Ira Grable, known as “The Big Cheese” is the cheese maker behind Berkshire Blue in Dalton, MA. He purchases his raw Jersey Farm milk from Hav’s Farm in Tyringham, MA and uses it to create a cheese based on a classic English recipe. Here’s what Ira had to say about his hand-crafted, award-winning cheese.
How did you get started in the cheese making business? Specifically, how did you learn cheese making?
My wife Sheila and I moved to the Berkshires from Long Island in 2007. I started my company not knowing anything about the business and learned by distributing Berkshire Blue only. A year later, Michael Miller, the prior owner, was ready to shutter the business. After all the work and effort I put in, I was not going to let that happen. In 2009, I put in an offer to buy the business and it was accepted. Michael stayed on for several months teaching me what he knew from the bottom up.
How does making blue cheese differ from other cheese making processes, if at all?
All artisan made cheese is a hands-on process from start to finish. There are many differing ways and opinions on how to make different cheeses. With blue cheese, blue mold must be added and there are different ways of doing that – some having blue mold on the outside only, some on the inside only, or both.
What kind of milk do you use in your cheese?
I use raw, unpasteurized Jersey cow milk. It’s non- rGBH and their diet consists of corn, grass, alfalfa, soybeans, cornmeal, grain, whey, minerals, and vitamins. There is one farm with a large herd where I go at dawn to pick up 200 gallons of milk with my truck.
Can you tell us more about Berkshire Blue?
Berkshire Blue is a labor of love. It takes two hands, time, and devotion to make it right.
Why is the Massachusetts Cheese Guild important?
The MA Cheese Guild gives artisan cheese makers a voice and recognition collectively. It will make consumers and businesses aware of the rich community of cheese makers right here in Massachusetts.
The Guild strives to educate consumers about the benefits of handmade cheeses, about the cheese makers themselves, and, how beneficial it is to help sustainability in farming and agriculture.
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