There’s not much to see in Cabot—just a collection of modest white clapboard houses arranged around a general store, library, and a couple of gas pumps. If it wasn’t for the presence of Vermont’s most famous cheesemaker, this is the kind of town you might drive right through without giving a second glance. But the fact that Cabot is home to Cabot Creamery makes it an instant stop on the tourist itinerary. Once a center of the granite industry, the larger Hardwick is the center of population in these parts, with a small downtown area of shops and restaurants set near the shores of a long blue lake.
To quote Monty Python, “Blessed are the Cheesemakers.” Vermont might be a different place today had it not been for the industry spawned by some ambitious dairy farmers a century or so ago. From a simple farmer’s cooperative started in a farmhouse 100 years ago,Cabot Cheese has grown to become Vermont’s best-known (if not best) producer of cheddar cheese. Though the company now makes 15 million pounds of cheese annually, it is still run as a farmers cooperative (with now more than 2,000 farm families) and still operates on the same land where it began.
Enormous white silos loom over the factory campus of Cabot Creamery (2878 Main St./Rte. 15, Cabot Village, 800/837-4261, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily June–Oct.; 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat. Nov.–Dec. and Feb.–May; 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat. Jan., $2 adults and youth 12 and older, children under 12 free). Arrive early for a tour, given every halfhour down the Cheddar Hall, to see the cheesemaking process. Giant steel machines looking like something out of War of the Worlds have taken the place of hand churning, but in some ways, the cheese is still made the old-fashioned way, without the introduction of enzymes to speed the process. Along the way, tour guides present the opportunity to try different types of cheddar. Lately, the company has been experimenting with all kinds of additions to the cheese, including horseradish, jalapenos, and chipotle peppers. For our money, the three-year Private Reserve is still the best bet. A gift shop sells waxwrapped blocks at a steep discount, along with other made-in-Vermont foodstuffs and gifts.
Goodrich’s Maple Farm
Nestled among the hills, Goodrich’s Maple Farm (2427 Rte. 2, Cabot, 800/639-1854, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) is one of Vermont’s largest maple syrup producers. Proprietors Glenn and Ruth Goodrich are always happy to take time out of evaporating sap to explain the syrup-making process. But they really shine during the farm’s semiannual maple seminars, where they explain how to install and repair the plastic tubes for the sap, as well as how to boil it down efficiently. For $20 a person, the Goodriches teach custom seminars on topics such as cooking with maple.
The Northeast Kingdom’s annual Fall Foliage Festival (802/748-3678, early Oct.) is a sort of “progressive dinner” of barbecues, bazaars, and kids’ games that starts in Walden (near Cabot) and then moves through different area towns before ending with a fair in St. Johnsbury a week later.
Information and Services
For the 411 on the area, contact the Hardwick Area Chamber of Commerce (802/472-6120).