A couple years ago while attending an ACS conference, I sat in on a tasting of a cheese called wildheuer. This cheese from Switzerland was from the milk of cows that were fed wild mountain hay of the Swiss alps. More interesting is the story of the men who cut the wild grass and transport it from the top of the steepest mountains to the base, store it for the cold winters, and feed the animals with it. Wildheuer (or wild haymakers) are now a dying breed but there are still those who carry out the old methods and traditions. Below is a short video (in Swiss with no subtitles, I'm afraid) depicting the life of a young wildheuer, his family and the breathtaking land and work.
Shortly after the kids are born down the road, I venture to another part of my region where I begin my yearly foraging ritual. Ramps are among the teasers of a lush season. They the first wild and foraged ingredient I used when I started cooking and studying food at a professional level. The culinary application on ramps has taken off in the last few years and now ramps are perhaps the hippest of alliums that chefs and other food enthusiasts tinker with. During the months of April through June, every restaurant around spotlights ramps and makes them the star of each dish they are on. Some of the interesting ramp applications I saw last season were ramp spaetzle, pickled ramp (faux) caviar, ramp vichyssoise and ramp kimchee. I know I will be impressed at a handful more this year. For me, I like them done simple- grilled, sautéed or puréed.
Following up from my last post, I rolled out of bed this morning at the crack of dawn and pushed myself out the door with my camera to snap pictures of cute baby goats just born at Rawson Brook Farm in Monterey, Massachusetts. The farm milks 26 goats twice a day (5am and 5pm). While the mothers are being milked, the kids are playing in their pen and are jumping and climbing all over each other. The kids are so curious and sometimes escape from their pens. The new comers are in the process of being named by the crew and family at Rawson Brook. The names are all derivative of their mothers. Susan (the owner of the farm) came up with themes or ‘lines’ of names a while back and has been keeping to it since and even developing more when they run out of names.
I was pondering about what to write about in my blog this week and I was just stumped. I’ve written (and bragged) enough about my role at Culture.. I’ve posted snazzy cheese inspired dinners and movies.. I’ve even stooped to ragging on other Culture bloggers. I turned my lovely girlfriend for suggestions, “Well, spring is just around the corner..why don’t you write about something that you think of with warm weather?”
So I was scrolling through the Culture blog roll and came across a post by Eilis that I must have 'hopped' over: http://www.culturecheesemag.com/blog/eilis_restaurant_week
'Welsh Rarebit' or 'Welsh Rabbit' happens to be scrumptious, if done right. A beer, cheese, mustard and spice 'mess' melted on top of bread and broiled to impart a crispy caramelized crust. We came up with an idea for a panini at rubi's cafe (where I am the manager/monger/chef) and it was an instant hit and is currently a standing menu item. It took a little bit of tweaking to get the flavor down. A British gentleman protested, "It has to have more mustard! It has to burn your nostrils when you eat it! And you must only use Coleman's!" I didn't get that carried away with the mustard but I dusted some more Coleman's in.
This week's post from yours is a cheesy variety, if you will, of cheese quotes, quips, and trivia.
Comment on your favorites or add to the collection bellow!
“Cheese has always been a food that both sophisticated and simple humans love.”
-M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf
"Wine and cheese are ageless companions, like aspirin and aches, or June and moon, or good people and noble ventures".
-M. F. K. Fisher
"A dinner which ends without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye."
“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
“Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese.”
“Never commit yourself to a cheese without having first examined it.”
Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?"
- Job, speaking to God
Well I guess you can say I was lost in the woods for awhile and the summer ‘heat’ got the best of me. Now that things have cooled off a bit, I’m back in action and getting all kinds of ideas for blogs.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year- the cool crisp air, being able to wear cozy sweaters and slippers, and enjoying fall’s seasonal food such as squash and apples.
We order apples by the bushel at the cheese shop I work at and they (as some may know) compliment cheese beautifully. The many different varietals are overwhelming. You got your McIntosh, Gala, Empire, and Honey Crisp, and lesser known varietals such as Roxbury Russets, Cox Orange Pippin, Mutsu or Northern Spy. Each of them have varying flavor and texture profiles.
On this week’s installment of the Foraging Fairy (uhhh..) I’m running with my pasta making video debut and adding wild nettles for a robust, textural and, of course, healthy green pasta dish that can be accompanied with cheese and various other garden/ foraged treats.
Stinging nettles grow in the wild starting in early spring into the summer. (When you cook them the skin-irritating stingers dissipate so there’s no need to worry of indigestion). Although nettles aren’t as flavorful as ramps or asparagus they offer a lovely green color and texture similar to baby spinach or chard.
After the Ramp leaves wilt and stalks get ‘woody’, I look for another green vegetable to thrive on, to enjoy at its prime for the brief yet fulfilling amount of time. I turn my attention to another spring perennial: Asparagus.
After years of eating less that satisfactory asparagus from the supermarket (most likely from another country) I was turned on to a source of asparagus that I hadn’t heard about, even though it was literally an hour away from where I had grown up. Hadley, Massachusetts was and still is famed for its coarse and sandy silt loam soil that asparagus thrives in. ‘Hadley silt loam’ is among the highest grades of soil for that reason. ‘Hadley Grass’ is the talk of the town and even the state around the months of May and June.
Asparagus, naturally, contributes to health with detox properties, aids against arthritis and osteoporosis, lowers heart disease risk, and has age reducing agents.
As much as my appetite and senses are currently tuned to cheese and other fermented/cured products of the cheese shop, this time of year (spring/summer) my diet is relieved to squeeze in a few green things. Eating locally is rewarding yet not always affordable. Since I have never claimed or intend on becoming a hunter or farmer (though I’ll carry the upmost respect) foraging is a small means of sustaining myself. Plus, it’s down-right-fun to find ‘needle-in-a-haystack’ spots, keeping them secret to let my ‘forager’ ego grow.
Ramps tend to be the first sign of the unveiling foraging season. They are bountiful enough that no secrets need to be kept except perhaps the recipes that they are deemed for. There are grilled ramps, sautéed ramps, pickled ramps, ramp soup, ramp pesto, and an infinite imagination of applications and techniques.