ABOUT PLOUGHGATE CREAMERY
HI THERE, WELCOME!
Ploughgate Creamery has been crafting small-batch, cultured butter of the finest quality in Vermont since 2014.
“Ploughgate Creamery pairs European tradition with fresh local cream to make small-batch, artisanal, cultured butter.”
FIRST, CULTURED BUTTER: WHAT IS IT?
IN SHORT, IT'S BUTTER MADE IN THE EUROPEAN STYLE BY ADDING LIVE ACTIVE CULTURES TO CREAM BEFORE CHURNING, SIMILAR TO CHEESE OR YOGURT.
Cultured butter is tangier and richer than your everyday stick butter, with a taste reminiscent of cheese. That’s because cultured butter and cheese share a critical first step – the addition of beneficial live bacteria (the ‘culture’ in cultured butter).
To begin the butter-making process, we add active cultures to the cream and lets it sit for 24 hours. This imparts complexity to the aroma, flavor, and texture of the finished product. After twenty four hours it’s time to churn. Gratefully the days of hand churning are long gone, and our small batch churn does the work of separating the yellow butterfat from the frothy buttermilk. A drain on the underbelly of the churn releases the buttermilk into a five-gallon bucket. Finally we fold in coarse sea salt by hand before wrapping the butter into tidy half and one-pound packages. The end result is nutty, grassy, and sweet – simply divine.
“The flavor from the sweet cream shines through, creating an elegant and balanced butter.”
We are excited to announce that beginning in 2022, we have partnered with Maplebrook Farm in North Bennington. As Ploughgate has grown over the years, we have now reached a point where there is more demand for butter than can be produced at Bragg Hill creamery. Maplebrook has the expertise and type of facility in North Bennington, that will allow Ploughgate to expand production while keeping the product true to its high quality and artisan roots.
Both Ploughgate and Maplebrook were founded with women at the helm, who have committed their businesses to making high quality products by hand, staying rooted in the heritage of Vermont's agricultural landscape, and delivering products that tell a story about the aritsan traditions from which they came.
After 15 years of running Ploughgate alone, the partnership allows our work to expand more than ever. I have know one of Maplebrook's founders, Mike Scheps, since I was a kid and frequented his father's Italian grocery store in Manchester, VT. Partnering with a company I know and trust, means that Ploughgate will continue to stay true to the foundation upon which it was built. Moving forward, I will continue to be on the ground at Maplebrook every week making butter. This change will also allow more time dedicated to new product creation, research, and development at the Bragg Hill creamery. As an artisan this is what I truly love to do. Thank you for your continued support, Marisa
A YOUNG LADY MEETS AN OLD FARM AND A DELECTABLE BUTTER IS BORN.
Marisa got her first taste of dairy life at age 15. As a farmhand at Woodcock Farm in Weston, Vermont – a stone’s throw from her hometown of Dorset - she was introduced to artisan cheesemaking. In it she discovered a passion that would set her on a decade-long course working with some of the most renowned cheesemakers in the country including Yerba Santa & Bodega Goat Cheese, Shelburne Farms, and Bonneview Dairy. At age 23, Marisa put those years of study to work. She founded Ploughgate Creamery in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and began making her own cheese, including a buttery washed-rind cow’s milk named Willoughby.
“Ploughgate Creamery made small batches of cheese, between 25- and 45-gallon batches, or about 45 pounds of cheese, three or four times a week.”
For three years Ploughgate’s cheeses earned her accolades and fans until a fire destroyed the cheesemaking facility in 2011, ceasing Ploughgate Creamery’s production. Marisa was 26 years old. Following the loss, she took a break from the dairy industry and didn’t have plans to return.
While working as a waitress in Waterbury, Vermont, a friend notified her that the Vermont Land Trust had purchased a historic property in Fayston. They would resell it for its agricultural value to the entrepreneur with the best plan. Marisa visited the property and was immediately inspired to apply. Resurrecting her cheese operation would have been the obvious choice, but she was ready for a new challenge.
“I had been making cheese since I was 15 and when I began to do research I found that little had been written on butter-making in a very long time. There also didn’t appear to be much equipment for small to medium size producers left in the U.S.”— Marisa
While artisan cheese production in New England was thriving, butter was being neglected. Marisa drafted a 30-page business plan and entered a pool of thirteen candidates vying to take ownership of Bragg Farm. Like cream from milk, Marisa rose to the top and was awarded that opportunity in December 2013.
Azro and Anna Bragg were the first in a long line of Braggs to own the Fayston property (and bestowers of the farm’s namesake). It turns out Azro and Anna also made butter, and lots of it. Carefully preserved letters from Bragg family members tell of butter that was hand-churned from the milk of forty cows and transported to Boston by way of wagon and train. It’s fitting symmetry that a century later Marisa’s butter travels the same route.
“Azro’s and Anna’s son Frank raised the property’s iconic bank-style barn in 1909. All the lumber for the project was milled from the surrounding forests during the winter of 1908.”
On June 12, 1909 a small army of locals participated in framing the structure. Since then it has seen intermittent periods of activity and idle. Until Marisa, Bragg Farm had not been used as a dairy enterprise since the early 1970s. Without the Vermont Land Trust’s conservation efforts changing that trajectory it likely would have remained that way.
Resurrecting the farm from a forty-year hiatus delivered the challenge Marisa sought. Her first year was spent on construction projects, equipment sourcing, and recipe testing. Each presented its own roadblocks. As her initial research foretold, little equipment matching the scale of her vision was available. Undeterred, Marisa patched together a solution. She purchased a churn from Wisconsin and a separator from Ukraine.
AFTER RENOVATIONS TO THE 100-YEAR OLD PROPERTY WERE COMPLETE, PLOUGHGATE CREAMERY COMMENCED BUTTER MAKING IN 2014.
Words by Emily Nichols
Much of this story was Originally published in t.e.l.l. new england.
Photographs by Lily Landes,Emily Nichols, Zeke Nebauer,Joel Caldwell & Ali Kaukas
BEGIN A BUTTER RITUAL.
DOES ANY JOY PARALLEL WARM BREAD SLATHERED WITH MELTY BUTTER?
We've researched it thoroughly and the answer is no. But if you haven't yet been indoctrinated into the world of cultured butter take note, butter's even better than you think.
HEAD HERE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF LOCATIONS WHERE PLOUGHGATE BUTTER IS SOLD.
Thank you to all of the friends and family who have supported
Ploughgate Creamery. The continued support of all of you have made this project possible and a burden of love. I have always wanted to make butter, just for the fact that I love it. -Founder, Marisa Mauro