Change to Cheese
story by stephanie johns • photos by jesse walker
Newborn’s Johnston Family Farm, popular locally for their milk, shifts production focus to cheese; products becoming nationally known through Fogo de Chao
Morgan County residents interested in fresh Italian cheeses need look no further than Newborn. Izzy’s Local Cheeses uses milk from local Johnston Family Farm to make mozzarella, burrata, marscapone and scamorza cheeses.
Antonio Lo Russo, a third-generation cheese maker, named the company after his daughter, Isabella Nicolina Lo Russo, a student at Sutton Middle School.
David Pinchuk of Izzy’s said that their cheeses are all natural. They feed their cows the best feed, which yields a higher butterfat content with less moisture.
While most people might be familiar with mozzarella, Russell Johnston of Johnston Family Farm said their other offerings – burrata, marscapone and scamorza – are probably not as easily recognized.
“When Antonio came out, that was the first I’d heard of them,” Johnston said of the cheeses. “They’re really wonderful in their own way, each one.”
The recipes come from Lo Russo’s family.
“They’ve been building them over 500 years,” he said.
Burrata is a beggar’s purse filled with fresh cream. Lo Russo said that Izzy’s is one of the “very few” companies to make this cheese in the U.S.
Marscapone, a milder cheese, is mainly used for desserts, and scamorza, or aged mozzarella, is a sharper cheese. Lo Russo said their scamorza is a semi-soft cheese that is aged, not smoked. It gets “more dense and more flavorful” that way. He recommended using scamorza in place of mozzarella in lasagna or on sandwiches.
Johnston said they bottled their last milk on Aug. 21. Milks produced included whole, low fat, skim, chocolate and buttermilk. They also produced cream and half-and-half.
Lo Russo approached Johnston some time ago about making cheese.
“I was happy where we were at but I was willing to work with him and see what happened,” Johnston said.
Johnston Family Farm still sells raw milk but their focus now is cheese. And shifting that focus was no small feat.
“We had to bring some equipment in and take some out,” he said, noting that they got rid of their bottle filler and cream separator and added a cheese vat and a mozzarella puller. “It was a pretty big switch ... it was huge.”
Johnston added that he doesn’t regret the switch as it has freed up a lot of his time.
“Antonio is a wonderful cheese maker,” he said. “I’ve concentrated on the dairy end so I’m back to doing what I really enjoy doing.”
He said they have been making small batches of cheese for the past year and a half to two years, working to perfect the recipe.
Lo Russo brought in his friend, Pinchuk, who has “years and years of experience in the food industry.”
Once the partners got the recipe for their artisan cheeses “just right” they started shopping it around and in the last six to eight months have built a demand for their cheeses.
Fogo de Chao, a high-end Brazilian steak house, took their cheeses national in its restaurants.
“Response has been great,” Lo Russo said.
Johnston said people are welcome to visit Johnston Family Farm during normal business hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Their cheeses as well as raw milk will be for sale.
Printed in the November 22, 2012 edition