Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homemade Cheese by Janet Hurst

I was reading the New York Times online yesterday and came across an article in the Dining and Wine section about a new DIY guide for kitchen projects, which included three on how to make cheese in the comfort of your own home.

There seems to be an ever-enlarging segment of our population that is becoming more food savvy. They want to know where their food comes from, what ingredients are included, how to get more involved, and how to become more self-reliant. The do-it-yourself food movement is looking for ways even a kitchen klutz can make their own food.

Cheese seems to be food that is being swept along with this movement. It is awesome to read about how many artisan cheesemakers are developing a following across the United States; not just cheesemakers, but GREAT cheesemakers!

So, this NY Times article seemed to be right in stride with a more personal focus on food.

A couple of months ago Voyageur Press invited me to review an advance copy of a book written by Janet Hurst. It, too, seems to be riding the crest of this self-sufficiency, DIY wave of interest.

The title of Janet's book is “Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers,” but this book includes so much more than recipes. My first impression was delight. Just flipping through the pages, taking in all the gorgeous color photographs that Janet included in her book, was a visual feast!

Since becoming intrigued with artisan cheese, I’ve often used “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Caroll as my resource. It will remain a valued book in my library. Structured more like a manual, it has excellent cheesemaking recipes and provides a lot of ways to use the cheese, and a resource section telling where to get equipment and supplies. Janet Hurst even mentions Ricki as Queen of Cheese, and honors her as an inspiration and mentor.

Janet, however, presents a different approach. She includes easy-to-follow steps for cheesemaking, but additionally provides insight into the lives and production of twenty artisan cheesemakers who work their farms, dairies, creameries and take pride in their animals, their cheese, and their accomplishment. At the back of this book is a wealth of resources and websites to reference. I’m a visual freak, so I relished the abundance of photographs of animals, farms, cheesemakers, cheese, and prepared dishes.

I responded readily to Janet’s book because it is so friendly, simple to follow, attractive to the eye, well researched and has a very personal touch. It’s like sitting down with her and, over a cup of coffee and a plate of hot out of the oven scones, having her share all of these wonderful experiences. Her passion for cheese is evident.

Janet writes from a background of 20 years of having a farm and goats and growing vegetables and making cheese. She’s still making cheese in her kitchen in Missouri, when she isn’t speaking to groups, teaching how to make cheese, freelance writing about cheese and food, and promoting her book.

Below I’ve included the link to Janet’s blog and her website. Her book is published by Voyageur Press, and is currently available for purchase for $19.95.

I wholeheartedly recommend you get your hands on a copy of “Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheeses from Artisan Cheesemakers” and keep it within reach. It will provide you with wonderful ways you can make your own cheese in your own kitchen, and have fun doing it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Got cheese? Got it made!

   The other evening a friend and I made arrangements to throw together for dinner whatever food we had on hand. All I had was zucchini, and of course, cheese. Voilà! Au Gratin!  I halved the recipe for just the two of us, which worked out perfectly!

Zucchini Au Gratin
Makes 4 servings

4-6 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons chopped onions or shallots
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup heavy cream or crème fraiche (I only had half and half)
¾ cup gruyere cheese (grated)
1 teaspoon tarragon (better to use fresh, but all I had was dried)
1 pinch of nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Grate the zucchini into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

3. During that time, sauté the onion in butter in a small pan until the onion softens and begins to brown (3-5 minutes). Set aside.

4. Scoop up handfuls of the sitting zucchini and squeeze out the excess moisture over the sink. Combine the squeezed zucchini with the onions and mix in the tarragon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the veggies evenly in an 8” x 8” baking dish.

5. Pour the cream over the zucchini mix. I didn’t have heavy cream, so I substituted half and half, which tasted fine, but the cream would have given the gratin a richer taste.

6. Sprinkle the grated Gruyere over the zucchini mixture—when I halved the recipe, I still used the full amount of grated cheese. What can I say, I love cheese!

7. Place the baking dish in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese turns a lovely golden brown.
As you can see from the photo above, I left mine in the oven too long and it went past “lovely golden.” But it tasted heavenly, nonetheless! I loved the nutmeg and tarragon! When I next make this recipe, I‘ll cut the zucchini into ¼-inch slices rather than grate it. It will eliminate the 10-min sitting and squeezing step, and then I’ll just bake it another 5-10 minutes longer.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bzzzzzz ... bees in February? How is this possible?

I joined long-time friend Barbara Shepard for breakfast in Fairhaven yesterday. When we finished getting caught up on the latest in our respective lives over good food, a lot of laughter, and a goodly number of coffee refills, we parted our separate ways. I had other errands to run in Fairhaven, one of which was to check in with Beth at Quel Fromage, a friendly and helpful cheesemonger. She suggested a cheese I hadn’t tried before. I let her twist my arm, wrap up the cheese, and I headed back to Birch Bay.
I am so glad I experienced this cheese!

“Barely Buzzed” is a wonderful version of cheddar created by Tim Welsh and Pat Ford, brothers and owners of Beehive Cheese Company in Uintah, Utah. I’m not aware of many cheesemakers in Utah, maybe ten or so, but if Barely Buzzed is any indication, I’m going to try some of their other cheeses. Apparently I’m not the only one who appreciates it, as it won 1st Place, Flavored Cheddar American Cheese Society Annual Competition 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Barely Buzzed, such a catchy moniker, was aptly named by Beehive creamery fan, Andrea with Deluxe Foods in California. I say it’s aptly named because this full-bodied cheddar cheese with a smooth texture and a hint of butterscotch and caramel creaminess was hand-rubbed with a Turkish grind of Colorado Legacy Coffee Company (the cheesemakers’ brother) “Beehive Blend” blended with French Superior Lavender buds. What? Yes, I mean to tell you, that it sounds peculiar, but it tastes FAB! I could taste the lavender when I bit into the rind, and the espresso under note permeates into the paste. It just melted in my mouth!

Barely Buzzed is made with first class grade whole milk from Jersey cows at Ogden’s Wadeland South Dairy. For you vegetarians out there, a vegetarian rennet was used to make this cheese. It’s aged on Utah Blue Spruce aging racks in Beehive’s humidity controlled caves, and moved to different temperature during the 4-5 month aging process to develop texture and flavor. Check out Beehive Cheese's website for more interesting information about these brothers and their cheese making adventure.

Beth at Quel Fromage recommended pairing Barely Buzzed with beer, but I continued the “buzz” by eating the cheese with a dark roast coffee. Delicious!

One could use this cheddar in cooking, but it is such a treat to eat by itself, and the rind is part of the taste experience. Along with coffee, I also paired the cheese with Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps, wonderful cranberry and hazelnut crackers. What a lovely repast! See if you can get your hands on Barely Buzzed. Very cool!

A perfect cheese with which to sit with your sweetheart and feed each other morsels!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Makin' Mac N Cheese

I had some leftover chunks of Whiskey Cheddar and some Gruyere, and what better use, on a cold, rainy day in Birch Bay than to whip up some comfort food Mac N Cheese! It's also great for Super Bowl Sunday grazing. Alas, I'm not a fan of football; I know, how un-American! However, I do pledge my allegiance to this tasty dish.

Here's what it looks like, and following the photo is the recipe. Perhaps you have your own favorite recipe. Try it with these two cheeses; they impart an added taste dimension you'll enjoy. I haven't a clue who is going to win the Super Bowl, but Mac n Cheese is a sure bet!

Oh, and throughout the recipe, I've shared some personal comments, i.e., using YOUR local farms, dairies for what ingredients you can. The freshness is great tasting, it supports your local economy, and it's probably more nutritious. Win! Win! Win! Hooray! Lucky you, if you know someone who makes their own pasta! Wish I did!

Anyway, after much ado ...

Baked 2-Cheese Macaroni

Serves/Makes: 6         Ready In: 30-60 minutes


1/2 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter (from your local dairy if you’re lucky enough to have one that makes butter!)

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

1-1/2 cups goat milk (recipe calls for cow milk, I just digest goat milk better/lactose intolerant)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large egg (got free range?)

6 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

6 ounces Gruyere, shredded

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper
Note: Buy block cheese and grate or shred it when you use it in a recipe. It tastes soooo much better freshly grated than if you buy it from the store grated or shredded. Trust me on this one!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta to al dente. Important to not let the pasta cook too long because it’s going to cook some more in the oven.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese and a sprinkle of paprika.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let it rest for five minutes before serving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

'Tis the Season ...

December 6th started out with a sense of adventure. My friend, Antje, invited me to go up to New Westminster BC (Canada) to the Holland Shopping Center. Antje, born and raised in Holland until her early teens, wanted to pick up some traditional Dutch holiday things for her family. I had no particular interest in things Dutch, but I’m always up for a roadtrip!

We soon found the shop, teeming with customers! Little did I know that December 5th and 6th was Sinterklaas, which honors the life of St. Nicholas, and people were busily purchasing chocolate letters, marzipan confections, speculaas, kruidnoten, bischopswijn, gingerbread, sausages AND DUTCH CHEESE!

A little side note about St. Nicholas. He was born to wealthy parents in Patara (now part of Turkey) in the third century. He spent his life giving away his money to the poor and doing good deeds. He reportedly had a soft spot for children. Although St. Nicholas is always shown wearing his bishop’s attire, i understand the Dutch tend to see him as a kindly old man rather than a Catholic saint. The result is that Sinterklaas is celebrated by Dutch people of all ages and beliefs, without any real religious connotation. His feast day is observed by exchanging gifts and cookie or chocolate letters (recipient’s initial), making good-natured fun of loved ones with humorous poetry and homemade gag gifts that hide another present inside.

Of course, I was drawn to the cheese cooler, which was abundant with all manner of Dutch cheesiness! Holland is the largest exporter of cheese in the world, with the majority being semi-hard or hard cheeses. Famous Dutch cheeses include Gouda and Edam. A typically Dutch way of making cheese is to blend herbs and spices during the first stages of the production process.

Gouda is a semi-hard cheese with a 48% milk fat content and a mild taste. Aging intensifies the flavor and the hardness. Gouda is usually made in wheels, with a red or yellow paraffin coating, unless it has been aged for 12 – 18 months, in which case, it will have a black wax coating.

Edam is also a semi-hard cheese with a fat content of 28-40% and a very mellow, salty or nutty taste. As it ages, its flavor sharpens and it becomes firmer. This cheese is usually spherical with a red wax coating. Mild Edam pairs well with fruit such as peaches, melons, apricots and cherries. Aged Edam is often served with pears and apples. Because of the season, dried fruits also pair well with this cheese.
There are other Dutch cheeses such as Maasdammer, farmstead, goat’s cheese, smoked cheese, Leidse, Dutch blue cheese, herb cheese; and all were represented at Holland Shopping Center. It was very tempting, but I remembered that Pleasant Valley Dairy in Ferndale, just 6 miles from my home, made their own Dutch-style Gouda.
Whenever possible I buy locally to contribute to my local economy and support my local businesses, so I decided to forego buying any Dutch cheese that trip.

Antje and I paid for our purchases—mine were Dutch chocolates and cookies for Christmas gift to Anneke, another Dutch friend—and after Antje had fun gibberjabbering in Dutch with the clerk, we bid 'Doei!' to the little Dutch shop in New Westminster.

Within a week, I was pulling up to the cheese store at Pleasant Valley Dairy. I spoke with Mattie Snook, who along with her mother Joyce, now operate the cheesemaking and selling. Joyce is the cheesemaker. The farm has been in the family for three generations making raw cow’s milk cheeses.
I asked her specifically about Nokkelost, which is a Gouda cheese they started making about ten years ago exclusively for Everybody’s Store in Van Zandt, WA. They have an agreement enabling them to sell Nokkelost through the dairy store, too.
Imagine my surprise, when Mattie said Nokkelost wasn’t a Dutch Gouda, but a Norwegian Gouda with cumin, caraway and cloves. Oops! My background is Norwegian, so it worked out even better from my perspective!
Other than Mutschli, which is a Swiss style cheese, their Gouda is crafted after the Dutch way of cheesemaking and I’ve enjoyed many of their variations:

Mutschli (great for fondue!)

Raw Milk Applewood Smoked Cheese (I think they have their own on-site smoker)

Gouda with Fine Herbs

Gouda with Peppercorn

Gouda with Cumin

Gouda with jalapeno

A new one they’re just offering now is basil Gouda. If you like basil, this is the cheese for you!
All of their cheese is made from whole raw milk, bacterial culture, salt and natural rennet and is aged over 60 days, with older, sharper Gouda available. Joyce makes their cheese in 2-lb and 6-lb wheels. They sell by the wheel, or sliced! They also will ship wheels of cheese for you—great for gift giving!
Other than their farm store and Everybody’s, some of their cheeses are also sold at Quel Fromage in Fairhaven, and I think Beecher’s in Seattle still carries Pleasant Valley Farm cheeses.
Pleasant Valley Farms is on Facebook, so get on their list and you’ll find out about new cheese, and what is available when, and all sorts of good stuff!

A little generally about Gouda:
Exported Gouda is typically a young variety aged from 1-6 months, with a red or yellow wax coating. Old Gouda, aged 12-18 months is denoted by a black paraffin coating. If you specifically want Dutch Gouda, look for Noord-Hollandse Gouda, the cheese registered in the EU as a Protected Designation of Origin.
Unopened Gouda in wax could remain stable in a refrigerator for up to one year. Once opened, take out only what you’re going to use and wrap the rest in an airtight plastic bag or foil. Refrigerate and eat within one month.
Semi-soft Gouda is delicious served as a table cheese or a dessert cheese. In Europe, Gouda is a popular breakfast served along with fresh fruit. Later in the day, Gouda is paired well with dark-grained breads and beer, or full-bodied wines such as Chardonnay or Syrah. Gouda is also ideal for grating and melting. Swap it for Cheddar in your usual macaroni and cheese. For an authentic Gouda dish, make a Dutch fondue (kaasdoop). Melt grated Gouda with milk and a touch of brandy and nutmeg, and serve with roasted potatoes and chunks of rye bread.
I really enjoy the taste of the herbs in the Nokkelost! And the Mutschli is very smooth in taste and texture.

With Mattie wrapping up of some delicious local cheese for me to take home and enjoy, so wrapped up my Sinterklaas roadtrip.

Vrolijk kerstfeest (Dutch)
God Jul (Norwegian)

Merry Christmas!

Pleasant Valley Dairy (Joyce and Mattie Snook)

6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale, WA 98248


Everybody’s Store

5465 Potter Road, Deming, WA 98244


Quel Fromage

1200 Old Fairhaven Parkway Suite 101

Bellingham, WA 98225

(360) 671-0203

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More About Gothberg Farms ...

A mountain high list of to-dos has kept me from finishing off my article about Gothberg Farms' delicious assortment of goat cheeses. However, I was online with some research, and unexpectedly came across the following recipe. It is the perfect thing to get back into the article and wrap ‘er up!

I haven’t—yet—personally made this recipe, but I have enough chevre to make it tonight for dinner. It looks like it would be delish!

Art Smith’s Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits

I read that these biscuits are served to diners at Art Smith’s Chicago restaurant, Table Fifty-Two.

Makes 12 biscuits

2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) goat cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
Extra butter to grease pan and top biscuits
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Place one 10-inch cast iron pan into the oven while it is preheating. Place flour and salt into a medium-size bowl. Cut in the butter and goat cheese. Make a well in the middle of the ingredients and pour in the milk. Stir until the mix is moistened, adding an extra tablespoon of milk, if needed.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place a tablespoon of butter into it. When the butter has melted, drop ¼ cupfuls of batter into the pan. Brush the tops of the biscuits with melted butter. Bake from 14-16 minutes until browned on the top and bottom. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy them while they’re warm!

Doesn’t that sound tasty?

But, more specifically back to Gothberg Farms. Since first getting my hands on a sampling of Rhonda’s goat cheeses, I’ve used them in a number of recipes. There are a couple cheeses I haven’t yet sunk my teeth into, and Rhonda seems to keep coming up with new cheese delights. The latest that I’m aware of is a cheesecake they’re making right there at the farm. Who doesn’t love cheesecake?!!!

I’m including some photographs of the farm and “the LaMancha ladies” from this summer. The photo of Rhonda was taken at her booth at the Anacortes Farmers Market in September.

I paired the Gothberg Caprino Romano with salsa and chips, which I heartily recommend. Rose, one of the ladies in our office makes the salsa from scratch, which I also heartily recommend for total taste explosion. I also cut up what I had left over and dropped it into a steaming hot bowl of homemade Italian minestrone. Lovely!

I enjoyed melting the Caerphilly in a grilled cheese sandwich. I also dropped little chunks of it into some chili I made. Loved it.

The fresh chevre was heavenly with the fresh summer peaches and blueberries! And of course, it is a wonderful addition to a salad anytime. It was really helpful to find out I could freeze the chevre and thaw it out later. I’ve now done that twice and have been pleased that the cheese retains its smooth texture and taste, although I did like it best fresh.

The ricotta I tried with cantaloupe, kiwi and cherries and I loved it! I also used some of the ricotta in an Italian pasta dish I whipped up one night for dinner.

Speaking of ricotta. Here is a photograph of some cookies made specifically for Gothberg Farms by The Breadfarm, using Rhonda’s ricotta. The cookies were a very nice addition to my afternoon tea.

It just shows you can’t miss with ANY of the Gothberg Farms cheeses.

Although the farmers markets are finished for the season, you can still purchase Gothberg Farms cheese at their farm on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm. They’re located at 15203 Sunset Road, Bow WA 98232 (360) 202-2436, at Terra Organica and Bargainica at 1520 Cornwall Avenue, Suite 101, Bellingham (360) 715-8020, and at Slough Food at 5766 Cains Court, Suite B, Edison 98232.

My recommendation would be to make it a road trip by dropping by Gothberg Farms, Slough Food and the Breadfarm in Bow-Edison. John, owner of Slough Food, has some lovely wine selections and an international assortment of cheese, plus other foodie goodies; and the Breadfarm is in the same building (360) 766-4065, so MUST stop in there, too! You will be ever so glad that you made the road trip!

I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know Rhonda and learning about her operation, and meeting her very personable goats. Rhonda exemplifies the attitude I’ve found among artisan cheesemakers. Cheesemaking is so much more than a livelihood; it’s a passion, a way of life, with a high regard and affection for their milk-producing animals, and an ever-prevailing ethic to provide the best quality product to their patrons.

Thank you, Rhonda and staff at Gothberg Farms!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Comfort food and cheese save the day!

Today I was working on another article about the LaMancha goats and the great cheese Rhonda Gothberg is making at Gothberg Farms in Bow, WA, but it’s not finished and I got hungry.

It was a drizzly, chilly day and I was in extreme need of comfort food. My little tomatoes are nowhere near using for cream of tomato soup, so I flung open my pantry and cast about for something feel good. I reached for a container of organic cream of tomato soup that had been awaiting this very day.

I heated it, and put it in a pretty Bettye Barclay bowl. For me, an indispensable part of the enjoyment is presentation and the bowl Bettye made was lovely to look upon and it reminded me of great times with that artist.

So, I was ready to spoon away, but I knew it was missing something.

I had already finished off a small but delicious wedge of Gothberg Raw Caprino Romano, which would have been such a nice addition to the soup. Gone. Even a dollop of her Greek Style Yogurt would have been marvelous. Gone. Her Woman of LaMancha would have been perfection! Didn’t have any.

However, I did have a little bit of Garcia Baquero winey goat cheese. I immediately grated it and tossed it into the creamy soup, topped off with a Spanish olive.
Ay Carumba! It really hit the spot! I was comforted. I was warmed. My mouth was happy. I heartily recommend grating whatever cheese you have into soup. And we are definitely entering Soup Season!

So, let me tell you the very little I know about Garcia Baquero Winey Goat Cheese. Garcia Baquero is the major producer of Manchego cheese in Spain. However, that cheese is made with sheep’s milk, and is aged anywhere from 3-9 months, or longer.

Winey Goat Cheese, made with 100% goat’s milk is very similar to Manchego in its fine salty sharpness and wonderful finish, but there is a slight taste difference … not better or worse … just different. It, too, is a semi-firm cheese that has been aged, but I couldn’t find out for how long. I did find out that part of its distinction is that it was soaked in red wine.

Garcia Baquero has been distributed in the USA since 2008 by Norseland, Inc.

So, when you’re putting together a Spanish cheese board, remember to include some Winey Goat Cheese. It pairs well with cured meats and autumn fruits and goes well with Rioja or Tawny Port.
The Market at Birch Bay