TERRA ALTA, W.Va. - In a little building behind a little house on a quiet street in this small north-central West Virginia town, some of the best cheese in the world is made.
Preston County's Green Glades Creamery won two medals at the World Jersey Cheese Awards this past fall.
"It was kind of a last-minute deal," said Green Glades owner Ben Walsh, recalling how they were invited to enter two days before entries were due.
"We picked three things from the cooler and sent them to New York."
From there, the cheese was sent on to the United Kingdom for judging.
"We won Silver for our feta - it was the only feta that medaled, and Bronze for our farmstead spreadable cheese," Walsh said. "There were 400-some entries and 10 percent medaled."
It was the first cheese competition Green Glades had ever entered.
Ben and his wife, Callee, have been selling cheese made from the milk of their 60 to 70 Jersey cows since June 2011. But they worked on developing the recipes and building their cheese shop for five years before that.
"We are West Virginia's only farmstead cow's milk cheese maker," Ben said. "Being a farmstead producer - meaning we own the cows and milk the cows and make the cheese - we can control what the cows are eating and control the quality better."
The couple chose to raise Jersey cows because the smaller, easier-to-handle cattle require less land and water to raise and leave a smaller carbon footprint. Their milk has a quality different from that of other breeds.
"Jersey cows make milk with the highest fat and protein of any breed," Ben said. "The cheese yield is better. Jersey milk has 13 percent more protein and 16 percent more calcium than commercially available dairy products."
The milk and some of the cheeses are bright yellow because of the higher fat content.
"The cheddar is naturally colored by the color of the milk," Callee said. "Jersey milk has higher fat, resulting in a more golden color."
Green Glades produces feta, both plain and dotted with Kalamata olives; Havarti; mozzarella; farmstead cheese spread, plain and flavored with hot peppers and dill; cheddar and cheddar curds.
Cheddar cheese curds are popular in dairy-producing regions of the United States such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, Walsh said, but they are virtually unknown in West Virginia. Curds are bits of cheddar cheese that remain when whey is drained in the cheese-making process before it is further formed into wheels.
They are eaten as a snack or atop salads and as an ingredient in some French Canadian dishes, Ben said. Callee added she would like to coat them with batter and fry them, similar to a mozzarella stick.