Monday, March 28, 2011

To the Moon! No Space Suit Necessary...

They say that the simple things in life are the best things in life. I'm not quite sure who 'they' are, but they certainly know what they're talking about! This week, Saxelby's pays homage to Salvatore Brooklyn yet again. We know and love their incredible ricotta, but they've delved into olive oil territory, and it's a whole new ballgame...

Salvatore Bklyn Sicilian Coop Olive OilAs if their cheese wasn't decadent enough, the Salvatore girls headed to Sicily in search of the perfect olive oil, and came back with a ringer! Salvatore Brooklyn's Sicilian Co-op Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the best thing since sliced bread. Or maybe the best thing to pour on top of sliced bread... you be the judge. The oil is lightly peppery, grassy, and has some lingering floral and fruity aromas. Made with respect using traditional old-world methods, this olive oil is the real deal. Stop by the shop for a drizzle... we're always happy to share a taste!

And for those of you who've never tried Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta, please, push yourself away from the computer immediately and come down to the shop to try some. It will send you straight to the moon... no space suit necessary. After tasting this thick, rich, milky and lemony cheese, Martha Stewart herself declared that it was her favorite ricotta. Salvatore makes both a plain and a smoked version of their signature fromage, and depending on the day, my favorite oscillates between the two. The plain is pure, sweet, milky goodness, while the smokey is a rich, toasted affair that lends heft and sweetness to just about any dish. Take a schmear o' ricotta and drizzle with oil for a moment of devine inspiration!

Last but not least... Cutting the Curd, the most daring cheese program on internet radio (or more probably the only cheese program on internet radio) has changed days! Now you can tune in every Monday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:00 pm on the Heritage Radio Network to get the latest and greatest in cheesy news. Call the studio with questions or comments at 718-497-2128, or send us an email at! Today we'll be talking the 'State of Cheese' in Minnesota with Jeff Jirik of Faribault Dairy and Benjamin Roberts, owner of France 44 Cheese Shop. Watch out Wisconsin, your neighbor to the west is cooking up some fine fromage!

'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cheese and Maple Syrup... Or, Lionel Richie, Eat Your Heart Out...

Cheese and maple syrup. What to some may seem an unlikely marriage is in fact one of mother nature's most ingenious combinations. I happened to be up in Vermont over the weekend, where the sugar making season has just gotten underway and have returned incurably smitten with all things laced or laden with maple syrup.

howie at the boilerFor those of you who've never experienced sugaring, it is quite a thing to see. Forests still coated in a thick blanket of snow slowly but surely come back to life, sap pulsing through the trees, a sign of springtime coming. Sap runs for only a few weeks a year, when nighttime temperatures fall to below freezing and the days are warm. Sugar makers trudge out to the sugarhouse to hustle wood into the boiler, where giant pans boil the sap down until it's reduced to the amber hued syrup we know and love. Neighbors come out to help each other sugar, meals are cooked in maple sap inside the sugar house, beers are drunk, stories are told, and a good time is had by all. After the harshness of winter, it seems an unfathomable gift.

There must be a million incredible recipes out there, but here are three simple and delicious ways to munch maple syrup with your favorite fromage. We like Deep Mountain Maple Syrup from the town of West Glover, Vermont. Check them out at the Union Square Greenmarket!

Baked Hartwell with Maple Syrup and Walnuts:
This is a simple, but delightful thing dreamed up by Marisa Mauro, owner of Ploughgate Creamery, and also a resident of West Glover!

1 wheel Hartwell cheese (if you can't find Hartwell, substitute a soft brie-like cheese)
1 generous pour of maple syrup
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Sliced bread (baguette or raisin nut breads are both great)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Place cheese in a ramekin of the appropriate size
3. Douse in maple syrup to your liking
4. Sprinkle with chopped nuts
5. Bake until gooey and delicious (5 to 10 minutes)
6. Dip bread and enjoy!

Yogurt with Maple Syrup:
This is not revolutionary, I know. But when the yogurt in question happens to be thick, rich, and delightful like our Three Corner Field Farm sheeps' milk yogurt or Beltane Farm goats' milk yogurt, it's a whole new ballgame. Serve as dessert at your next dinner party and instant dairy gratification shall be yours. Just think... there is nothing more low maintenance or delicious. Your chef-ing status will immediately rise in the eyes of your friends and family, and you won't stress about some fickle pastry misbehaving in the oven!

Ricotta Pancakes with Maple Syrup:
Again, probably not the first time you've heard of this one, but I can't think of many better ways to make cheese and maple syrup sing to one another... If you thought Lionel Richie and Diana Ross scored with 'Endless Love', just wait till you try these on for size!


4 large eggs, separated

2 cups ricotta cheese (we've got Salvatore Bklyn and Alleva Ricotta!)

2/3 cup Evans Farm crème fraiche

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Melted butter

Maple syrup

1. Whisk yolks, ricotta and creme fraiche in large bowl
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda in another large bowl
3. Add flour mixture to yolk mixture and stir until combined
4. Stir in milk
5. Using electric mixer, beat whites in another large bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold beaten whites into batter.
6. Heat griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Brush with butter. Working in batches, spoon 2 tablespoons batter onto griddle for each pancake.
7. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with maple syrup!

'Till next week... eat cheese with maple syrup and be merry!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness...on the Court and in the Barn!

Why is this email arriving on a Tuesday, you might ask? Well, as of yesterday morning, my colleague Ariel and I were up to our ears in kids! No we weren't taking a day off from the shop to babysit, we were visiting Beltane Farm in Connecticut, where kid goats are running amok in what amounts to the earliest harbinger of spring. What does that mean for you? Besides the fun-filled photos below, it means the tastiest fresh chèvre and goat yogurt in town, waiting for you at Saxelby Cheesemongers!

paul feeds a kid
Paul feeding a newborn Saanen kid. Click on this photo to see more images from Beltane Farm!
Beltane Farm was started in 2002 by Paul Trubey in the tiny town of Lebanon, CT. A lifelong lover of goats, he was urged toward cheesemaking by Liz McAlister from neighboring Cato Corner Farm. He slowly but surely grew his herd, taking the word 'farmstead' to the max, milking the goats, making incredible cheese, and selling it at farmers' markets across the state.

Paul, an ex-social worker, is the consummate farmer, showing each of his animals the utmost in love and respect. Beltane Farm is comprised of a true menagerie of animal personalities, which I'm sure puts the social worker in Paul to work on the daily! First off there are the goats, a herd of about twenty ladies with personalities as distinct as snowflakes. There's Limerick, the oldest goat in the herd (born on St. Patrick's Day of course!), Flash, who gave Paul a love tap about as gentle as an NFL linebacker would as we walked through the pen, and Veronica, who was allowed to walk about the farm wherever she pleased. Then there's everybody else: Nestor and Geronimo, the farm's two donkeys, Asa and Miss Betsy Bigelow, new arrivals of the bovine variety, a coterie of cats and chickens, and two loyal dogs, Maggie the collie and Duncan, a geriatric Jack Russell terrier who has his own chair at the dinner table.

Two years ago, due to the success of his business, and the need for a workday shorter than 24 hours, Paul partnered with nearby Reynolds Farm to help him raise and milk his troupe of La Mancha, Alpine, and Oberhaasli goats. The Reynolds hadn't had any animals on their farm since the late 1980's, when the family's cow dairy succumbed to the perennial volatility of the commodity milk market. Now the farm, located about eight miles from Beltane, oversees the milk production of close to 100 does. That milk is carted back to Beltane Farm where it is turned into cheese. The milk of the other twenty-odd goats that live at Beltane full-time is bottled and sold directly to customers that come to visit the farm.

So stop on by the shop for the cheesemongers' version of March Madness... pure, delicious goat goodness from Beltane Farm!

'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

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

Monday, March 07, 2011

The State of Cheese: Massachusetts

For a while now, I've been doing a series called 'The State of Cheese' on Cutting the Curd, my cheese-centric Sunday radio show on the Heritage Radio Network. This series aims to cover all 50 states, chatting with cheese makers, store owners, and other dairy-loving folk to see what's doing in the world of curds and whey where they live! This week week we caught up with some cheese makers in Massachusetts to talk dairy from colonial times to the present day.

Today Massachusetts is home to over twenty artisan cheese makers, making everything from fresh Portuguese cheeses to bold and robust blues. Perhaps the first thing that put Massachusetts on the cheese map was the 'Cheshire Mammoth Cheese,' a giant tomme gifted to president Thomas Jefferson in 1802. This 1200 pound cheese was the fruit of the labor of the tiny town of Cheshire, where the local pastor called on his congregation to pool all of their cows' milk together to make the four-foot-wide wheel. Somewhat later in time, 1978 to be exact, Ricki and Robert Carroll of Ashfield Massachusetts helped spark the new wave of artisan cheese making in the United States with the opening of their New England Cheese Making Supply Company. Ricki Carroll's book 'Home Cheese Making' has inspired countless caseophiles, both amateur and professional, and has helped them turn out innumerable rounds of tasty cheese.

My two victims, er-um, I mean interviewees, on this week's show were Barbara Hanley of Shy Brothers Farm and Susan Sellew of Rawson Brook Farm. These two women from completely different backgrounds, telling completely different stories, are responsible for a few of the fine cheeses that make up the fabric of Massachusetts' cheese scape today.

Barbara Hanley came to the world of cheese making as a second career, taking interest in a local agriculture commission in Westport, Mass after she and her husband moved there. An energetic and business-savvy woman, Barbara convinced the Shy Brothers, two pairs of fraternal twins and third generation dairy farmers, to try their hand at cheese making to save their family farm. Hannahbelles, their signature cheese, is a riff on a classic, thimble-sized cheese from the Burgundy region of France. They're currently working with more local farmers to make the transition to value added dairy.

Susan Sellew came home to the Berkshires as a homesteader back in the late 1970's. She left her then-home in upstate New York, realizing that the region where she grew up had a stronger contingent of food-lovers, and was the perfect place to start her dairy. She felled the trees to make her barn, cleared land for pasture, and started making fresh goats' milk cheese. A firm believer in the mantra 'bigger is not always better' Susan's Monterey Chevre can be found only at select local grocers and restaurants, as she has no desire to grow her herd of 45 milkers.

Tune in to Cutting the Curd every Sunday from 2:00 to 2:30 pm on the Heritage Radio Network, or download as a podcast to listen at your leisure!

'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

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