Monday, January 28, 2013

Pearly Mussels

America has these  "Pearly Mussels" in rivers which have been dying out due to pollution in rivers among other things -

I found these and scrubbed them for gifts.

Read more reports and learn more about the history of these pretty shells here.

This is a photo of buttons that were stamped out from these shells.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

F.A.B. : Artisan Cheese Platter

I am working on a cheese platter of local cheeses for the holidays and any celebration.  Many customers want to buy local but are lacking the resources for a variety of choices all in one place.  Of course, there are farmers markets, now in winter as well as summer, CSAs, orchard and farm stores, health food stores, Amish markets, small artisan purveyors and distributors, even some supermarkets, and online sites.  All give customers a good variety of local farmer, artisan, and baked goods.  But to get a variety of cheeses from small farms and cheesemakers - already tasted and reviewed for balance and diversity in a cheese presentation - that is the aim for this package.  I think the more we small producers come up with creative ways to present and sell our products the more we can capture the consumer interest over the large commercial manufacturers!
This is the label I printed for the basket.  

After I printed the label, I came across a little cheese store - La Petit Fromagerie - in Clinton NY.  It has a great selection of cheeses - not all from NYS.  It's nice to welcome and support local small businesses.  So I am initially tasting their offerings with feedback from customers, as I learn more about other artisans before completing the selection process.

My ultimate aim in creating this collection of cheeses is to support small farmers, artisans and bakers - not necessarily in NY - however I make them a priority because the travel distance and energy is still a consideration!  In places like Vermont, Wisconsin, and California - they have been putting resources into small cheesemakers for a longer period of time.  Coach Farm was one of the first Chevre cheesemakers on the East Coast -  but there are still many varieties and styles of cheese not available in this country... note to young farmers we still have room too grow in cheesemaking.

Here are a list of cheeses I've tried, descriptions, and tasting notes:

Chevre, Poplar Hedge Farm - NY - fresh goat cheese made from his small herd goat's milk  fresh - the flavor is not bold  - this is a relatively new cheesemaker - really nice to work with.  
Mt Tam, Cowgirl Creamery -  CA - "smooth, creamy, elegant, 8 oz, triple-cream. It is made with organic milk from the Straus Family Dairy."  rich cheese (triple cream) - nicely done!
Moses Sleeper, Jasper Hill - VT - "similar in flavor to a French Reblochon but with a milder rind from Ayrshire cow's milk" our initial impression is that this cheese qualifies as a brie and melted nicely when baked but there were no memorable attributes - except we are happy to support a local brie product.
Capri Classic Blue, Westfield Farm- MA- "goats milk cheese log external blue chevre powdery blue rind is a striking color that develops on the surface and slowly ripens toward the center." we all liked this cheese very much - distinct and delicious cheese - a staple for every cheese platter! 
Barely Buzzed, Beehive Cheese Co - UT - "milk from Jersey cows, hand-applied rub of French Superio lavender buds and a Turkish grind of "Beehive Blend" coffee from the Colorado Legacy Coffee Company."   subtle yet aromatic flavors of the lavender and coffee rub! we would purchase again -very unique!
Wild Boar, Creminelli Fine Meats- UT- mixture of field harvested Texas wild boar and all natural pork belly, seasoned with cloves and juniper berries  I think everyone liked this at the party - I am a vegetarian - it looks the part of a fine artisan salami!
Forest Berry Preserves, Darbo- Austria- Okay this is an example of BIG - but they started as the Darbo family and now produce in a large manufacturing facility - can't hold that against them - purchased the jam on sale but will seek more local preserves - not hard to find.  I used this jam mixed with dried figs purchased at Clinton's Natural Food Market in bulk - made fig cookies from an Italian cookie recipe - everyone loved them but I have made better - good figs and jam not too sweet!

Cheeses, Descriptions andand Tasting Notes (contd):

Cana de Cabra, Spain  - "A soft ripened goat cheese log from Spain much like the French Bucheron.  The cheese is aged 21 days and is buttery and delicious. As it ages, the flavor intensifies...
I would purchase this again - very and rich texture -a triple cream goat cheese!

Brie, Ferme de Jouvence, France -  "small dairy near Versailles, France. It has an assertive mushroomy flavor, with notes of garlic and hay, and its body is wonderfully luscious and silken." noted Saveur Magazine a very "stinky'" cheese but that could be good - the flavors are very strong - the texture was a pure melted brie -naturally!  I would prefer this cheese young with less aggressive flavors but kudos to the farm in France!

Rogue River blue cheese, Rogue Creamery, Oregon - "wrapped in grape leaves macerated in pear brandy. A creamy, crunchy-smooth texture ... hints of sweet pine, wild ripened berries, hazelnuts, morels and pears.  Rogue River blue is made during the autumnal equinox and before the winter solstice from Brown Swiss and Holstein cow’s milk, certified sustainable by Food Alliance. The cows graze in 1250 foot elevation pastures bordering Rogue River, where they eat a variety of pasture and native grasses, hop clover, wild herbs, Himalayan blackberries and wild flowers, supplemented with grass hay, alfalfa and grain off the ranch." excerpt from their website a very pricey cheese and would not be my first choice for a blue cheese but I will try again and write more!
Selected Items at this writing:
aged goat cheese - Cana de Cabra, Spainfresh goat cheese - Chevre, Poplar Hedge Farm - NY
blue goat cheese - Capri Classic Blue, MAaromatic cow's milk cheese - Barely Buzzed, Beehive Cheese Co - UTcharcuterie - Wild Boar, Creminelli Fine Meats- UTtriple cream cows milk cheese- Mt Tam, Cowgirl Creamery -  CA
Still Searching:
more Northeast cheeses
a good brie made in the US, of possible
replace Spainish cheese with something similar
Sheeps milk cheeses

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcoming the New Year and New Opportunities

This year marks the 25th anniversary of working the farm, over 100 acres preserved in it's natural state (from the 1800s)!  I never tire of this life.  Nurturing animals comes easy to me - I've had an affinity to it since I was 5 years...eating fresh and fine foods learned from great Italian cooks my mother, father, and extended family... being outdoors... being a bit of a maverick... being independent...being challenged.

... life as a farmer is good to me!

I need to finalize our 20c license for commercial kitchen, gain a wider audience for my, and help distribute the many local farmer artisan and baker products that are soooo much better than similar products for reasons of farmland preservation and carbon footprint as well as taste and nutrition.

Each year I try to grow my farm crops more effectively by becoming more efficient without sacrificing quality.

The many local products that I like besides our own wood fired pizzas, pestos, tuscan soup, frozen heirloom veggies, fresh goat cheese ricotta, and garlic include:
Evans Farmhouse Dairy
Poplar Hedge Farm
Kriemhild Dairy
Kutik Honey
Belly Acres Maple Syrup
Siggi's Yogurt
Sister Farm Produce
Shitae Mushrooms
Haar Family Farm Eggs
Fiddle Tree Farm Melons
Aaron Strawberry Fields

I will be posting individual reviews of small producers products and compare to other local plus store shelf items.