Photo Gallery | Cheese tasting at Grafton Village Cheese
BRATTLEBORO — Honorary Consul of Lithuania to Vermont, Kerry Secrest, presented a "Dziugas" tasting at Grafton Village Cheese on Oct. 23.
Dziugas (pronounced "ju-gas") is a Lithuanian Cheese established in 1924 that matures for a minimum of 12 months up to 48 months. It is from pasteurized milk from cows that graze only on fresh grass and is best described as a blend of Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano and a perfectly aged Dutch Gouda. Secrest's role as honorary consul is to promote educational, cultural and economic relations between the two regions. As a cheese lover herself, she is facilitating business relationships between the areas through this dairy product.
"It has a great story and it is a great cheese and I'm really thrilled that we are now having it at Grafton Cheese, and it's all because of one person – Joe Green."
Recently Secrest had approached Green, cheesemonger at Grafton Village Cheese, and asked if he would be interested in adding Dziugas to the store in Brattleboro. After a taste and hearing the story, Grafton Village Cheese accepted.
Green and other staff members prepared pairings with Dziugas; a green olive tapenade and Vermont quince; red currant honey and fennel salami from La Quercia with a goat milk caramel and vanilla bean from Fat Toad Farm. Guests cycled in an out through the store to taste test, purchase and listen to Secrest speak on behalf of the cheese and the country.
"Grafton Village Cheese is a mission-driven cheese-making plant, so we make great cheddars, but we have room to support everybody cause we're all trying to support the rural economy," said Green. "And this is one other way to do it and share the love all around the world."
Secrest expressed the similarities between Vermont and Lithuania and further noted from an economic and political standpoint why it is especially important to support this product. Last year President of Russia, Vladmir Putin, closed down all of the food imports from Europe into Russia, and according to Secrest, at that time Dziugas sent 50 percent of its exports to Russia.
"At this point Dziugas is really looking for new markets, so they were very excited to send me cheese via DHL overnight," said Secrest. "I've also said to Grafton Cheese and others that one of my roles is to support both sides, so I am welcome to bring Grafton Cheese over to Lithuania or other Vermont producers as a gateway to Eastern European markets."
In addition to supporting Dziugas, last year Secrest brought over the Lithuanian ambassador to show him around Vermont. Secrest also welcomed a Lithuanian graphic artist to the state for a one-night reception at the Brattleboro Musuem & Art Center. Secrest said that currently most of her work involves finding people who are interested in entering a European market.
"I hope this brings awareness to those who come here to learn a little about Lithuania," said Secrest. "And food is a way we can learn to appreciate different cultures and then we'll see where it can expand and if there are ways to reciprocate and bring back to Lithuania."
Locals and friends of the Secrest family nodded their heads in satisfaction while trying the samples. Some area locals with Lithuanian roots also showed up to the tasting and expressed their appreciation for the event.
"It's good to see the trade begin to happen and it is quality cheese," said Romas, or Ron Karpius, who was born in Lithuania. "My mom used to make some type of cheese at home, which was softer and milder, but this is fantastic, you just need a real thin piece and you get the full value of the flavor." When Karpius was 4 years old, he escaped Lithuania when it was under Nazi occupation. He and his family entered Germany "just in time." He then relocated to the United States at 9 years old.
"It will be nice for people to branch out by trying this cheese and see what's out there," he said.
Guests who purchased the Dziugas cheese that evening received 10 percent off their sale in honor of the event. Cheesemongers prepared slices at each customer's desired size. To learn more about Dziugas Cheese visit http://www.dziugashouse.lt/