Monthly Archives: August 2009

“It’s Not You, it’s Brie” Cheese Club Write-ups +


I’ve had a couple Solano Cellars club members ask what the contents of their first “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” Cheese Clubs were. Love, pure love, I said. But they wanted specifics. Whatever. I’m including the write-ups of the August selections below.

Stay tuned until the end of the post for a little cheese love around the internet on a session of “Links du Fromage.”

Redwood Hill Farm Camellia, Sebastopol, California

It’s not only because they’ve allowed me to consume enough of their cheese samples at farmer’s markets to feed a French village that I love Redwood Hill Farm. They also make some of the most delicious, multi-dimensional cheeses in the country. Camellia, for example, crosses boundaries- a bloomy-rind goat’s milk cheese with delicate earthy, floral notes and a silky, velvety texture that demands to be devoured. And wine pairing with this cheese is a no-brainer. Camellia favors whites, but, like that naughty eighteen year-old cousin everyone had, can handle a hearty red surprisingly well. Eat at your leisure, at room temperature.

(The featured photo is not of the Camellia. But it’s lovely just the same and I knew you’d appreciate it.)

Crawford Family Vermont Ayr, Champlian Valley, Vermont

This is one of the most intoxicating expressions of cow’s milk I’ve tried to date, and certainly one of the best new cheeses I’ve sampled this year. Made with the raw milk from the Crawford Family’s beloved heritage breed Ayrshire cows (excellent pictures of brown and white Amy Jane and Dorie are available online),Vermont Ayr is made with as little intervention as possible, so the flavors of the local terrior shine in the final product. Earthy, slightly dirty, graced with scents of peanut butter and sweet butter, pair this semi-soft Ayr with a Rhone style white with a bit of funk itself- like the Qupe Marsanne or Roussane.

Pecorino Foglie di Noce, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Some of you may remember this sexy number from our Italian Cheese and Wine Pairing class. If not, let me introduce you to my favorite Pecorino (Italian sheep’s milk cheese). Ever. This raw-milk beauty is only made twice a year when the walnut tree leaves in Emilia Romagna bloom. Marked with the bright flavors of creme-fraiche, this cheese is unusually fresh-tasting for sheep’s milk but is also blessed with nutty, earthy flavors lent by the leaf wrapping. My favorite wine with the Foglie? Felsina Chianti Classico, or a spicy little Sangiovese.

Sharing the cheese love! Need more cheese posts in your life besides the ones featured on “Its Not You, It’s Brie?” I bet you do. I do too. Some of my favorite stories & recipes du fromage in the food blogsosphere I’ve found this month:

David Lebovitz’s Warm Baked Goat Cheese

Cheese and Champagne’s St. Marcellin

Cheese Underground’s look at Hidden Springs Creamery in Vermont

Wasabimon’s Gluten free Carrot Cake recipe (with cream cheese frosting, yo)

Next post: Gouda Ice Cream Cones: Possibly Real

Kitchen Curds: Farmers Cheese


Let’s start off with a warning. If I hear about any of you stealing cheese from a farmer, you will be expelled from all KItchen Curd activity. Unless, that is, the farmer has a daughter who appreciates that sort of thing. Then you have my blessings.

With this in mind, the next Kitchen Curd assignment is ….. Farmer’s Cheese.

Like Mozzarella, this is a fresh, unripened cheese, made in vast quantities on farms (and, according to the internet, by many sweet Polish grandmothers). Why is it called Farmer’s Cheese? Because this fresh cheese requires little attention, is easy to make and is something farmers often make at home when wanting to put their fresh goat, cow or sheep’s milk to good use without having to worry about aging or storing the cheesy results for long periods of time. They can just eat it.

Although the type of Famer’s Cheese whose recipe many of us will be following in the Home Creamery book is simply listed as “Farmer’s Cheese,” both chevre (like the Poitou Chevre pictured above) and Neufchatel fit into this genre too.

Like in most Kitchen Curd events, I’m using recipes from the  Home Creamery book by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley, but you can use any recipes you’d like. The Farmer’s Cheese recipe can be found on page 66.

Kitchen Curds Guidelines:

  1. If you’re interested in making the pre-selected dairy good (always open to suggestion) at home, and can do so by the selected due date, then….
  2. Make the choosen dairy product at home (your home). Warning: Check your recipe at least 2-3 weeks prior to beginning your cheese. Few (like Farmer’s Cheese) require products, such as rennet, that generally need to be special ordered.
  3. If you have a blog, send me the link to the post where you talk about your Kitchen Curd experience – good, interesting, funny, delicious or just plain bad. I’ll post your link on the assigned “Its Not You, it’s Brie”  cheesemaking post. If you don’t have a blog, share your experiences in the comment section of the the post where I list the links to the Curd blogging adventures (this post won’t emerge until about a wk. after the links due date).
  4. Send me your links by the last day in September.
  5. Have fun!

Queso Seco Nicaraguense: Juan’s Mom’s Cheese

quesoseco2 copy

It was only after he heard her footsteps fade and the bedroom door shut that he dared to open the refrigerator door. He would have to be quick. His mother, who felt uncomfortable eating food someone else cooked in her kitchen, would be out in a matter of minutes to determine how her domain warmed three degrees without her at the helm.

But it might take a while to find what he was looking for. After she saw him looking at the small cream-colored, crumbly, prized block only days before, his mother had moved the cheese. It was very special to her. He heard stories of padded suitcases, decoys, and Nicaraguan and American customs agencies and suspected they had at something to do with the cheese.

Eleven minutes, a carton of spilled milk, and several quickened heart palpitations later, he found what he was seeking. From it he cut a thick slice the size of a card deck, wrapped it in a baggie, and ran to his car.

quesosecoNJPG copy

It was my birthday and Juan was supplying the Queso Seco Nicaraguense.

Pressed, and of a firmer consistency and tighter grain than feta, Queso Seco Nicaraguense is as hard to find in the United States as a non-hybrid SUV in Berkeley.

Unlike brie or mozzerella, Nicaragua’s version of queso seco is not meant to be eaten sliced and fresh. Lightly smoked and very salty, this cheese was created with the intention of flavoring beans, rice, and meats in a country where cheese used to cost less than salt.

If, after hearing Queso Seco Nicaraguense, you guessed its name to mean dry Nicaraguan cheese, very good.  But there’s more. The specific cheese that Juan’s mother worked hard to acquire comes from one particular region within Nicaragua known for their queso seco. Like Parmesan Reggiano, the cheese is named after that region. But Juan and I don’t know its name because his mother is keeping it a secret, perhaps in jest, perhaps in the name of revenge for Juan stealing a slim slice.

What do you do with it?

It’s a tasty little cheese but is more appropriate for cooking and crumbling than slicing, although eating a sliver or two of it fresh did make my tummy feel warm inside.

In Juan’s mom’s kitchen:

After cooking beans, she’ll crumble the cheese over the legumes and rice. Then she’ll hide it with love.

Elsewhere in Nicaragua:

Unbeknowst to a former roomate and myself, sometimes this cheese is included as a filling in flaky cookies. Surprise! It makes a smoky, salty pastry similar to… nothing I’ve ever tried before. A little more like a cheese pastry or savory cheese biscuit than cookie.

In my kitchen:

I cooked up a stash of wheat berries that had been sitting in my baking cupboard for a month or five, steamed some green beans and tossed it all with argula, basil and queso seco.

In honor of the cheese’s original intention as a savory flavoring, my especially thin wallet and a ridiculously expensive Parmesean Reggiano wedge that was taunting me with its price at my local cheese shop, I made an impromptu pesto with this salty savory beauty on another day. It made a rustic, nutty pesto that topped spinach noodles nicely.

Has anyone ever tried this cheese? What do you do with it, besides sneak it in cookies? And…do any cheese lovers know its proper name?

Kitchen Curds: From Curd to Microwave

Mozzarella Salad

The following, Kitchen Curds: Mozzarella Part II, is a careful synopsis of curd revival by Molly, the “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” group photographer and soon-to-be frequent guest blogger (yes, Molly, yes). If you missed the curd dissolution explored in Part I, read about our triumphs and dismay as soon as possible.

Kitchen Curds: From Curd to Microwave

“Our collective dismay was palpable as the lumpy, watery mess of supposed  “cheese” glopped and plopped through Kirstin’s fingers. Even Carter, resident cat, cocked his head to the side, well aware something was very wrong.

After consulting the Oracle, I discovered a website that described multiple methods of making mozzarella. One thing each recipe had in common was that the water poured over the curds prior to stretching stage was boiling. Penny, Kirstin and I had spent close to an hour stirring, blowing upon, and ice-cubing what had at one point been a strong pot of muscle-bound, rippling water, so that it would come to “proper” temperature of 108 degrees. I realized immediately that what was missing was heat.

Our ingredients were limited and time was running out, so a do-over was not possible. And, since part of our cheesemaking boot camp was paramilitary training in the jungles of Colombia, us three Cheese Angels were committed. Therefore, the only possible course of action was to forge ahead through that treacherous, lumpy mass.

We discovered another recipe which called for microwaving the mozzarella, so we decided to break down this “curdtural” barrier and perform a stylistic hybridization. We feared, though, that our actions might create a potentially petrifying Medusa-like cheese and turn out to be hard as a rock. Like the brave soldiers we are, however, we carried on.

We nuked the beast for about two minutes, kneaded it around so that the edges wouldn’t dry out, poured off the excess whey, and then put it back in the microwave for another two minutes. This process continued until our kneading sessions created a cohesive slug of—could it be?– potentially our first homemade mozzarella progeny.

how to make mozzarella cheese

how to make mozzarella cheese

Kirstin gingerly held the ball and let it fall delicately back onto the countertop, perhaps traumatized by her earlier disaster. If Midas’ overzealous appreciation for money could turn objects to gold, could Kirstin’s passion for all foods with rennet generate a cheese baby from scratch? My ebullient desire to stretch the cheese three feet into the air and toss it around like a pizzaiolo was unfortunately vetoed, since nobody wanted a rubbery cheese. However, we took turns pulling and stretching and forming the pretty lump until it glistened happily.

stretchingcurds1 copy

Strangely, though our cheese was not two minutes old, it already appeared to have developed a serious cigarette and black coffee habit. Wasn’t mozzarella supposed to be white? Oh well.

We divided our finished product into three small portions, which rested gently on the countertop as we debriefed on the process. Two gallons of organic Straus milk and two and a half hours made three A-cups worth of mozzarella. Was it worth it?

Most definitely!”

The first picture is of a mozzarella salad that Penny made with her A-cup of Our Cheese and sipped with Touraine Rosé. She took the photo in Berkeley.

Italian Cheese & Regional Wine Pairing Class

White winer glass and cheese

Just in case you’ve been aching to brush up on your mixed or Buffalo milk cheeses or have been wishing you could learn about the simple art of Italian cheese and wine pairing by tasting eight cheeses and five-plus wines in two hours, here’s a little something that might entice- a course about Italian cheese and the wines that adore them, this upcoming Thursday, in Berkeley.

The write-up and some hints of the cheeses to come are below, and I would love to see you there. I’ll be your teacher. Reservations required.

“Like peanut butter and chocolate, garlic and anchovies and whiskey and hangovers, Italian cheese and wine were born to be together.  From Piedmont to Puglia, Italian regions focus on these traditional styles of cheese and winemaking that make the most of their area’s bounty, and in this class, you’ll learn of their glories in an informative and delicious manner.

Join Kirstin Jackson, Solano Cellars cheese instructor and author of the cheese website to learn the essentials of wine and cheese harmony by tasting through Italian regional cheeses and the wines that love them.

Class attendance is limited to 23. ”

Just some of the cheeses that will be featured:

Gioia Burrata

Caseificio Dell’Alta Langa La Tur

Toma Piemontese

Quadrilello di Buffala

Second post of Kitchen Curds coming next week, written by “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” group and goat photographer, Molly.