Over the course of the last week, I had the good fortune to be trotting around Somerset in the UK. The focal point of the trip was to attend a two day conference at North Cadbury Court, home of the Montgomery family and the famed Montgomery cheddar. I will be writing about this later - suffice for now to say, it was incredible.
Since the west country is home to so many remarkable UK cheesemakers, I also arranged a couple of other visits around the conference, including a visit to Mary Holbrook's Sleight Farm, located near Bath.
My cheese friend Paola recently made a visit to Vermont and together we visited
Maplebrook Fine Cheese in Bennington.
The folk at Maplebrook were very generous and gave us plenty of cheese to take home. I thought I would share a photo that Paola sent me of how she served their Hand Dipped Ricotta. Here is what she said:
"Given all the ricotta I came back with from Maplebrook, I decided to do something different but fast and simple, also adding in some other ingredients purchased on the road.
Fresh ricotta on a bed of handmade granola (Lucy's brand from Maine - very good) and drops of maple syrup from New York and topped with more granola.
It is my dessert tonight as i am watching the Olympic games :)"
What a great idea.. Thanks Paola!
On a recent trip to Tuscany, I found myself with a little time to spare and immediately headed for one of my favorite butcher shops.
Founded in 1729, Macelleria Falorni is a Tuscan institution that sits in a vaulted arcade on the west side of the market square in Greve in Chianti.
The entrance is guarded by a slightly moth-eaten wild boar, that presumably succumbed to hunters several decades ago, together with a handsome butcher block that dates from 1780 and was in use until 1956. Once inside, it's clear why Falorni are proud of their heritage and what's more, the immediate charm of the place is matched by its cleanliness.
Hands up who’s heard of Pimento Cheese? Chances are that unless you’re from the Southern United States, at this very moment your eyebrows are raised in puzzlement. At least mine were, when the cheese was first described to me.
However, last week I met with Martha Davis Kipcak, a Texas native, stellar cook, producer of Pimento cheese and general “tour de force”. Martha, who moved to Wisconsin twelve years ago, is also thoroughly involved in the Slow Food movement as well as several other sustainable food and community oriented endeavors.
Upon her arrival in the Dairy State, she was amazed at the lack of availability or even knowledge of her favorite staple, Pimento Cheese. However, like most Southern cooks, she set about making it herself for home use, adjusting the recipe to her liking and finessing the final product.
Cheese and dairy products are truly one of those things that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.
For example, its hard enough to to get your head around the notion and process that turns liquid milk into cheese. However, once you’ve conquered that, such questions naturally arise as “what makes a cheddar a cheddar” or “what makes brie a brie.”
Well, like any regular recipe, many different factors contribute to the overall result. That said, perhaps the single most critical factor in determining what variety of cheese is produced are the addition of starter cultures that give the cheese its main characterisitcs.
Starter cultures are usually added to the vat of milk at the beginning of the cheesemaking process. As their name suggests, they comprise a blend (often proprietory to the cheesemaker) of cultures and bacteria that, in conjunction with time and temperature considerations, determine the variety of cheese to be made.
Tomorrow sees the opening of America’s newest venture in urban cheesemaking.
Named after the nearby famed Allen-Bradley clock tower,
Clock Shadow Creamery is located in the historic Walker’s Point area of Milwaukee and is the vision of cheesemaker Bob Wills.
Bob, who also owns and operates the progressive
I want to share a recent discovery. My cheese friend Paola just returned from a trip to her homeland in Italy and sent me a delicious recipe for Focaccia col formaggio. Here is what she says:
Focaccia col formaggio is a typical dish that originated in Recco, a small town located on the Italian Riviera very close to Genoa, Liguria.
It seems 'focaccia col formaggio' was already known in Liguria at the time of the crusades in 1200. History books relate that it was offered to soldiers before their departure from San Frattuoso Abbey located in an enchanting tiny village close to Portofino in Riviera Ligure.
Being such a popular and delicious dish, you can find it in many places throughout Liguria - even in bakeries. However, in my opinion the best version is the one you eat sitting down in a focacceria.
I recently received an e-mail from a good friend who was back in California taking the Cheesemaking class at the College of Marin. Tamara, a veterinarian, moved to Alaska some years ago and has very much been leading the adventurous life since, such as undertaking (and completing) the Ididerod dog sled race.
Anyway, Tamara recently acquired some dairy goats, providing the catalyst to learn how to make cheese. As well as hands-on cheesemaking, the class also went on a field trip to nearby Nicasio Valley Dairy.
Paola, with whom I correspond regularly and who is a self-confessed ricotta fanatic as well as an avid Culture supporter, recently sent me this lovely sounding recipe for a Sweet Baked Ricotta Flavored with Lemon.
According to Paola, there are two versions. One (per the recipe below) is sweet and similar to a cheesecake but without the pastry crust. This is best eaten cold.
Another version is for savory use and eaten with fresh vegetables or ratatouille. With the savory version, omit the sugar and substitute salt to taste - NOT 3.5 oz! - and, if you wish, add some herbs or spices, again to taste. This version is best served at room temperature.
SWEET BAKED RICOTTA RECIPE WITH LEMON
(This recipe uses eggs, which give a more compact consistency. For a lighter version, omit the eggs.)
1 pound ricotta, broken up with a fork
100 g of granulated sugar (3.5 oz) or to personal taste