Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cheese Making 101 Class & Our Raw Milk Journey

A few weeks ago Gail and I had the pleasure of attending one of Ricki Carroll's day long Cheese Making 101 classes. Ricki has been running a mail order cheese making supply business since 1978 and is affectionately known as Ricki the Cheese Queen. She is featured in chapter 9 'Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast 'of Barbra Kingslover's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as well as the supplemental recipes to that chapter. Her Cheese Making 101 workshops, which are taught in her Massachusetts home often have waiting lists longer then the 4o person-plus capacity of the classes and are generally sold out months in advance.
Over the course of an afternoon Gail, myself, and 40 others learned the basic concepts and ideas of beginners cheese making. Over the 7 hours we learned to make Farmhouse Cheddar, Queso Blanco, Whole Milk & Whey Ricotta, a 30-minute Mozzarella, Fromage Blanc, Creme Fraiche, and Marscapone. We indulged in countless samples of fresh made still warm soft cheeses and yogurts while we learned basic techniques to take home and start making our own cheeses.
We also learned the differences between raw, pasteurized, and ultra pasteurized milk in color, texture, and the differences to take into account when using them to make cheese. Here is a great shot of Ricki and her partner Jamie showing us 2 different methods for their 30-minute Mozzarella with a raw milk and a pasteurized milk:
Notice the teaching table and it's ingenious design. The overhead mirror allowed for everyone in the class to see exactly what we should be looking for in terms of curd formation as we watched the various cheeses get made. At the end of the class we purchased some cheese making supplies of our own so Gail and I could return home and make some soft cheeses as a way to get comfortable with the process.
We also decided if we wanted to make soft cheese we should try to acquire some raw milk. Current Massachusetts law calls for raw milk laws in Massachusetts are fairly strict. Raw milk cannot be sold if it is older then 5 days. Each container has to be labeled 'raw cow's milk' as well as a warning stating 'Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys organisms that may be harmful to human health.' A similar sign must be placed where the raw milk is sold, which to date can only be directly on a farm, no retail sale of raw milk is permitted, even at farmer's markets. Farmers selling more then 20 quarts a day must obtain a vendor's license from the nearest town milk inspector, and any farm, no matter how small is legally required to obtain a certificate of registration from the Commissioner of Food and Agriculture.
I do not exclusively drink raw milk, and I don't believe I plan on doing so, but I feel that people should be afforded the choice to drink whatever kind of milk they want, and have easier access to raw milk if they choose to consume it. I think many states, including Massachusetts are overly cautious with raw milk producers. People the world over have been drinking raw milk for generations, and though it can make some people sick, I do not think there is a real danger to allow consumers to make their own educated choices.
Gail and I wanted to start making cheese, and wanted our first experiments to be with raw milk because from the class it seemed that the best results came from cheeses made with raw milk, we also wanted to support a small local farmer if we could. Gail remembered the person who sold her the beautiful new kitchen cabinets mentioned he was what amounted to a hobby farmer. He didn't raise livestock or produce for profit, but more for fun and to provide some very local, very fresh food for his family and friends. Gail contacted him to see if we could arrange a visit and to purchase some raw milk from him.
Per his request I am not using his name or location. Farmer X is not licensed in any capacity and out of respect for his desire for privacy I won't out him. This past Saturday Gail and I took a drive to Farmer X's house, where we saw his laying chickens, the chickens he raises for food, and his 3 cows. A pair of Jersey-Holstein mixes for milk and a Jersey-Holstein/Angus young bull which he is raising for beef.
Here are 2 great shots of Gail and I with the 2 Jersey-Holsteins and one of the young Jersey-Holstein/Angus bull:
We got to hang out with the 3 cows and learn about how they are raised (pastured right behind Farmer X's house!!) along with our very own up close anatomy and physiology lessons. After meeting the cows we headed inside to sample some milk, chocolate milk and fill up the containers we brought with milk, most of it fresh that morning, and some from the past few days. We departed with 5 gallons of delicious raw milk and a dozen multi colored eggs.
A huge thanks to Farmer X for opening up his home to us and showing us his beautiful home and animals . Thanks to his cows and milking efforts we were able to start our cheese making in style.

Stay tuned to the next post to see what came out of the 5 gallons of milk we took home!!

Monday, May 30, 2011

First Harvest Monday of the season 5/30/11 & garden update

Gail and I enjoyed our first very small harvest of the growing season late last week.
With my job transition followed by tons of rain we were a little behind on the gardening front but we did our best catching up routine this week as well. Our garlic is really taking off and looks great and some of the walking onions have started forming bulbs on their tops:
We've also got a variety of herbs and greens that are doing great including some kale, volunteer chives, flat leaf and & parsley, garlic chives, and even the tiny sage is starting to show signs of life, as are some radishes and bush beans! Here is a nice shot of the volunteer chives and kale as seen from a distance:
We planted our tomato (3 Cherokee purple & 3 speckled roman) and pepper (4 'Golden Summer' bell peppers,23 cubanelle's, 2 jalapeƱos & 1 that was unlabeled but I think is a cubanelle.) We also planted all the marigolds, and the 3 bush bay mini zucchini!

On to the harvest!!!
We harvest a small mix of herbs & greens this week. The chives started to blossom so we took some home with us to put in our dinner and in some of the cheese we made(more on that later this week). We also got some parsley and a small bunch of arugula, both of which found their way into our dinner!
Here is what we harvested:

.25oz/7.08g Parsley
.80oz/22.68g Chives
2.45 oz/69.46g Arugula

Total for the week: 3.50 oz/92.22 g

Not a huge harvest but I'm really happy now that we are pretty much caught up with getting the garden fully going! Here's to the first of many wonderful harvests & garden updates of the season!

If you want to see what others are harvesting or share in your own bounty, stop by Daphne's Dandelions the home of Harvest Monday.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coffee Giveaway Winners!

Congrats to Bobby Fontaine of Norwood, MA & Meems (be sure to check her blog out, it's great!)of Staten Island, NY you were randomly selected as the winners of the 2 boxes of coffee!

It went down like this: I received 27 entries. Each was randomly assigned a number. I used a random number generator to pick the 2 winners.

I've contacted both winners! Congrats!!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Local Coffee Giveaway!

This is extremely long overdue. I had been planning to do this late February/early March in the midst of the dark days challenge but life happens, and sometimes I lose the motivation to post. Better late then never!
I am going to be giving away 2 mixed boxes of some delicious and wonderful local coffee. Here is some information from the roasters as well as the varieties I will be giving away:

New Harvest Coffee Roasters - New Harvest calls Pawtucket. RI home. They were founded in 2000 they roast beans and educate coffee consumers and fans five days a week. Their active and entertaining blog can be found here. New Harvest has generously provided samples of the following coffees: Costa Rica Lourdes(Rainforest Alliance Certified), El Salvador 'Optimismo', and Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (Organic & Fair Trade)
Dean's Beans - Dean's Beans has been roasting 100% Fair Trade & Organic certified coffee's in Orange, MA for a number of years. Their commitment to sustainability and fair trade is a foundation of their business model. Dean's Beans has provided samples of the following coffee's: Uprising, Marrakesh Express, Italian Espresso Roast, Sumatran French Roast, Peruvian, and Peruvian French Roast Decaf. Please note all of the coffee from Dean's Beans is ground, not whole bean.
Black Bear Micro Roastery - The Black Bear Micro Roastery is a small operation out of Center Tuftonboro, NH. They bring a combination of love, science, and dedication to the art of coffee roasting. They have also been involved in a bit of copyright litigation with coffee giant Starbucks. For some background information about the case follow this link. Black Bear sent down samples of their Guatemalan roast and Hibernation Blend.
Barrington Coffee Roasting Company - The Barrington Coffee Roasting Company roasts all their beans in small batches in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Since 1993 they have strived to produce quality, sustainable and equitably roasted coffee. They sent over their Colombian Don Telmo Reserva & Ethiopian Nekisse Micro Selection One. Of note: The Ethiopian Nekisse won a 2011 Good Food Award, and in May 2010 Coffee Review gave them a total score of 93.

All the coffee was generously donated from the roasters. As much as I love coffee and would love to keep all this to myself I was sent the coffee under the guise of giving it away, and that is what I am doing!!
Here is a picture of the coffee haul that is going to be randomly split up and sent out for 2 lucky winners:
The details:
Email me at grownaway@gmail.com with the subject line: coffee giveaway.
In the body of the email please include your full name and location. 1 entry per person. On Sunday May 29th I will pick 2 winners from the emails I receive and will send out their coffee on Tuesday May 31st.

Please pass along the giveaway details to anyone who might be interested!!

Garden Happenings

The garden and I have come out of our winter slumber and things are slowly coming to life. The garlic is flourishing, radishes have sprouted, and the kale and arugula look pretty great. We're waiting on more lettuce, carrots, and bush beans to sprout as well. We also planted a little huckleberry plant we picked up at a local nursery.
We also picked up some beautiful looking tomato, zucchini, marigold and pepper seedlings that will be going in the ground soon.
Pictured above is our collection of pepper seedlings- jalepeno, cubanelle, and 'Golden Summer' bell pepper as well as marigolds.
Below are the Tomato and Zucchini seedlings. We are growing Speckled Roman's for sauce and Cherokee purple because Gail thought they look nice and I never met a tomato I didn't love!
In the front you can also see our 'bush baby' zucchini seedlings:
We didn't have luck with our own zucchini last year so we are going with a mini variety to save space and starting with seedlings to increase our odds this year!

The bed all the peppers, tomatoes, and most of the marigolds will be planted in is going to be worked over just as soon as the weather cooperates. Once that is done the garden will be in full production mode!

Also, my kitchen counter seed starting experiment was not very successful but if any of these mini broccoli or leeks toughen up they might find their way to the garden as well:
If the weather and critters cooperate we'll be harvesting loads of tomatoes, peppers, and hopefully zucchini!!