Amazing cheese made from scratch right in Sussex County

BRANCHVILLE. Jersey Girl Cheese booms as folks discover what fresh really tastes like.

| 05 Jul 2022 | 10:04

Plains Road is a very popular spot each August when the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show comes to the fairgrounds. Few may know that if you keep heading north on this unassuming byway, just after it bends to the east, you’ll reach Davis Road: the home of Hillcrest Orchard & Dairy and that of a true goldmine for cheese lovers. Toward the back of the property, behind the silos, sits Jersey Girl Cheese. There’s a storefront there where cheese can be purchased, the cheese room, where these delectable dairy delights are created and a cheese cave where certain types of cheese are appropriately aged.

About four years ago, Salvatore Pisani partnered with the farm’s owner and started making cheese, but his love of this craft has much deeper roots.

“My father came to the U.S. when he was 21 years old, bringing with him the southern Italian way of life,” he said. “Growing up, I was very influenced with the traditions of living off what you grow or make on the land you live on. He has a ‘farm-sized’ garden where vegetables and fruits were grown from spring to fall to provide delicious meals for our family. We made and jarred our own tomato sauce each September for the next year’s use. Cured meats like soppressata and capicolla were made in our basement cellar in the winter months and hung up to dry and cure. Family and friend gatherings, or Pisani parties, were always full of these products that we were making or growing.”

Pisani said that cheese began to “take a grasp” on him when his father, after every trip back from Italy, would have a suitcase half full of cheese that either his Nonna or other family members in his hometown had made.

“When I was younger, I wondered why he bothered bringing it when there was so much cheese here already at the grocery store, Pisani said. “Understanding later on the difference is what inspired me to show others the quality that could be in cheese making.”

His father, Rocco Pisani, exposed him to high quality ingredients, great food, and, ultimately, great cheese.

“I started my cheesemaking career at a water buffalo farm in Sussex County, where I gained the experience and knowledge from an Italian cheesemaker who was there working for us,” Pisani said.

During his time at the previous farm, Pisani met Jim Cuneo, owner of Hillcrest Orchard & Dairy in Branchville.

“He has a beautiful herd of Jersey cows which are known to produce a very rich milk which is ideal for making the style of cheese I wanted to make,” Pisani said. “With lots of smaller dairies in the area closing down or being abandoned, we set out together to build a small batch facility to produce the cheese with the fresh Jersey cow’s milk.”

Pisani’s goal is to bring to New Jersey a taste of southern Italian, farmstead cheese-making.

“When you can turn fresh milk that is produced only a few steps away from our facility, into cheese in one day, there is a flavor and freshness that just can’t be matched,” he said. “And that’s what southern Italy does best. I noticed that an increasing number of people were concerned about not knowing where the food they were eating is from. We really wanted to show people what can be created right on the land we were on, as my father had shown me and my family, friends, and neighbors growing up.”

Jersey Girl Cheese is a farmstead cheese brand producing fresh and aged, artisan Italian-style cheese.

“Our fresh mozzarella and ricotta are not what many people are used to tasting if compared to store bought cheese,” said Jersey Girl Cheese sales manager Christine Perez. “It’s made from scratch with great care. The cheese makers also have to be very flexible because when it’s time for a next step in the process, it isn’t up to them: it’s up to the cheese. Things get ready in their due time which fluctuates from day to day.”

Jersey Girl Cheese makes cheese five days a week, and the cows are milked twice a day. They are in six farmers’ markets around the area; and, in addition to the store front in Branchville, have another one at 179 East Main Street in Rockaway.

“Our cheese makes it around northern and central new Jersey, in addition to New York City, by attending local farmers markets, specialty retail food shops, and renowned local restaurants,” Pisani said. “We have a distributor that takes our cheese to some of the best restaurants in NYC. We have grown drastically in the four years we have been producing. We have plans to expand our facility, herd size and our strong small team at the core.”

They’ve also branched out into making bread they call Whey Better Bread.

“We’re a small group and it’s like a family working here,” said bread maker Natalie Leto.

Sue Geuther runs the store in Branchville.

“I love it here,” she said. “It’s my second home.”

As the day revolves around curds and whey, the staff flow accordingly.

“Many places say that they make cheese ‘from scratch’ when in reality, they purchase their curd from a large distributor,” Perez said. “Here, it’s the real deal. It’s from scratch.”

Enticed to give these amazing cheeses a try? Visit the farm at 2 Davis Road in Branchville or order online at You can also find them at farmers markets. Near Sussex County, they’re at the Saturday Sparta Farmers Market, the Sunday Lafayette Market, and the Sunday Warwick Valley Farmers Market (A full list of their market locations is also available on their website). For further information, text or call 973-512-8769, or email

Jersey Girl Cheese
2 Davis Road, Branchville
“When you can turn fresh milk that is produced only a few steps away from our facility, into cheese in one day, there is a flavor and freshness that just can’t be matched,” Salvatore Pisani said. “And that’s what southern Italy does best...”