Monday, January 31, 2011

Butterfat as Remedy, Plus the State of Cheese in Illinois!

With all the snow and cold this winter, we here at Saxelby Cheesemongers have been conducting some serious research projects to determine remedies for the winter blues, cabin fever, and a whole host of other cold-related maladies. It seems, through much taste-testing and trial-and-error, that butterfat is a supremely effective treatment for all things induced by the season. So come on, throw those snow boots on and come down to the Essex Market for a little winter therapy. It's cheaper than the shrink, and will leave you sated too!

The following three cheeses have fought their way through our battery of butterfatty tests and emerged victorious in the category 'Cheeses Most Likely to Be Considered Mood Altering' by our not-so-scientific panel of mongers.

Constant Bliss
Pasteurized cows' milk. Jasper Hill Farm, VT
That's right! After a long hiatus, everyone's favorite marshmallow-shaped cheese is back! Bliss' arrival on the counter came just in time for the harshest part of winter, and is a remedy endorsed by the denizens of Vermont's northeast kingdom, where the mercury has dropped to 25 degrees below zero this year. Yikes! If they say it works, it's gotta be true.

Rush Creek Reserve
Raw cows' milk. Uplands Cheese, WI
The much-coveted, eat-it-with-a-spoon, bark-girdled round from Uplands is here! Don't miss your chance to hunker down with a wheel of this sublime cheese whose flavors tapdance between buttery, earthy, vegetal, and good old fashioned barnyard. Our advice: call your two closest friends, buy a baguette, roast some taters, and dinner is served!

Noble Road
Raw cows' milk. Calkins Creamery, PA
Noble is an understatement. This gooey, pudding-like, decadent wheel of goodness from Calkins Creamery is astronomically delicious! This sculpture in curd is ripe and ready to take center stage on your cheese plate... Just grab your favorite bottle of wine or beer and you're ready to go. Noble Road's delicate snow-white rind encases a riot of flavor, ranging from cultured cream to truffles. If this doesn't cure what ails ya, we don't know what will!


Don't miss this week's episode of Cutting the Curd, where we discuss the 'State of Cheese' in Illinois! I was joined by Martin Johnson, Chicago native and founder of NYC's popular 'Joy of Cheese' tasting series, and Leslie Cooperband of Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign-Urbana. We dug deep, chatting about everything from prairie soil history and science to cheese and beer pairings in Williamsburg and beyond!

'Till next week, love the butterfat!

Cutting the Curd, a dairy-centric radio show on Heritage Radio Network

Monday, January 24, 2011

If Mother Nature Were a Bartender...

Milk. Our first food. If mother nature were a bartender (and if babies went to bars) she'd be serving up a specialty cocktail for each and every one of us mammals on the planet. Fun milk fact: cow, goat, and human milk all have about 4% fat, whereas that of a fin whale has up to 42% fat! Milk is an inexhaustible subject; even the science community has only gotten to the tip of the iceberg. But in quick Monday morning fashion, I'm going to try to give you the five minute version of milk and crazy humanity's history with it.

All of us humans are reared on milk. It's not only our first food, but it's the way we get our first immunity, as well as countless other nutrients when we're just little helpless things. Harold McGee, in his fantastic book, 'On Food and Cooking' also points out that milk gives our brains a chance to develop to a size that wouldn't be possible inside the womb, one of our most unique traits as humans.

Nobody knows quite when man first decided to try and get in on the act and use the milk of other animals. But some enterprising guy or gal got it into their over-sized cranium that they could harvest the milk of other animals and use it for food. Dairying was invented in the arid plains where modern day Iran is located, a place where semi-nomadic people thrived back around 10,000 BC. It all began with goats and sheep, as cows were too huge and scary to try and subdue into having humans manhandle their nether regions.

Dairying turned out to be pretty dang practical, as a dairy goat or sheep provided a family with sustenance for the better part of a year, whereas an animal killed for meat was obviously a one time deal. Dairy animals are also ruminants, meaning that through their fancy, fermenting, four-chambered stomachs, they could convert grass (something not digestible by humans) into milk, a tasty and multifaceted end product!

For most of human history, foods made from milk were mostly fermented. This was due to the fact that in the hot desert, it was nigh impossible to keep the milk cool and fresh, and also that most humans lose their ability to digest fluid milk after being weaned themselves. It was a genetic mutation in northern European peoples that allowed them to consume fresh fluid milk into adulthood, a legacy that many of us share to this day!

From Scandanavia to India, milk has played a vital role in countless rites, rituals, and religions throughout the ages. Kosher law prohibits the consumption of meat and dairy in the same meal. Not only was this a good precautionary health measure in ancient times, it also rationed the amount of rich foods being consumed in the same meal. In a Hindu creation myth, it is stated that the world began as a primoridial sea of milk, from which a great many gifts of the world were churned. When Job speaks to God in the Bible, he asks, 'Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?' At the risk of being called too dairy-centric, I'd venture to say that milk seems to be the balm that unites us all.

Tune in to this week's episode of Cutting the Curd for more tantalizing dairy facts and history!

'Till next week, drink your milk, eat cheese, and be merry!

Cutting the Curd, a dairy-centric radio show on Heritage Radio Network

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Monday, January 10, 2011

At Last! REAL Buttermilk from Animal Farm!

At last.... So goes the opening line of the famous tune sung by Etta James. She may have been singing about true love, but we're tempted to rewrite the lyrics and replace the word 'love' with 'buttermilk'. That's right, at last we've found a source for the real deal, honest to goodness buttermilk. And we can't wait for you to try it!

Back in the day, real buttermilk was simply the liquid left over from making butter. The cream would be churned, the butter would be worked over and pressed, and in the course of all that manhandling (or womanhandling, I should say...), the liquid trapped inside would be squeezed out. Voila buttermilk! Unlike the buttermilk we encounter at the supermarket, which is thick and almost yogurt-esque, real buttermilk is thin to the point of drinkable, refreshing, and tangy.

Saxelby Cheesemongers' new stash o' buttermilk comes from Animal Farm, located in Orwell, Vermont. Diane St Clair, butter maven to some of the country's finest restaurants, has agreed to supply us with her limited run, seasonal buttermilk for all of our winter baking needs. She makes butter the old-fashioned way, culturing the milk from her herd of 8 Jersey cows, and allowing the cream to rise naturally in order to keep all those precious fat globules intact. She then skims off the cream by hand, and dutifully churns it into rich, grassy butter. All of that protein-rich liquid pressed out of the butter is bottled and sent to Saxelby Cheesemongers, where it awaits your culinary innovation! Check out the recipe below for Diane's personal recommendation, buttermilk waffles...

Ms. St Clair runs her farm a bit differently than most of the cheesemakers we work with. Usually, a dairy farmer will plan for calving, the season where all of the babies are born, to happen in the springtime. That way, the cows are out grazing on grass all season long, turning that green energy into milk. However, hot, humid Vermont summers are not ideal conditions for a butter maker, so Diane chose to flip that schedule around to better suit her farm's needs. In the summertime, she makes hay, enough to feed her herd throughout the winter, and then milks and makes butter all winter long. Cows' milk tends to be richer and fattier during the winter months anyways due to their diet of primo hay and a touch of grain, which makes for a superior product!

Buttermilk Waffles (from the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 large egg, separated
7/8 cup buttermilk
2 tabs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Heat waffle iron. Whisk dry ingredients together in a bow. Whisk the egg yolk with buttermilk and melted butter.

2. Beat the egg white until it holds a peak

3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry while mixing with a rubber spatula. Towards the end of the mixing, use a folding motion to incorporate. Folk in the egg white to the batter.

4. Spread appropriate amount onto the waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve with Vermont maple syrup (makes everything more delicious!)


We've also got a brand-spankin' new episode of Cutting the Curd for your to sink your teeth into. For our first episode of 2011, the 'State of Cheese' series chugs along to Ohio, where we talk with Abbe Turner of Lucky Penny Farm. Lucky Penny is a both a farm and creamery located in Northeastern Ohio. Cheesemaker Abbe Turner turns the milk of her own goats as well as the milk of two other goat dairies into delicious cheese, all in a repurposed Labor Union hall in the city of Kent. Tune in and see what's doing in dairy the great state of Ohio!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Spontaneous Fermentation! Beer & Cheese at DBGB

Beer Geeks and Curd Nerds* unite! Next Tuesday night at DBGB Kitchen and Bar, Saxelby Cheesemongers will be teaming up with beer sommelier Hayley Jensen to bring you a knockout tasting of beers from Brasserie Cantillon as well as a vertical cheddar tasting featuring Vermont's finest, Cabot Clothbound. Come on out for a two-fer of the Lower East Side's tastiest establishments!

DBGB's Tuesday Tastings
Tuesday, January 11th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm
$25 per person, no reservations required
For more info call 212-933-5300


Spontaneous fermentation indeed! That's what you get when you throw a beer sommelier and a cheesemonger in a room and get 'em to do a little brainstorming. Hayley Jensen, DBGB's mastermind of all things malted, will be pouring a selection of beers from Brasserie Cantillon, one of Belgium's finest producers of lambics. On offer will be two Gueze, a Rose de Gambrinus, a Grand Cru, and a Faro, a sweetened Gueze that is a rarity due to the fact that it cannot be bottled. These tart, refreshing, and oftentimes fruity beers are the perfect foil to a good wedge of fromage!

To complement the Cantillon selection, Saxelby Cheesemongers has assembled a vertical tasting of cheddars. We'll begin with cheddar curds, primordial form of cheddar and lifeblood to midwestern folk and Quebecois alike... We'll then proceed to three different vintages of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Cabot Clothbound is made from the milk of a single herd of cows in Peacham, Vermont, and aged to perfection in the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. You'll taste how flavor develops in this complex cheddar, changing from a tart, bracing, vegetal flavor to something rich, brothy, sweet & savory... think chicken stock meets buttercrunch. In the best possible way.

'Till next week, three cheers for fermentation!

Cutting the Curd, a dairy-centric radio show on Heritage Radio Network

*I blatantly stole that term from the cheese blog Curd Nerds, whom we love dearly. Check them out at

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