Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Southern Spotlight: Meadow Creek Appalachian

  Here it is, another month, and once again I am talking about cheese. It being Spring, I wanted to showcase a cheese that embodies the season. There are, of course, many cheeses that can do just that. Most would also fall under the sheep and/or goat category. But for me, Appalachian from Meadow Creek Dairy practically screams green pastures and budding flowers.
  Let me back up for a moment. About three years ago, I had the great opportunity of interning at Meadow Creek for one month. I took a short hiatus from the cheese counter to hike it up to the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley in Galax, Virginia. Myself and my dog (Frankie) were graciously greeted by a family eager to show me all about their world of farmstead cheese. It was also the height of Spring (a.k.a. Allergy Hell). Having just survived round #1 in Georgia, it was a very long Spring.
  But in between the drug induced hazes and long hours in the cheese cellar, the dog and I spent a great deal of time hiking the many acres of their beautiful farm land and hanging out with the dairy cows. I can say that the taste of Appalachian reminds me in every way of those Springtime walks.


Meadow Creek Dairy
the farm

Hello ladies


future cheese
future cheese

cheese cellar
The Cellar

  Appalachian was the first cheese made by the Feetes at the award winning Meadow Creek. It is in the classic French tomme style, aged for at least 60 days in their underground cheese cellar. The fluffy white Penicilium mold (yes, mold is good!) is allowed to grow on the rind, giving way to an earthy yet lively cheese underneath. Being that Galax is a quaint little mountain town, the terrior no doubt adds to the complex layers of flavor.


  One bite and it is obvious this is a raw milk cheese. New green grass, mountain soil, and sweet warm milk shine through in its taste. The rind imparts a lovely earthy damp leaf flavor that is equally pleasant. Close your eyes and you can almost see Bambi, Thumper, and Flower. All the flavors meld into thoughts of creeks running through green meadows (hmm, wonder where the name came from?), ferns, fallen logs, and lightening bugs. But enough Hippie talk.
  I enjoyed today's wedge with a torn piece of baguette and a dollop of fresh strawberry jam. I find Appalachian lends itself very well to berries of all kinds. It also surprisingly does well with tropical fruits like kiwi and mango, which can be difficult to pair with cheese. For drink I would do a lovely summer Hefeweizen or a crisp white like a Pinot Grigio. I could also see a Perry (hard pear cider) working very well with it too.

mmm burger
It's also really good on one of these

  For anyone still questioning the merits of Southern cheese making, I dare you to try this cheese and tell me it's anything less than spectacular.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring has Sprung

Welcome Home Ducklings


baby Arugula


getting bigger!
Growing like feathered weeds

a duck and a coop
A rejoicing duck

Oh Hai
Also growing...

and growing...

Pear Blossoms

Peach Blossoms

Plum Blossoms

Hard at Work
Downright Worthless

Happy Spring!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shrimp and Avocado Salad w/Cilantro and Lime

Shrimp and Avacado Salad

  Earlier today I made a very quick little one person lunch, perfect for when you just need something delicious but super easy. Shrimp are sauteed with a little olive oil and garlic, and then tossed with avocado, cilantro, and lime. You could certainly add most anything you want to to this. You could even add some diced scallions, jalapenos, and cherry tomatoes for a sort of deconstructed guacamole. Or toss with warm angel hair pasta. I like it just the way it is, simple and bright.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad w/Cilantro & Lime


6 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 clove of garlic, sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 ripe avocado
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped
1/2 a lime (use the other half for your beer)

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cut avocado in half. Using a sharp knife, quickly but carefully bring knife blade down onto the pit and twist, the pit should come right out. Score flesh with knife and spoon out into bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Turn shrimp over to brown on other side and add garlic slices.
When shrimp is just cooked through and garlic is lightly browned, add to avocado.
Sprinkle with cilantro and a healthy squeeze of lime.
Open beer and add lime slice.

2011: A year in (photo) review

  I was going back through older posts of mine, and came across my very first one from December of 2010. In it, I had listed some of the things we had accomplished in our farm lives to date, and also goals for 2011. So I decided to compile a little photo review of last year and see what all had been done. Here was my goal list for 2011, "Add on to the orchard, plant/not kill a garden, add a beehive and rabbits, brew beer, make an aged cheese, and slaughter more chickens!".

1. I did indeed add on to the orchard. We now have peaches, figs, apples, plums, pears, blueberries, blackberries, and kiwis. Phew. 2011 was, however, the last year I will be planting anymore fruit trees here, as we hope to move to a "real" farm someday soon.

baby peaches

2nd year peach harvest


 2. Planted/didn't kill three gardens actually! The first was a large raised bed for cool weather crops like lettuce, kale, beets, turnips, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and fennel. The second, a perennial herb garden containing rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, and oregano. And lastly, Chad tilled a large portion of the front yard into a summer patch for corn, squash, zucchini, watermelon, green beans, peanuts, and sunflowers. All in all, everything was pretty successful, save for the Watermelon Massacre of '11 (which is what got me to thinking about putting chickens in the freezer), and the squash/zucchini. Squash bugs are vile creatures.

The Garden

Glowing Melon

red sunflower


Mammoth sunflower

sunflower seeds

3. Added ducks and rabbits. I still very much want bees, but I unexpectedly acquired ducks last Spring instead. A weekly outing to the feed store for seeds resulted in me caving for 2 tiny ducklings that were all alone in a giant brooder pen. Seriously, how was I supposed to resist that? Turns out Pekin ducks are a fantastic heritage breed that consistently lay huge decadent eggs. Not to mention they are just damn entertaining. We also finally added meat rabbits to our menagerie. I was lucky enough to purchase 2 very rare American Blue Rabbits from Broad River Pastures. They will be my breeders for future rabbit dinners and fur blankets.

Fuzzy bundles of joy

sleepy ducks

duck eggs

curious bunnies

4. Brew beer and age cheese I did not. Ok, I slacked off here. I did not brew any beer, and have yet to age a cheese at my own home. I did manage to make several fresh cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta, and cure quite a few meats like pancetta, bacon, and duck prosciutto. Beer and aged cheese this year, I swear!

Fresh Ricotta

Freshly made Mozzarella

Finished Pancetta


Duck Prosciutto

5. I butchered more poultry. Ok, I admit I didn't do this one in 2011. It was actually early 2012. But it still kind of counts, right?

newly processed chickens

So what's in store for 2012? Beer brewing, cheese aging, turkey chicks, sewing, and composting!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

endings & beginnings

Farm to Table
From farm to table

  The last couple of weeks have been rather eventful here at the mini farm. After an almost two year (and not so productive) stay, I decided it was time for the hens to go. Into the freezer that is. I know what some of you are thinking (and saying for that matter), "How can you butcher animals that you raised from cute fuzzy babies?". Well the truth of the matter is, I never viewed my chickens as pets. I knew they would end up on the table someday, and acted accordingly. I am a staunch believer in fully accepting that those pristine packages of wrapped "pork" or "beef" or "boneless skinless breasts" are in fact pigs, and cows, and chickens. I also believe in treating my living food with respect, and giving it everything it could ever want while it is here.
  Unfortunately, the local wildlife doesn't agree with my philosophies. A couple of days before the Big Day, a opossum visited the coop. Now I will be the first to admit that I had gotten incredibly complacent with our security, and the raid was my fault. Having never had any issues, I grew lazy. I awoke to a yard covered in feathers, a dead chicken that was split wide open, another still living but missing it's rump, and several remaining panicked hens. I was kicking myself for having let it happen, and cursing the opossum for stealing two of my chicken dinners that he didn't even eat himself.
  He returned the following night, which was a bad move on his part, because this time I was there to take care of it. And no, I didn't stew him. Although it did cross my mind...for a second. He must have told some friends though, because the following night, there was another attack. This time it was one of my beloved ducks. The ducks have never been one for sleeping indoors at night, so they were quite literally "sitting ducks". I do tend to view my ducks more as pets because they are so comical and social. I also love roasted duck, so this is a moral bridge I will have to cross at some point.
  Following all of the mayhem, I butchered the seven remaining hens. I won't go into harvesting details, you can read all about that on one of my previous posts. The last harvest I did was accompanied by several people, this one was me by my lonesome. I was actually pretty thankful for that, because it gave me a true opportunity to connect with where my food was really coming from. Killing an animal is never a fun task. I can't say that I ever enjoy that aspect, but I could never disrespect something I was going to eat by pretending their death didn't happen.
  After looking each one in the eye, thanking it, and talking calmly to it as it expired, I had several beers. Kind of a butchering day must to calm the nerves. After that, the fun did begin. Plucking a chicken has to be one of my favorite things to do. It was interesting to see how each different breed dressed out, and how lovely and yellow the fat was. I can tell you that I will be getting Wyandottes again in the future. After the cleaning was finished, I packed them in bags and labeled each one by breed. Then it will be time to compare each breeds' flavor, starting this Friday. ;)
  Several days later, five baby chicks arrived on the farm. Yay chick time! Having had an Easter egg assortment of chicken breeds last time, I opted for all Rhode Island Reds this time, and a much smaller flock. Rhode Island Reds are a classic heritage chicken. With beautiful mahogany red feathers, a constant supply of extra large brown eggs, and nice big carcasses, they should make a great addition. I will miss my blue, pink, and speckled eggs, but for now I just need consistency.
  Stay tuned for more fuzzy arrivals next week. Never a dull moment!

new chicks
New Whiskey Chickens