Ed Puterbaugh, the master cheesemaker and jack-of-all-trades at Boone Creek Creamery (2416 Palumbo Drive, Lexington; 859-402-2364; www.boonecreekcreamery.com), is a regular at the Saturday farmers market on West Main Street in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. But if you miss him on the weekend, you can stop by his tidy headquarters in an industrial complex just off Route 4 south of town during the week to make your purchases. Puterbaugh will be glad to give you a quick tour of the cheesemaking operation and the “cave” where he ages between 1,500 and 2,000 cheeses at a time for anywhere from three to six months—sometimes longer.
Puterbaugh only began making cheese six years ago and admits to “getting carried away.” He makes 39 varieties by hand following traditional European techniques. And he uses only antibiotic- and hormone-free milk from grass-fed cows at five local farms. With a background in clinical microbiology, Puterbaugh believes that attention to detail and extra effort make better cheese.
His European-style cheeses include Gruyere, the most popular with area restaurants; Wensleydale, a traditional English cheddar; Caerphilly, a Welch farmhouse cheese; and Scandinavian Bread Cheese, which Puterbaugh says makes a great appetizer if you put small pieces on crackers and then quickly heat in a microwave. “It’s a fun cheese,” he says.
He also likes to experiment with flavored cheeses such as Abbey Road, a mix of English Cheddar and sun-dried tomatoes, or Ginger Rhapsody, a Blue cheese with a kick of ginger. He also smokes both Gruyere and Gouda with mesquite for a subtle, smoky flavor.
One of his most felicitous flavorings hits closer to home. For his exclusive Kentucky Derby, Puterbaugh makes a traditional English Derby-style cheese, known for its creamy taste and smooth texture when melted. After aging, the cheese is marinated for about two weeks in a bourbon brine. The slightly sweet cheese with an oaky finish is delicious melted on a hamburger.