CHEESEMAKER COLIN MCGRATH has forged a successful career at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie for more than 11 years. This past spring, he began offering cheeses under the McGrath Cheese Company label, a step he did not take impulsively or lightly. “It’s something that has always been a dream of mine—to have a company that I can influence and put my full style on, from branding to the cheeses to the packaging.”
Though he maintains his position as cheesemaker at Sprout Creek, the move has given McGrath the opportunity and impetus to experiment and purchase milk from different sources, which has broadened his vision for his own company. “I’ve been able to work with all these different milks from many great producers in the Hudson Valley,” he says. “That’s probably been one of the most exciting things for me—the ability to meet the farmers, use their milk and see the rebirth in agriculture that’s taken place.”
McGrath Cheese Company currently offers two varieties of cheese, with one in the works. Fresco, a fresh cheese that goes from milk to sellable product in only 48 hours, is “a really nice, soft, spreadable, luscious, buttery-type cheese that I love because it very much captures and exemplifies the milk that I’m using,” McGrath says. “It’s very pure and fresh and representative of the season I make it in.”
Also available is a cheese he calls Rascal, a raw cow’s milk cheese aged two to four months, with a unique rind. “I wash it in a brine solution and then I actually take a blowtorch to it at about a month old and burn the outside of the rind, which gives it this neat, toasty flavor,” McGrath explains.
Victoria, not yet available, is a cow’s milk cheese aged five to seven weeks. Buttery and soft, its mixed rind encased in white mold gives it a more traditional taste, albeit with a bit of funk. McGrath expects it to be ready in early 2017.
“I want to make cheeses that have character, have depth, have complexity, yet are approachable,” McGrath says. “That’s why I’ve been very pleased with the cheeses I’ve come up with—they have that versatility. They could be very ‘snackable’ cheeses for someone who doesn’t want to think about cheese too much, but they can also be very complex. They can either stand alone on a cheese plate, or they can be incorporated into a dish.”
The cheeses are available in stores throughout the Hudson Valley, as well as at Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn and Port Chester, and through a home delivery service on Long Island. Fresco retails for about $16 per pound; Rascal retails for about $20 per pound (as will Victoria).