Cheesemaking resumes at Coolidge homestead

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(Host) When the late John Coolidge stopped producing cheese at his family’s homestead in Plymouth six years ago, a tradition that stretched back more than a century came to an end. But soon the cheese making room at the Coolidge estate will be back in business.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) President Calvin Coolidge’s father made cheese at the family’s farm in Plymouth from 1890 until 1930. In 1960, Calvin Coolidge’s son, John resumed production of Plymouth cheese at the family’s homestead, which is now a state historic site. But cheese making stopped in 1998, two years before John Coolidge’s death.

Now the homestead will once again produce Plymouth cheese – and for the first time, the job will pass from Coolidge family hands.

Tom Gilbert and his wife Jacqueline McCuin have agreed to lease the homestead’s cheese making facility from the state. Gilbert says he’s been making a variety of specialty cheeses for twenty years but he’ll concentrate on one thing in Plymouth.

(Gilbert) “My goal is to reproduce as closely as we can the original Plymouth Cheese, which is the only cheese that’s ever been made there.”

(Zind) Gilbert describes Plymouth Cheese as granular curd cheese. It looks like cheddar but it’s creamier, with a range of flavors depending on its age. He says he’s getting a hand recreating the cheese from the same people who helped John Coolidge.

(Gilbert) “There are three or four people still in Plymouth. Some of them have agreed to consult with me and to advise me.”

(Zind) Gilbert says he’s hired one person full time and hopes to hire more as production increases. Gilbert’s lease with the state runs for three years. Jim Saudade of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs says the lease should pay the state about $36,000 over that time. But he says that’s only one of a number of reasons the state wanted to see cheese once again produced at the Coolidge family homestead.

(Saudade) “One was that we really want a rich experience for people visiting the homestead. Secondly, the state had about a half a million dollar investment in this building and it was unoccupied and unproductive and we certainly wanted to put it to good use. Last we certainly wanted to contribute to economic development in the area and this provides some jobs to the town of Plymouth.”

(Zind) Plymouth Cheese from the Coolidge family homestead should become available early next year. The cheese will be sold at the homestead when it’s open, by mail order and distributed to stores around New England.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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