The dark time of year, dark mornings, night comes so early. When we have sun it seems very special, and with a thick enough coat and hat is a magical time, precious brightness, low light highlighting every bare twig and blade of grass. The earth feels like it is ruminating, digesting last year, brewing next year. The undergrowth disappears, leaving everyone’s tracks clearer. Tom & I were in the garden one late afternoon, and about 20 wild boar solemnly trooped by on the other side of the stream, a couple of sows, a few gilts, but mainly this year’s piglets. Boar, like the farmed pigs they are so closely related to, have large families. Tasty, but scary when you get too close. When we said we wanted more room for wildlife on farms, I’m not sure we meant this: be careful what you wish for, you will get it.
In my cheesemaking experience, I have been able to use both a home made starter, commercial bulk starters and commercial DVI. What are these I hear you ask? On this post I will go back a step and define the differences and what a starter culture is.
A starter is a collection of bacteria that begin a fermentation process. In this case they are lactic acid producing bacteria or lactobacillus. There are many ways of making a starter culture as you are harvesting and using bacteria that are naturally present in raw milk anyway.
Today's competition and record entry of 2,785 cheeses for the 2012 World Cheese Awards was first whittled down to 55 cheeses that qualified for the prestigious award of Super Gold. Among them were (hurrah!) three cheeses from American cheesemakers: Baetje Farms, Jasper Hill and Rogue Creamery, with the latter two (with Harbison and Rogue River Blue) making it through to the final round of judging of only sixteen cheeses.
Rogue Creamery also went on to win Best American Cheese, with David Gremmels present to receive the award (see picture).
This past Thanksgiving, I rediscovered the yummy potential of rutabaga when my sister, Jackie, and her pal, Fraya (a former chef) made an ultra tasty casserole of rutabaga, sweet potato, and caramelized onion, plus a little Comte for good measure. When I posted my praise for the dish on Facebook, lots of you wanted to know the recipe. So I went back to my sis and asked about it. She said it was completely improvised by her and Fraya. There's no formal recipe, but if you're a comfortable cook, you can follow her lead in this note she sent back to me:
The World Cheese Awards are happening RIGHT NOW in Birmingham, UK, and our own Kate Arding is reporting straight from the judges floor! While we anxiously await more first-hand accounts, get the award results live on your phone with this app. The results will be posted tomorrow, November 28th, so install the app ASAP if you want to stay on top of the World Cheese Awards!
To install the app, follow these simple instructions:
1. Type the following into the web browser on your smartphone, not on your computer: www.worldcheeseawards.com
2. Save the app to your home screen on your device
3. Press Add to Home Screen
4. Give the app a name of your choice (e.g. World Cheese Awards)
Recently, beer blogger Winton White, a.k.a. Beerichi Tuba, and I decided to get a little experimental with beer and cheese pairing. Cypress Grove Chèvre, whose famed Humboldt Fog is celebrating 20 years, kindly supplied us with some amazing cheeses, and City Beer Store in San Francisco offered to host the tasting. We were joined by my longtime photography buddy, Gavin Farrington, and got to work. Beer and cheese at noon, that’s not so bad, is it? Here’s what we found:
The Cheese: This ultra-mellow sheep milk gouda is made in Holland especially for Cypress Grove. It is slightly buttery, with some light pear or apple notes, with a smooth, long finish.
Last summer, immediately after attending the Science of Artisan Cheese conference, I had the chance to visit Will and Caroline Atkinson at Hill Farm Dairy, located in Somerset in the south west of England.
Neither Caroline or Will came from farming backgrounds. The concept for a goat dairy and cheesemaking facility developed as a result of Caroline's passion for cheese, ignited after working at Neal's Yard Dairy in London. Both were keen to move to the countryside and, in 2007, after an 18 month period where Caroline apprenticed with Mary Holbrook at the nearby and highly regarded Sleight Farm, while Will continued his job as a lawyer in Bristol, the couple decided to quit their respective jobs and move to the heart of Somerset with a view to making cheese from the milk of their own goats.
Last summer, along with Paola, my cheese friend, we paid a visit to Maplebrook Farm in Vermont, makers of Italian style cheeses such as Mozzarella and Burrata.
Although I've seen Mozzarella made several times, I'd never seen the burrata process before - or how they get the creamy bits into the middle.
By way of some background, Maplebrook Farm was founded in 2003 after a chance encounter when Founder, Johann Englert, came across Al Ducci's Groceria in Manchester, Vermont during a visit and when she tasted their mozzarella, it transported her back to her time in Italy during college.