Mark Bodzin is hoping that many of his fellow kosher foodies will say, “Cheese, please,” and support his efforts to bring high-end kosher cheddar to the market. He has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to support a 600-pound run of the stuff, and he’s more than half way to his target with less than three weeks to go.
Bodzin, who has long appreciated good food and wine, and who has kept kosher for most of his life, is trying to do his part to improve the kosher offerings out there.
“I’ve always been amazed that there is not more of a supply of high-end kosher food,” he told The Times of Israel.
According to Bodzin, who works in the kosher deli at a ShopRite supermarket in West Orange, New Jersey, the idea for the kosher cheddar came to him as he passed a fancy cheese store in Philadelphia.
“I said to myself, ‘There is no reason that a lot of this can’t be kosher.’ So, I decided to do something,” he recounted.
‘There is no reason that a lot of this can’t be kosher’
“I know food, and I know that what you need is to just work with good, basic, quality ingredients.”
After extensive research, Bodzin found Shelburne Farms, a non-profit education center for sustainability with a 1,400-acre working farm and farmstead cheese operation in Shelburne, Vermont. Shelburne Farms makes award-winning cheddar and was willing to partner with Bodzin on the kosher project.
If Bodzin can raise $16,000 for a 600-pound run, then Shelburne Farms will turn over its production facility for one day so the kosher cheese can be made. This would involved kashering the equipment and using a special microbial (vegetarian) rennet, instead of the usual rennet derived from cow intestines.
The operation would be under the supervision of the Vaad Harabonim of Massachusetts, and a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) would need to be on site for two days — during production and later when the cheese is cut in to bricks.
Bodzin is charging $30 per pound for the kosher cheddar. He acknowledges that this takes a significant bite out of most kosher consumers’ food budgets, but he is confident that there are people out there willing to pay for this unique gustatory experience.
Kosher oversight alone adds two dollars per pound
“I wish I could charge less, but half the cost is for shipping, which I don’t have much control over,” the would-be cheese maker explained. In addition, the kosher oversight alone adds two dollars to the cost per pound.
Supporters of Bodzin’s project should be prepared to wait a while before actually tasting the cheese. Depending on what Shelburne Farms’ cheese masters determine, the cheddar will need to age anywhere from six months to a year.
Bodzin will have to wait patiently just like everyone else.
“I can’t wait to try this!” exclaimed Bodzin, who has not yet tasted Shelburne Farms cheddar.