Tuesday June 15, 2010
Monday June 14, 2010
Pasture to Palate
As usual, I am a moving target. Just returned from an installation for one of my interior design clients in Pelham, NY. ......
But what I really want to share is my weekend at Shelburne Farms, VT attending a cheddar cheesemaking seminar with the head cheesemaker, Nat Bacon.
Shelburne Farms "was created as a model agricultural estate in 1886 by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. In 1972, it became an educational nonprofit. Our nearly 400 acres of woodlands are Green Certified from the American Tree Farm System. Our grass-based dairy has 125 purebred, registered Brown Swiss cows. Their milk is transformed into our award-winning farmhouse cheddar cheese here on the property."
We began our day with a full tour of the grounds.
And Nat Bacon and Marshall Webb shared tons of information on sustainable farming techniques, the importance of soil management and grass-growing. I felt like I was living Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma upfront and personal. The cleanliness of the barns and the care taken in managing every aspect of the farm was truly inspiring. A true biodynamic farm.
And why is this so important? Well, the cows eat the grass which in turn produces healthy cows and milk full of nutrients. The milk is then turned into cheese. And the cheesemaking process is indeed fascinating.
It all begins at 8.30 am with the delivery of the milk from the freshly milked cows, then the milk is heated up and the large stirring paddles are started. At various times and specific temperatures, a culture and then an enzyme are added, and then you wait. Patience is a cheesemakers' virtue. And then, in a frenzy of activity, the curds and whey need to be separated. And then the "cheddaring" begins. Did you know cheddaring is actually a verb? An action very specific to making cheddar cheese.
Cheddaring is a process of letting the curds settle into each other while the acidity rises and when each of those rectangles is picked up and turned several times until a desired acidity is achieved. Then they are chopped up and salted in a three step process, and then placed into molds and pressed overnite. The entire process ends around 4 pm producing around 550-600 pounds of cheese. This process is repeated each day during the peak cheesemaking season or for 250 days or so.
Eating farmstead artisanal cheddar has a whole new meaning. I relish every bite and crave more!!
Friday June 11, 2010
How are you today?
Well, not quite. More like chevre and cheddar!
This weekend I am attending a cheese making workshop at Shelburne Farm in Vermont. http://www.shelburnefarms.org/index.htm
This morning we were carted to the sheep, cow and market barns by 2 draft horses named Hercules and Jaguar. Our tour guide is Marshall Webb - who grew up on this amazing 1400 acre farm. Our cheesemaker is Nat Bacon (too bad it's not Nat Cheese..haha). Later, I"ll share some video and more photos so you can get a taste of the cheese making process. Happy Friday, everyone!
Thursday June 10, 2010
Off the Farm
We descended upon Thompson Finch Farm like we had never left the farm before. The bad kids in the back, we giggled, whispered and expressed our joy to be on another farm and not hoeing, planting, or laying black plastic. We observed weeds in raspberries, watched explanations of machinery used in strawberry transplanting and weeding, and laughed at garlic scapes dangling from a particularly crunchy girl's hair.We realized the importance of having the right equipment for getting the job done.
The seven am wake-ups have begun this week, the mornings seem to stretch as if they are an entire day or days unto themselves. Harvests are in the mornings so that no leaves lose their crunch or roots their luster and so with our coffee we have kale and radishes and turnips, dunking and cleaning and 'processing' with the crust still on our eyes hidden by sunglasses. The afternoons are slightly more merciful unless they bring too much sun to burn our skin and dry the soil complicating planting almost as much as the impossibly rocky fields.
The tomato, tomatillo, cucumber and squash seedlings have loved this moist rainy weather. Laura is grateful for this because there is no irrigation in the other field. We took a chance with that one, but the little seedlings that could have so easily wilted in the harsh sun and silty rocky soil. When unrolling a haybale to mulch the pathways of the many, many tomato rows a litter of very young voles spilled out. They cried and shivered as we attempted to warmly relocate them to the edge of the field. Voles are nearly as cute as baby moles, in my opinion.
It seems as if everyone is settling into their farming personality, you know the one: harried by work and distractions and a personal life yet there getting it done on farm even under adverse conditions. Seeing the organism that is a group of people working together is fascinating to me, and I'm learning how to evaluate the functioning of it and maybe one day I'll be able to influence it in a positive way at the right time...