American Cheese Society Best of Show 1995: Capriole Wabash Cannonball

Capriole Wabash Cannonball, Greenville, Indiana - Best of Show 1 While trend pieces today seem to tell endless stories of young couples eschewing urban centers to make their own way on a sustainable farm, that was far from the norm in 1976 when Judy Shad, her husband Larry, and their three children made the move. The family purchased 80 acres in Southern Indiana and never looked back.

It was in the kitchen at their new home that Judy began to experiment with cheesemaking, with milk from their first dairy animal: a goat named Banda. After much trial and error (such as you’ll find in any good cheese story), Judy started to get the hang of it. Eventually, she was confident enough in Capriole cheeses that a marketable brand was born.

It wasn’t until Judy consulted with her friend and fellow cheesemaker Chantal Plasse, of La Ferme that the Capriole operation made the leap into the world of surface ripened and aged goat cheeses. It was this experimentation that led to the development of Capriole Wabash Cannonball, which took home top prize at ACS in 1995.

Taking its name from the classic American folk song, a favorite of the Indiana State University Marching Band, Wabash Cannonball is a soft, surface ripened goat cheese that bears many similarities to classic French chèvre. The ripening is encouraged by a thorough dusting of vegetable ash, which begins to peek through the rind as the cheese ages on the shelf. When the cheese is young, however, the rind is thin, fragile, and wrinkled. Around three to five weeks, Wabash Cannonball becomes drier and more crumbly, but the cheese can be thoroughly enjoyed at any stage of its development.

Capriole Wabash Cannonball, Greenville, Indiana - Best of Show 1The texture of this goat cheese is quite light, due largely to the hand ladling that has always been the Capriole way. Unsurprisingly, Judy maintains a careful watch on every part of the operation. Up until 2012, when the herd simply out grew the Capriole farm, they even continued to raise each and every goat that provided milk for the cheese. Today, the goats are raised at a local dairy farm, but Capriole still “maintains the milk profile that defines this cheese” and knows exactly where there milk is coming from.

Outsourcing the goat raising has given Judy and the Capriole team more time to focus on their cheesemaking. Winning the Best of Show honor, according to Judy, was “truly a complete surprise.” She goes on to explain that in 1995, Wabash Cannonball was “a three ounce cheese competing with some of the best aged cheeses in the country and in size alone, and in freshness, it was quite different.” Still, Capriole took home the prize that year and considering the continued popularity of this delicious goat cheese, it should have come as no surprise at all.

Capriole Wabash Cannonball is delightful on a cheese plate. Its citrusy flavor with hints of spice are complemented nicely by a tart cherry or strawberry compote. It also plays nicely with a balanced Sauvignon Blanc or a light, grassy, Belgian-style beer.
The Capriole farm continues to make Wabash Cannonball every season, just as Judy and Larry’s children and grandchildren continue to find solace from the city on the family farm.