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Vermont hospitals say, local cheese, please Jamie Baribeau/Brattleboro Memorial Hospital

Vermont hospitals say, local cheese, please

A new collaboration between Vermont hospitals and cheesemakers leads to discovery of amazing, affordable local specialty cheeses for both patient and retail menus. Plus, a recipe for Vermont cheddar and blue mac ‘n cheese with broccoli.

Jamie Baribeau is really excited about this cheese project. As the director of food and nutrition for Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for nearly 28 years, the veteran food industry pro and part-time caterer has seen some great food initiatives over the years, but talking to him, you get the sense that the collaboration between the Vermont Healthcare Nutrition Network and the Jasper Hill Cheese Co. is really special.

“It’s very exciting because we’re incorporating the country’s best cheese into patient and retail menus in Vermont hospitals,” Baribeau says. And part of his excitement could be the fact that he’s from Vermont.

“Great cheese is synonymous with Vermont, and we Vermonters love our cheese,” he admits.

Jamie Baribeau/Brattleboro Memorial Hospital

Local cheesemaker Jasper Hill Farm, whose specialty cow’s milk cheeses are celebrated across the country (especially Bayley Hazen Blue and Cabot Clothbound), have begun to introduce some of its cheeses into healthcare food and nutrition.

Earlier this year, Baribeau met with Leigh Harding, national accounts manager with Jasper Hill to talk about a possible collaboration that would allow patients and retail customers “a chance to taste this amazing cheese” by purchasing culinary grade cheeses, Baribeau recounts.

With the help of Food Connects, a southern Vermont food distribution hub, a variety of cheeses from Jasper Hill were made available—at an affordable price—to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

“Each week we have an opportunity to buy cheeses from Jasper Hill, and with this brings a new cheese to sample and use,” Baribeau says.

So far, the hospital’s culinary team has featured many cheeses from Jasper Hill, including Bayley Hazen Blue (a whole, raw milk cheese with a fudgy texture and well-distributed blue veins named for an old military road from George Washington’s time); Moses Sleeper (a Brie-style cheese with a thin, bloomy rind and a gooey core with flavors of toasted nuts and a mushroom aroma) and Cloth Bound Cave Aged Cabot Cheddar (Cabot Creamery, a Vermont icon, brings its cheese to Jasper Hill’s cellars to age in a special cellar vault, resulting in a deeply savory natural-rind cheddar with a caramel sweetness to finish).

The variety of bold cheeses delivers a significant flavor punch of creamy, delicious melty goodness to menus for both patients, customers and hospital staff.

“These cheeses have been served on salad platters, pizza, local grass-fed burgers, Vermont cheddar and blue cheese mac ‘n cheese with broccoli (get the recipe here) and a smoked local turkey and Moses Sleeper panini with rhubarb preserves,” Baribeau says.

In addition, “a small amount can go a long way,” Baribeau says, describing dishes made extraordinary with not a ton of cheese added. “What’s nice about using these big-flavored cheeses is that they can be used to enhance the flavor of your dish.”

And as a current member of chair of the Vermont Healthcare Nutrition Network, Baribeau is bringing other Vermont hospitals along for the ride, recently bringing a few hospital nutrition directors and leaders on a tour of Jasper Hill’s cheese vault caves and the whole operation.

“They’re truly stewards of the land, their cows, the soil and hay,” Baribeau says of the farm. “it shows in their team of employees, their leadership in food safety and training, and most importantly, their cheeses.”

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