Cheeses, like coffee and wine, tend to develop a sense of place in their flavor profile. Currently North Carolina has 28 companies (inspected by NCDA&CS Food & Drug Protection Division) producing farmstead cheese, and a handful of larger cheese making facilities.
Farmstead means that the milk comes from animals on that farm and the cheese is made onsite. Typically, these cheeses are made in small batches by hand; some are certified organic. These cheeses may be artisanal, but some artisanal cheese producers are not farmers. Rather, they buy milk, often from several farmers, which is then blended to achieve a specific taste.
Most of the N.C. cheese producers, such as Bosky Acres in Union County and Daddy's Girl Dairy in Yadkin County, make goat cheeses. None produce sheep cheese. Only a few make cow milk cheese. This short list includes Yellow Branch Farm, in Graham County, which has been making cow farmstead cheeses since 1986. These are available at Simple Local (Atherton Market, 2104 South Blvd.). Chapel Hill Creamery's farmstead cow milk cheeses are available at Earth Fare. Looking Glass Creamery, in Fairview, produces an artisanal aged cow's milk cheese dusted with chocolate, which is available at Simply Local.
Ashe County Cheese (www.ashecountycheese.com) is North Carolina's oldest cheese plant, producing cheese since 1930 for Kraft Foods. Since 1994, though, the company has been owned by Wisconsin-natives Mike Everhart and Tom Torkelson and produces a wide variety of cow milk cheeses. Ashe County's cheddar cheeses are available at The Bradford Store (15915 Davidson-Concord Road, Huntersville), Reid's Fine Foods (2823 Selwyn Ave.) and Simply Local, which also carries their cheese curds, a popular snack in Wisconsin.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-522-8334, extension 136.