Monthly Archives: January 2011

New Class + Glorious Winter Cheese

CaliforniaCheeseFestival

In attempt to thwart a cold before it hits full force, I’m taking a brief blog brake. I have to rest up so I can teach a couple classes this week, plus, save my energy for eating the next batch of Rush Creek when it’s shipped to work in a few days. Priorities. Priorities.

In the meantime, wanted to share with you an event I’m participating in and an article I recently wrote.

The event- If readers will be in Petaluma late March, check out the California Artisan Cheese Festival! They’ll be more cheese to taste there than there were (are?) munchkins in Oz, and people as awesome as Daphne Zepos and Gianaclis Caldwell of Pholia Farms will be teaching classes- check out Zepos’s transhumance session & Caldwell’s “A Day in the Life of a Cheesemaker session. Plus, I’ll be teaching a Cheese and Wine Pairing 101 course with some of my favorite wines and cheeses from the area. Come say hi on Saturday! The festival lasts 3 days, the farm tours are already sold out, but the sessions and the “Curds, Cooks & Cuvées” still have space.

Also wanted to share an article I recently wrote for the Los Angeles Times called “Glorious Winter Cheeses.” Yes, glorious is in the title. Because that’s how winter cheeses roll.

Next week- Cougar Gold cheese in a can & Cougar Gold Balls recipe. Not to be missed.

Cheese Shines at The Fanciness

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Willapa Hills Pluvius (courtesy of Willapa Hills website)

The Fancy Food Show rolled it’s huge, convention center self into San Francisco this week, bringing with it Guy Fieri, a demonstrator or two wearing skirts shorter and heels higher than Tom Cruise standing next to Nicole Kidman, and… amazing cheese. There were all types of cheese. Blue cheddars were stacked next to huge firm Alpine wheels, and puddling, soft cow’s milk cheeses threatened to ooze into tiny, upright spicy sheep’s milk wheels that were innocently sitting next them.

It was a fine, fine time to do research. To ensure that my cheese palate stayed fresh, I diligently took breaks between eating dairy goods to cleanse with gluten-free cookies and Poco Dolce’s olive oil chocolate bars. Later, I shared a drink with some of my favorite cheeseheads from around the country at Rogue Brewery in North Beach. It was a good day.

Here are some of my favorite cheeses that I tasted at the convention- these are ones that shined especially bright. I’m skipping some of the classics that I’ve talked about before on “It’s Not You, it’s Brie” so I’ll have room to mention others that I haven’t yet swooned over properly. In the future, I hope to get to more that I don’t have the space to mention here- because there were many.

Marieke Gouda, Foenegreek- there’s often a stigma against making flavored goudas in the high-end American cheese world since herbs and such can be used to cover up flaws in inferior products. Not here. Fresh milk and a little Fenugreek make an already compelling cheese pop.

Rogue River Flora Nelle- a new blue- funkier, sweeter than Rogue’s others, with a slightly crunchy bite like fleur de sel sprinkled on a dish before a chef sends it to a table. Not sure when will be released.

Mozzarella Company Blanca Bianca- a soft, fresh, very young cheese with a washed rind. Has a steely, mineral finish and tang that is just aching for BLT season.

Tumalo Farms Jewell- a bloomy-rind, creamy, lively cow and goat blend. Creamy and lemony with a soft finish.

Kriek cheese from Belgium, Jacquy Cange- raw cow’s milk, semi-firm cheese washed with the cherry Kreik lambic beer from Belgium. Lightly fruity and complex.

Willapa Hills Pluvius- semi-soft, with fresh butter, nut and lemon flavors. Surface ripened, with a thick velvety layer between the brown rind and slightly crumbly center.

Toma Brusca with Juniper- cow’s milk, studded with Juniper. Like a milk gin and tonic. Amazing. Sharp, but charms the tongue. A little goes a long way.

Ricotta Stagionata- a ricotta salata made with sheep’s milk whey. Classic. Creamy and buttery like manouri. Snow white.

Did you make it to the Fancy Food Show? Any cheeses that shined brightly for you?

A Cheese’s Night Out: Classes & Events

CheeseClass

It takes a lot of work to be the best cheese one can be. Prepping, grooming, coagulating, straining, primping, aging, convincing people that you’re worth a chance even though your rind may be wrinkly or you smell like a (sweet, happy) locker room from time to time. But cheese keeps going despite the obstacles. It preservers. It shines. And sometimes it oozes.

Although it would never say so because, unlike caviar or foie gras, it’s just not that type of food, it likes a little public adoration here and there. It likes for its hard work to be appreciated. It likes to know you care.

Show your cheese exactly how much you love it by checking out some of these awesome cheese events and classes near you. Not near you? I’d be happy to list your local events if you have them. Have an event to add? List it in the comment section below or email me a link at itsnotyouitsbrie@gmail.com.

Classes are in calendar order.

Classes I’m Teaching

Zinfully Good: Big Wine, Big Cheese- This lucky girl gets to co-teach with Daphne Zepos. Friday, January 28th, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, The Cheese School of San Francisco.

Iberian Cheese and Wine Class- All Iberian, all the time. Thursday, March 24, 6:45pm – 8:45pm, Solano Cellars, Berkeley.

Springtime Cheese, Loire Valley Wines- Tuesday, April 19, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, The Cheese School of San Francisco.

Classes Beyond “It’s Not You, It’s Brie”

The Raw Deal: What’s the Deal with Raw Milk Cheese? January 20th, 6:30-8:00 pm Michael Anderson and Sascha Ingram, Murray’s Cheese, Manhattan.

Exotic Teas and Cheese with Karen Tran Thursday, Jan 27 • 6:30 – 8:30 PM, C’est le Cheese, Sacramento.

Home Cheesemaking with Sheana Davis, Sunday, Febrauary 6, 1:00-3:00 pm, The Sonoma Valley Inn.

Decadent Chocolate & Sinful Cheese, Saturday, February 12th, 3:00-5:00 pm,  Artisanal Cheese, Manhattan.

Basic-Plus Cheesemaking Shortcourse [3 days], February 16th-18th Washington State University.

Mozzarella & Ricotta Making Workshop with Ricki Carroll. Friday, March 4, 2:00 – 4:00 pm & 6:00 – 8:00 pm, The Cheese School of San Francisco.

Three-Day Intensive Cheese Education Program taught by Daphne Zepos, The Cheese Queen herself. April 10-April 12th. San Francisco Cheese School.

Heritage Breed Milk: Use it or Loose It

The rare Pineywoods cow

The rare Pineywoods cow

When I heard that dairy farmer and veterinarian Dr. Noreen Dmitri, the sister of NYFarmer (lawyer, dairy farmer and activist extraordinaire Lorraine Lewandrowski) recently attended a specialty dairy conference to study cheesemaking with the milk of heritage cows, my heart did a little dance. And by little, I mean a choreographed Flashdance number that was complete with a torn sweatshirt and leg warmers.

Let me explain. Imagine if you will dear reader, walking into a cheese shop where your choices of milk variety runs broader than the goat, cow, sheep, or the occasional feisty buffalo that are available now. Imagine being asked if you prefer Dutchie Belt or Randall Lineback milk for aged cheeses. Mmm hmm,…. and what about your fresh cheese preferences? The variety. The flavor range. The aesthetic benefit of having so many different types of cows in the field (so pretty).

Now imagine the cultural and farming impact of having these diverse, historical breeds in our country.

Lucky for us, Dr. Noreen Dmitri was happy to write about her experiences at the heritage cow and cheesemaking conference and about the importance of these rare breeds. We’re only beginning to understand why heritage breeds are important and what we have to loose (cheese wise and beyond) if their legacy isn’t preserved.

Her notes on the heirloom dairy conference follow.

A renewed interest in heritage livestock breeds is underway in the United States and Canada. The focus of a recent American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Conference held on November 11th and 12th, in Hamilton, New York, was making of cheeses from the milk of heritage breeds cattle.

“Use it or lose it” is applicable to heritage breed cattle. Consumer interest in products produced from the milk of endangered livestock breeds is essential for breed survival. Thanks to a grant from the Ceres Foundation, a workshop has been developed to produce cheeses from heritage breeds milk. This Dairy Processing 101 course was presented at the annual American Livestock Breeds Conservancy annual conference, with visits to five farmsteads producing value-added cheese products for sale to the public.

Learning About Heritage Breed Cattle

Ayrshire cow

Ayrshire cow

Guided by Shannon Nichols of Heamour Farm, Madison, NY, participants were provided with information on breeds who have all but disappeared from modern dairy farms. These include the Milking Devon, Kerry, Dexter, Randall Lineback, Canadienne, Dutch Belted, Pineywoods, Red Poll, Milking Shorthorn, Ayrshire and Guernsey breeds.

The milks from these various breeds had traditional uses. The Milking Devon’s milk was used for butter and clotted cream production. The Ayrshire cow was cow of choice for milk used to make cheddar cheese in Scotland. Others such as the Randall Lineback served as a reliable family cow in times of old. Today, some of these breeds are rarer than the endangered Panda. For example, America’s first cattle breed, the Canadienne, survives with a registered population of less than five hundred left in the world. SVF Foundation has launched an effort to use modern embryo transplant technology to speed up reproduction of Canadienne offspring for placement with volunteer farmers in coming years. Details on modern technology for heritage breeds is at www.SVFFoundation.org

Milking Devon

Milking Devon

For dairy farmers and cheese makers the idea of producing a product with the milk of heritage breed livestock is exciting. Here in Upstate New York, some of the older farmers can remember seeing heritage cows with some frequency grazing the fields of historic dairy farms. As a practicing veterinarian, I am delighted that modern livestock reproductive technologies can be used to bring endangered livestock breeds back from the cusp of extinction. Biodiversity in the livestock herds of North America is a worthwhile venture to preserve breeds who have faithfully provided humans with milk for centuries past. Cheese makers who develop cheeses from the milk of heritage breeds will help us to keep these breeds viable for future generations.

Consumers’ Role in Saving Heritage Breeds – Eat Heritage Breed Cheeses!

The consumers’ role in saving heritage dairy breeds will involve much less work than that of the farmer and cheese maker. To fulfill the mission of saving heritage dairy breeds, consumers simply need to purchase cheeses made with milk from heritage cattle. Since few herds are composed entirely of heritage cattle at this point, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has developed labeling requirements for cheese makers.

Dutch Belted

Dutch Belted

The terms “Heritage Milk” or “Heritage Milk Product” is reserved only for product that is “exclusively from animals that have been produced from the mating of registered, purebred parent stock.” It is recommended that the breeds of heritage cattle be stated on the product label. The term “Made with Heritage Milk” on the label is recommended for products where only a percentage of the milk comes from a heritage breed. It is recommended to producers that the heritage breed be identified and the percentage of heritage breed milk utilized be stated. In coming years, hopefully, dairy farmers around the country will work to renew the viability of heritage livestock breeds. Cheese connoisseurs can be part of the project simply by sampling and enjoying cheeses made with milk from the beautiful cattle breeds of old.

The small Dexter cow

The small Dexter cow

Some mid-west and east coast farms selling cheeses made with heritage breeds milk, and the breed(s) they focus on:

Heamour Farm. Honey Gouda, Homesteader, Tinker Hollow cheeses. Ayrshire/Kerry.

Finger Lakes Farm. Kefir Cheese. Dexter.

Crawford Farm. Vermont Ayr. Ayrshire.

Sister Noella Marcellino, a Benedictine nun from Regina Laudis Abbey, makes Bethlehem cheese. Dutch Belted.

Jasper Hill Farms. Winnimere, Constant Bliss, Bayley Hazen, Moses Sleeper. Ayrshire.

Scholten Family. Weybridge Cheeses. Dutch Belted.

Sweet Home Farm. Elberta, Bama Jack, and more cheeses….. Guernsey.

Woodbridge Farm. Gruyere & Tomme style cheeses. Milking Devon.

Bunten Farm. Gouda, Cottage Cheese, and Blue. Milking Devon.

Author: Dr. Noreen Dmitri, DVM is a practicing veterinarian and dairy farmer in Herkimer County, New York. Thank you Dr. Dmitri and Lorraine! And thank you, American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, for use of the photos.

Want to read more? Here’s an excellent article on heritage breed cheeses from the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s Not You, it’s Brie” readers, do you have a favorite breed of cow whose milk you prefer? Have you tried any of the above cheeses?