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.
Some farmers are happy with a small farm, and some farmers want a bigger farm to be happy, but all the farmers will have much milk, great cows and pleasure in their work on the farm. We have one of the biggest farms in the Beemster cooperative, about 130 cows. The calves are born year round on the farm. They are going away from their mother to a hutch (with straw and a heat lamp) because we don’t want any viruses from the cow to spread to the calves. After a week the bulls are going to a trader, he takes them to the market. The females stay on the farm and are going in a group together.
“Regardless of any budget I may have put myself on in the past, there are three things I can always rationalize spending money on: good coffee, good alcohol and good cheese.” I wrote that a few years ago, when I was a poor college student, and it still rings true today, now that I’m a poorer college graduate. I received my B.F.A. in Creative Writing with a minor in Gender Studies from University of Maine at Farmington last May. I’ve spent my time between then and now living in Phillips, Maine, a tiny, rural town of 1,000 nestled in the mountains. I also got married and worked in the kitchen of a seasonal Maine inn.
I am very excited to introduce myself in my first column. I´m Denise Spaander, a girl 18 years old living in North Holland on a farm with my parents, brother and two little sisters.
It´s a nice, quiet place, it can be a dream for all the farmers.
I like to be on the farm, looking for work that I can do to help my family.
When I come from school, I like to do some chores that keep me busy for a while before completing my homework. I am doing my second year on the secondary vocational education, learning to be a teacher, it´s a course of three years. After this course I want to do an agricultural school.
I would like to learn more about the cows, the things to be a farmer and maybe technologie.
My heart is by the farm and working with the animals. The animals will give you peace and joy, they give you something back.
My hobbies are going out, drinking a beer with friends and active things like cycling, walking, shopping and running.
Last week a dramatic development occurred in the creamery, the final wall coating was applied. The doors and windows were taped up, and for three days layers of fiberglass and polyurethane were sprayed onto the walls by a company called Ironclad. With the door jams in place and the new glossy white walls the creamery looks cleaner and brighter. During the application of the walls our crew began work on projects outside the creamery, like putting up the walk-in refrigerator and welding frames for cheese aging racks.
Our beautiful farm is stepping into its most beautiful garb - light, lacy, luminescent leaves, newly unfurled on the trees. Spring blossom makes dark branches a graceful backdrop. You can see why the Japanese hold cherry blossom festival, and party as the petals drop on their picnics. The hedgerows explode with Queen Anne’s Lace, cow parsley, white umbrella flowers on long stalks that suddenly make the lanes very narrow. After it rains the heavy flowerheads lean in and brush your car, leaving petals on the side. The birds get busy nest building and egg laying: not the peregrine falcon that the pair of goshawks nesting over the hill devoured. The peregrine was being trained, but escaped from the next village, but got no further than here.
April is National Grilled Cheese Month, and in honor of the great grillie, culture is teaming up with Boska, and asking you to show us your sammich!
Everyone has one perfect way to make a grilled cheese... and we want to see it! Send us a picture of yourself brandishing your favorite grilly and you could win fabulous Dutch-design cheese tools from Boska Holland.
Is it a simple white-bread & American-slice traditional? Is it made with Grandma's secret-recipe home-baked bread? Tomatoes, bacon or Worcestershire sauce? Dipped in soup or eaten straight up?
Paola, with whom I correspond regularly and who is a self-confessed ricotta fanatic as well as an avid Culture supporter, recently sent me this lovely sounding recipe for a Sweet Baked Ricotta Flavored with Lemon.
According to Paola, there are two versions. One (per the recipe below) is sweet and similar to a cheesecake but without the pastry crust. This is best eaten cold.
Another version is for savory use and eaten with fresh vegetables or ratatouille. With the savory version, omit the sugar and substitute salt to taste - NOT 3.5 oz! - and, if you wish, add some herbs or spices, again to taste. This version is best served at room temperature.
SWEET BAKED RICOTTA RECIPE WITH LEMON
(This recipe uses eggs, which give a more compact consistency. For a lighter version, omit the eggs.)
1 pound ricotta, broken up with a fork
100 g of granulated sugar (3.5 oz) or to personal taste
Last weekend, I had the chance to volunteer at the California Artisan Cheese Guild booth at the California Artisan Cheese Festival’s Sunday Marketplace! This was actually my first. I had only been to the Oregon Artisan Cheese Festival before that. Cheese events had been going on throughout the week, such as facility visits and seminars, but I could only pull myself away from work on Sunday. My shift began bright and early that morning. It had been pouring rain for the past few days, and fellow festivalgoers were wary about the weather. The marketplace was, after all, taking place under a massive tent on the Petaluma Sheraton’s parking lot. Luckily, the sky cleared up just in time.
My love of cheese began with my childhood in Vermont. Later it was fueled by the discovery of squeaky cheese curds while I was at Beloit College in Wisconsin — who knew orange, fried cheese morsels could be so delicious? And most recently my love of cheese was cemented while I was living in Chicago working at the Green City Farmers Market selling Potter’s Crackers. Cheese and I have a history together and I couldn’t be happier than to be involved with culture as an editorial web intern.
I’m living in Boston now working towards my M.A. in Publishing & Writing from Emerson College and looking forward to combining my interest in artisan cheese with magazine publishing. I must admit I’ve never made my own cheese — although trying my hand at a fresh ricotta is on my list — but I did study abroad in Mongolia where I milked a camel, goat, sheep, horse, yak, and cow, so I hope that gives me some clout in the dairy world.