You can’t learn the art of cheesemaking from a book,” says Mother Noella Marcellino, a microbiologist and master cheesemaker at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. You need hands-on experience, and Mother Noella has plenty of it. Her training began in the late 1970s during a visit by an artisanal cheesemaker from France’s Auvergne region, and continued throughout a three-year stay in France.
With Mother Noella’s expert guidance, the “cheese nuns” of Regina Laudis have been making artisanal cheeses for more than 20 years (well before it became all the rage), inspired by a desire to save an ancient craft. Among their seven kinds of cheeses is a creamy St. Nectaire-type semihard cheese, which has a rich, nutty flavor and is so popular they can barely keep it on the shelves at the abbey’s tiny shop. But making it is not easy, Mother Noella is quick to point out. It’s a handson, labor-intensive process.
Cheesemaking is part of the abbey’s commitment to agricultural sustainability, breed conservation, and selfsufficiency. While most products of the 400-acre land are for the abbey community only, the cheese is available to the public in very limited amounts.
For more information about the Abbey of Regina Laudis, visit Abbeyofreginalaudis.com. The cheeses are not available by mail-order but can be purchased in person at the abbey’s shop. Call 203-266-7767 in advance to check availability.