Taste: Milking It

What does a trucking company owner do when he tires of the 18-wheelers? Makes cheese, of course

Trent Hendricks should not be a fromager. He’s never been on French soil, he’s a staunch Republican, and he’s never had any culinary training. But at this year’s U.S. Cheese Championship in Wisconsin, he proved himself when his Cabriejo, a hard goat’s-milk cheese similar to a young parmigiano reggiano, won first place in its class.

Five years ago, Hendricks was over the trucking business. Wanting a simpler life,  and believing in the nutritive value of unpasteurized milk, he bought some cows and goats and started milking. Soon he was selling 2,500 gallons of raw cow milk, which tastes just like whole milk, monthly at $4.50 a piece — to customers coming from as far away as New York and West Virginia to his farm just north of Lansdale. (Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the region where unpasteurized milk sales are legal.) The raw-milk devotees, some of whom believe the enzymes and bacteria in the milk can cure almost anything, provided enough cash flow for Hendricks to sell his trucks.

But milk wasn’t enough to satisfy him. “Trucking and farming — these are not revered occupations,” notes Hendricks, 32,  manure clogging the treads of his work boots. “I wanted to give my wife and family something more. So I read every book I could find and started making cheese.”

Today, Hendricks is producing 30 cheeses, with varying degrees of success. “The Cabriejo was actually a mistake. Impatient, I tasted it after two months of aging and really hated the stuff, so I just forgot about it. Six months later, I cut into some old wheels, and it blew me away.”

Hendricks will add more cheeses to his lineup of 30, which includes tasty but lamely named options like Cowvarti and the Roquefort-inspired Tiklemebleu, once he finishes work on a 50-acre facility down the road this summer. But if you want some milk or cheese, you’ll have to visit his farm, because the retail push has been sluggish. Says Hendricks, “I called Di Bruno’s a while back, and they said, ‘Not interested.’ It’s like Pennsylvania wine. Who would think that a guy in Pennsylvania could make good cheese?”

Hendricks Farms and Dairy, 690 Godshall Road, Telford; 267-718-0219