Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Get Your Southern Cheese Fest On!

  It's that time again! This year's Southern Artisan Cheese Festival in Nashville promises to be bigger and better than ever. In its 3rd year, cheese makers from 6 states (myself included) will be getting together to offer up the bounty of all things deliciously Southern and cheesy, and not your Grandma's pimiento dip either. And of course, there will be all the necessary tasty accouterments like wine, beer, meats, and various jarred treats.
  If you make it out this Saturday, that's Saturday September 28th from 2:30 to 6pm, please come and stop by the Sequatchie Cove Creamery booth and say hi! I look forward to seeing you there!

Southern Artisan Cheese Festival
2:30pm - 6pm
The Neuhoff Building
1319 Adams Street, Nashville (East Germantown), TN.

Friday, August 16, 2013

YOU should make Butter


  One of the many perks I have found about working on a dairy farm is access to all the raw milk and cream I can get my grubby hands on. While I have dabbled in many a various home dairying project, my lack of a constant supply of raw milk has made them sporadic at best until now. And of all the simple DIY milk endeavors one could undertake, cultured butter is probably the simplest. So would you believe that I have never tried it til now? I know...shocking.
  All you need for cultured butter is cream, yogurt (for culture), and either a food processor or stand mixer. You could make the task even simpler by nixing the culture in lieu of sweet cream butter, which is what most American palettes prefer. I love both, but have come to really appreciate the cultured (or European) kind for its added gut-friendly flora and slightly tangier taste, not to mention its longer (refrigerator) shelf life. Either a stand mixer or food processor will do, a mixer being a little messier.

fresh raw cream

  In either you over whip the cream until the solids break away from the liquid. With a little less than ten minutes of whipping, the cream will go through three stages: whipped cream, the cream "breaks" and some solids start to form and look like pebbles in a puddle, the solids clump together in a mass. After which, all that's needed is a little gentle kneading to persuade the remaining liquid (or buttermilk) to expel itself, and a little salt if you so desire.

washing & kneading

more kneading

Homemade Butter (with or without Culture)


1 pint cream (raw or pasteurized)
3 Tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt (leave out for sweet cream style)
salt (optional)

If going the European route, slowly whisk yogurt into the cream and leave out at room temperature for 12 hours. (The cultures in the yogurt will immediately go to work and prevent the cream from spoiling).
Pour cream into your mixer or processor and set to Medium until slightly thickened, then to High.
Watch for the three stages: whipped cream, small solids, mass of solids. (You may want to drape a towel over your mixer to control the frenzy of milk droplets that will ensue).
Once a mass starts to form in the bowl (it will sound...sloshier), drain off your buttermilk (don't throw it out!).
Pour cold water over your butter and knead with your hands, rinsing and draining several times until the water is clear.
Transfer butter to a clean bowl or cutting board and continue kneading a little longer to get out any last remaining liquid.
This would be a good time to salt or add flavors if you want.

  Fresh unsalted butter will last about a week in the refrigerator, salted a little longer, and cultured for several weeks. And, of course, you can freeze it. And do I really need to mention that it will be spectacular and will transform your eggs corn popcorn toast everything to pure bliss? And what of the buttermilk you ask? If you cultured your butter, the resulting liquid will be thick, tangy, and extremely delicious. I drink it alone or with cornbread. But do experiment with its cooking properties, namely biscuits and pancakes. Or use it (if cultured) to culture other fun projects like creme fraiche or yogurt.
Whether you prefer your butter sweet and innocent or cultured and worldly, once you have tasted your own it will be very hard to go back.

edible Gold

Thursday, July 25, 2013

finding Home.

Summertime at the farm.

  Where, oh where, does the time go? It feels like the frantic buzz of Christmas season was five minutes ago. I turn my head and now we're closing in on Autumn. This morning I walked out into chilly air. Chilly! It makes me want to crawl inside a dark hole. But alas, there is no time to hibernate. A lot has been going on in the long absence of my blogging.
  For one, I am no longer a Georgia resident but now a Tennessean (er, well maybe not officially yet, shhh). While living on the farm is still a little ways off, we couldn't wait any longer. The mountains have been calling. So, we settled for the next best thing. Which is, of course, an apartment on the Tennessee River. So yeah, I am also now a river rat.

home sweet home
Not too shabby for apartment living, huh?

  And with this new dwelling comes a new trade. I once again have strayed from the cheese counter and am back in the dairy. You may recall some time ago I wrote about the fine cheese at Sequatchie Cove Creamery, well now I have the pleasure of making it. A lazy commute through the country to greet cows and vats of warm milk early each morning is a far (and welcomed) cry from the chaos of an urban jungle.

best sign ever

  I feel as though another huge step has been made toward becoming a full time farmer. Now that I'm here I can't fathom how it took me this long. I'm not sure what draws me to Tennessee, but I know it's the only place I ever want to be.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Big Thanks (and a little shameless self-promotion)

 I would like to take a moment to thank the wonderful Lady and Feline Foodie over at the clever Marcella the Cheesemonger blog for featuring me in their latest installment of 2013:The Year of the Cheesemonger, their ongoing nod to cheese professionals. You can read the interview here.

Aren't lambs great?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chicken Liver Pate


  Liver. You either love it or you hate it. I happen to love it. Which is a most splendid thing in my book as offal meats (nasty bits) are so highly nutritious. Liver in particular is a super food of sorts. Nutrient dense and packed full of Vitamins A and B's, iron, copper, phosphorus, and selenium, it's a natural multi-vitamin. However, it is also packed full of intense flavor which has put off many a palette. I hope to help change that.
  While it may prove difficult to sit down to a pungent and slightly chewy liver steak, a smooth and simple pate is much more likely to find its way onto a cracker and into your mouth. If you haven't tried pate before, I implore you to do so at once. Country style pates are firmer and have more texture, whereas mousse pates (like this recipe) are creamy and mild.
  As with so many food things, making it at home is so much easier than one would think. And of course, you totally bypass all of the weird stabilizers, thickening agents, and refined stuff. And did I mention that pate is downright adorable in a little ramekin or canning jar? Instant cheese board hit. Give it a try, you can thank me later.

Chicken Liver Pate


1 lb. pastured chicken livers, washed, trimmed, and cut into large slices
ghee (clarified butter) for cooking with
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T dry Sherry
3 T cold butter, cut into large chunks
3 T creme fraiche, sour cream, or fromage blanc
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
a few dashes fresh nutmeg

Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a skillet and cook shallots, garlic, and thyme for a few minutes until softened.
Add Sherry and cook for 1 min.
Pour into food processor or Vitamix.
Heat a generous amount of ghee in same pan and add chicken livers, cooking until just cooked through.
Add livers to food processor and let cool slightly.
Add butter and blend until smooth.
Add creme fraiche and seasonings and blend until consistency of pudding.
Spoon out into small ramekins or jars and smooth out the tops.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

At this point you can leave them as is, or if you would like a lovely garnish that will help preserve them longer, seal them up with butter.

Melt 3-4 tablespoons of ghee over low heat. Pour over each chilled mousse, garnishing with a sprig of thyme and cracked pepper. Refrigerate until butter is set.

You can serve alone as an awesome snack, with crackers, bread, pickles, or my personal favorite, lightly marinated cucumbers: Slice a cucumber and season with salt and pepper and a splash of white wine vinegar, keep cold until ready to serve. And as with cheese, it is best to bring your pate out of the refrigerator to warm up a little before serving, about 30 minutes. Did I mention that cheese and pate are BFF's? Well, they are.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Earl Grey Tea & Lavender Honey Cheesecake


  As much as I love all cheese, I have never been much of a cheesecake fan. It could be that I rarely crave sweet things (I think I have a salt tooth, not a sweet tooth), or that cheesecake is usually so dense and weird, and always gets stuck right at the back of the throat. However, I was recently inspired by a tea room I visited in Savannah.
  As many of you know, I am currently on a grain-free refined sugar-free diet for health reasons, so adjusting recipes has been both a little challenging and fun. For the crust I used an *almond flour and pecan tart crust that I found on the blog Against All Grain. Truly great recipes there that have been invaluable to me in adjusting to this new lifestyle.
  The filling is steeped with Earl Grey tea, sweetened with honey, and lightened up with the addition of creme fraiche. I steeped fresh lavender in a mild honey for a few weeks, but you could certainly buy lavender honey, or skip it altogether and use clover or orange blossom honey instead.

  *A quick word about almond flour: While you can use the kind you find at the grocery store (usually Bob's Red Mill), I highly suggest ordering a blanched almond flour instead. It is ground without the skins, which creates a finer texture that is closer to "regular" flour. It can replace flour in virtually any recipe with a little tweaking and is packed full of protein. It does burn easily so a close eye must be kept on whatever you are baking. I love the Honeyville brand, which I buy in bulk and freeze, keeping just enough to use in the refrigerator.

Earl Grey Tea & Lavender Honey Cheesecake


crust: 3/4 cup pecans
          1 1/2 cups almond flour
          1/4 tsp salt
          1/4 tsp baking soda
          1/4 tsp cinnamon
          1/4 tsp nutmeg
          1/2 tsp vanilla
          3 T cold butter or coconut oil
          2 T honey
          1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grind pecans in food processor until a coarse meal forms.
Add remaining ingredients and pulse until dough forms, or cut in with pastry cutter.
Press dough into a 9" spring form pan.
Poke holes into crust all over with a fork and bake for 12 min.
Place in freezer for 20 minutes.

filling: 1 lb. cultured cream cheese (2 packages)
            16 oz. creme fraiche or good quality sour cream
            1/2 cup heavy cream or full fat coconut milk
            4 eggs
            1/2 a vanilla bean, split in half and scraped
            2/3 cup lavender honey
            2 T strongly brewed Earl Grey tea
            1/2 tsp salt
            2 Earl Grey tea bags

Heat cream to a boil, remove from heat, and steep with 2 tea bags for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and creme fraiche until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients including cooled heavy cream.
Pour into prepared crust (I line the outside of my spring form pan with aluminum foil to help keep the water bath out.).
Place in a baking pan and fill baking pan halfway with hot water.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours, rotating halfway.
Bake until just barely set in the center and surface is lovely and lightly browned.
Let cool, then let chill in refrigerator overnight.

tea and honey cheesecake
Are you ready for Spring or what?!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Honey Whiskey Bacon


  As promised, I am sharing with you the results of my latest bacon. This is definitely my favorite batch so far. I always enjoy a sweet bacon, but this one has several layers of complexity with a nice smokey whiskey bite.
  This recipe is very simple and only takes about a week to complete. I smoked mine at the end, but you can always finish it off in the oven instead. If you choose the oven route, after drying in the refrigerator, roast it for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at 200 degrees.
  If you do smoke (your bacon that is) you can use any number of woods. I used Bourbon barrel wood chips for a one-two whiskey punch in the face, but hickory, mesquite, or peach would be really nice too.
  Now, I should mention that this recipe includes curing salt a.k.a. pink salt a.k.a. sodium nitrite salt (which is not the same thing as Himalayan sea salt). You can certainly skip this step as well, but your bacon won't be quite as..well...bacon-y. It will have a brownish hue and more of a pork roast flavor, which certainly isn't a bad thing.
  You can find oodles of information out there that is either for or against nitrites, so I won't bother getting into that. I do favor the articles here and here if you care to investigate.
   And lastly, this will make you a 5 pound batch, which sounds like a lot until you start eating it. You can of course freeze half, or just half the recipe.

Honey Whiskey Bacon


5 lbs. fresh pork belly
5 T kosher salt
1 tsp curing pink salt (optional)
1/2 c strong dark honey like Buckwheat
4 T whiskey, the cheaper the better
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 bay leaves, torn into small pieces
1 tsp juniper berries, crushed
1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg, grated

Combine salts, honey, whiskey, garlic, and spices in a small bowl.
Rub thouroughly over belly and put into a large freezer bag (can cut in two if too large).
Pour any remaining curing "sauce" into bag.
Lay flat in refrigerator and flip every other day (liquid will gather in bag, this is a good thing, just keep in contact with belly).
After 7 days, remove belly and wash under cold water.
Place onto a cooling rack that is on top of a baking sheet, place in refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours.
Smoke at 200-210 degrees for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
If belly still has rind intact, slice off while still warm, save for flavoring in beans, greens, or chili.
Slice as desired and fry.
Repeat...and repeat...and repeat....

good morning

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hard Cider: America's Forgotten Darling

  I admit that hard cider has usually been a bit of an after thought for me. Delicious yes, but usually reserved for dessert or the random break from beer and wine. I myself have always been a craft beer lover, so now that beer is no longer an option for me, I am revisiting my old fizzy friend.
  Turns out that hard cider was once the most popular beverage in America. Long before Americans were brewing IPA's in their basements, cider ruled as King. Thankfully, it is starting to make a comeback. While I could write a novel on cider's merits and history, I will let a beautifully short and brilliantly informative graphic from HackCollege tell it instead. Though its main focus may be discussing college kids, I feel it applies to any and everyone.

Cider Infographic

Created by: HackCollege.com

  Pretty nice huh? The wonderful thing about cider's reemergence is a greater focus on artisan. Forget the sticky sweet artificial flavored ciders of days past, now you can find quality ciders using blended heirloom apple varieties and ingredients like maple syrup, winter spices, and ale yeasts. They range from dessert style sweet to bone dry, sparkling to still. And need I mention that they pair marvelously with every manner of cheese? Their fruity notes and more subtle tannins make pairing a breeze, and the playful effervescence found in most help to lift fat from the tongue and cleanse the palette.
  Try a sweet and appley cider like J.K.'s Scrumpy with a salty blue such as Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen, or a stinky washed rind like Meadow Creek's Grayson. Fresh light goat cheeses and bloomy rinds like Sweet Grass Dairy's Green Hill do well paired with something lighter and more crisp like Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie, a very dry Champagne-like French cider. And hard to semi-hard cheeses like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Sequatchie Cove's Cumberland play nicely with something right in between, think Samuel Smith's Organic Cider.
  In addition to their cheese loving awesomeness, their versatility can be found in kitchen cookery as well. Think marinades, brines for pork and poultry, sauces, or flavor boosts in desserts. And speaking of dessert, serve this cocktail with hot apple pie and just try not to have your mind blown.

Boozey Apple Pie Cocktail


3 oz. sweet hard cider
2 oz. whiskey
several thin slices sweet apple
1 cinnamon stick
1 thin slice ginger

Combine all ingredients.
Serve over ice on a summer day, or in a hot mug with a pat of butter on a blustery day.

  If you are not already a die hard fan, I urge you to find a quality cider and take a swig. Or better yet, brew one yourself! I am! But that is a different post for a different day, recipe to come.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Playing with bellies again...

whiskey bacon
mmm bacon.

  That there is a new batch of bacon I've got going on. Finally. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I have been buying my bacon as of late. What started as a "just this once" exception for lack of time turned into a weekly thing. And while all bacon is pretty much awesome in my book, every single time I bit into an overly crisped and much too thin strip, I thought about how much better my own would be. Making bacon is so easy and so crazy good that it's hard not to feel guilty for skipping it.
  The greatest pleasure in making your own foods is of course the experimentation. I'm not bound by what bacon makers think should be in my bacon, I can use whatever the hell I want (Now that's meaty liberation). And while I usually go the sweet and simple route with maple syrup, I wanted to play with this batch a little. This go around I opted for a bold and molasses-esque buckwheat honey, a healthy dose of whiskey, and an aromatic blend of bay leaves, juniper berries, black pepper, garlic, and nutmeg. As of this moment the pork bellies have finished their week long cure and are forming a *pellicle in the refrigerator, after which they will get slow smoked over Bourbon barrel wood chips. Stay tuned, recipe and pictures of the final product to come!

  *Fun Meat Geek trivia fact of the day*: A pellicle is a thin covering of protein that forms on a meat that is exposed to circulating air. It is essential when smoking meat as its tacky surface traps and locks in smoke flavor. It also acts as a protective membrane of sorts by preventing the meat from drying out. Forming a pellicle on home cured meats is as easy as placing the meat on a cooling rack (for circulation) and leaving it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.


Friday, January 4, 2013

the Next Level of Chicken Stock

chicken parmesan stock

  I know what you're thinking, "I toil away day and night on my chicken stock, but how can I make it better (that is what you were thinking right?)?" Well, as a chicken stock making cheese monger, I have a little trick up my sleeve for you. Enter: Parmesan rinds.
  Yeah that's right, you know those hard ends of your Parmesan that you toss out when the cheese is gone? Stop! In your hands you harness oodles of flavor. I get asked on a daily basis what to do with them, and there are a number of things. Toss them into a nice pot of Italian white beans with rosemary, into chili, or do what I do. Toss them into your own homemade chicken stock.
  First things first, if you don't make your own chicken stock, you are seriously missing out. Not only on flavor, but nutrients too. And it's a great way to use leftover chicken carcasses and bones (you don't throw those out too do you?). Homemade stock is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and doesn't even compare to the store bought stuff. And once you see how easy it is, you'll never go back.
  Homemade stock is packed with high doses of vitamins and minerals which are easily absorbed into the body, as well as natural gelatin, a powerful anti-inflammatory food that especially does wonders for the gut. Once upon a time everyone and their brother consumed it, and the cold fighting chicken noodle soup Grandma referred to wasn't Campbell's.
  Anytime I serve chicken in my house, I save all of the bones and picked over carcasses, as well as any innards and neck bones in a plastic bag in the freezer. When I have 2-3 carcasses (or the equivalent thereof), I make stock. There are a few tricks I have learned along the way that will get you the most bang for your buck...er..bone.

1. The addition of Apple Cider Vinegar is very important. Adding 2 Tablespoons to the pot helps to leach out the nutrients from the bones, making your stock more powerful and flavorful. And no, you can't taste it.

2. Allowing your ingredients to sit in cold water for an hour before boiling. Doing this will help to extract as much collagen from the bones as possible, equaling a healthier you.

3. Simmering for a looooong time. Almost all recipes for chicken stock advise to simmer for 4 hours. This, my friends, is hogwash. Try 12-24 hours. I know, this sounds like a really long time. But trust me, the flavor and nutrient content soars through the roof the longer you simmer, and the only thing you have to sacrifice is an extra burner (or a crock pot).

4. Lastly, my favorite trick. Toss in a Parmesan rind or two. You can save the rinds leftover from you cheese and stash them in the freezer, or hunt them down at your local cheese shop. You will thank me later.

Chicken Parmesan Stock


2-3 chicken carcasses (or equivalent in bones, necks, and innards)
1 carrot, rough chopped
1/2 onion, rough chopped
1 stalk celery, rough chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
10 or so whole peppercorns
2-3 Parmesan rinds

In a large stock pot or crock pot, combine all ingredients.
Cover with cold water and let sit for 1 hr.
Bring to a boil and skim off the scum that surfaces (this is dirt, impurities, blood, etc.)
Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for as long as you can take it, at least 12 hours, ideally 24.
Strain through a colander (discarding ingredients) and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze.
Don't skim that fat off the top, it's really wonderful for you!