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December 22, 2010 at 8:23 PM

Sad day for Sally Jackson: cheesemaker to call it quits

First came the bad news for Estrella Family Creamery — the Montesano cheesemakers were shut down by the FDA in October, and continue to fight for their farm and their right to sell their prized cheeses. Now comes word that Sally Jackson, the Oroville cheesemaker whose name has been associated with some of Washington’s finest milk product for 30 years, will shut down her business. That sad news (read it here) comes in the wake of the FDA’s confirmation that Jackson’s cheese, made from unpasteurized, raw milk, had sickened eight people in four states.

As reported in the Seattle Times last week, Jackson had agreed to a voluntary recall of her cheeses. But today, the Associated Press said she plans to shutter her business after state officials ordered an upgrade to her aging cheesemaking facility — a cost that would be prohibitive given a taxable income of $12,000 per year. “My argument then was that I have never made anybody sick in 30 years,” Jackson said. “That’s what breaks my heart now, that this is how it ended.”

Chef Bruce Naftaly took the news hard when he learned of it — and of the earlier recall — this evening. “Her name’s been on the menu from Day One,” said Naftaly, whose Ballard restaurant Le Gourmand opened in 1985. He’s been crediting his purveyors on his menu since long before it became fashionable to do so, and recalls the days when Sally and her husband Roger would send postcards, letting their customers know when to expect their monthly deliveries. “They didn’t even have a phone,” he explains, adding that he’s been buying their cheese since the ’70s.” But they did have a brown Swiss cow named Brenda.

“I used Brenda’s milk for making butter,” he remembers, taking delivery from the couple, who’d “show up in an old Volvo 122 S station wagon they’d converted into a temperature-controlled cheese-mobile.” It was like something you’d see traveling around France, he said. “You’d have your cheese personally milked, made and delivered. It was really delightful.”

Tonight he’s distressed to have learned that after 25 years of sharing Sally Jackson cheeses with his customers he’s losing a purveyor he’s long known and greatly admired. “They’re fantastic people,” said Naftaly. “This is terrible, damn it.”

Comments | More in Food news | Topics: Cheese, please

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