any unexpected or surprising fan-favorites among the bunch?
Each of our cheeses is like a member of the family, and it can be hard to pick! The whole team was blown away by Spruce Reserve. A spruce-bark strapped goat’s milk round, the spruce strap was originally intended to simply be a food-safe way of offering our Merry Goat Round structural support as we aged it into a cream—Upon tasting the first batch, we were thrilled with how much flavor the wood imparted into the cheese. Spruce Reserve won the Good Food Award in 2018 and received a perfect score at the 2018 ACS Judging and Competition.
Another favorite of the team is our washed rind goat cheese, Cabra LaMancha. A mild, grassy cheese when young, robust and flavorful with age, Cabra LaMancha is a favorite of many members of the team. Some like it right at 90 days when the interior is still firm, stark white and mild, when it can be extremely versatile—Some prefer to let it age another month or two and let it show off its signature, robust washed rind flavor and fudgy texture. Cabra LaMancha also won a Good Food Award in 2016!
We’ve just added Mountain Top and Merry Goat Round to our cheese selection, do you have any pairing suggestions for those cheeses?
Both of these cheeses are excellent choices! Mountain Top and Merry Goat Round have similar flavor profiles– Both are sharp, lactic and creamy. Both of these cheeses melt wonderfully and are great to work with in the kitchen whether it be a baked brie or cheese-topped grilled peaches. For wine recommendations, both cheeses would pair beautifully with a buttery Chardonnay, a bright Sauvignon Blanc or a semi-sweet Rosé. For presentation on a cheeseboard we recommend pairing with prosciutto or salami, olives, drizzled honey and a fruit jam or paste!
What’s next for FireFly?
The sky ‘s the limit! We are months away from expanding on our current production facility—our current creamy is less than 4,000 square feet and we expect that to increase to a combined 10,000 square feet, increasing our production capacity up to 300% in the coming years and increasing our ability to impact local farms and our regional economy. We have family farms standing by ready to supply us with fresh milk! This will aid us on our journey to become a nationally recognized brand and support increasingly large orders, while sticking to our values of always sourcing fresh and local.
As we expand, we are increasingly experimenting with cow’s milk cheeses. We hope that with an increased production space and a larger network of family farms, we will have the ability to produce cow’s milk cheeses year round, along with our now well-known goat’s milk cheeses.
Anything else you’d like Murray’s customers to know about FireFly?
FireFly Farms is a farm-based business. Behind every piece of cheese is a local farmer. We are dedicated to sustainability, high-quality product and the traditional art of making cheese by hand – and, we are committed to maintain these values as we grow. We are thankful to all of our customers and family farms for such wonderful support.
Want to get a taste of FireFly’s hard work? Don’t miss out on Mountain Top and Merry Goat Round, available in stores and online at murrayscheese.com!