Category Archives: Cheese

Brooklyn Chevre’

I’m back on track making cheese after a little hiatus. It was raining yesterday in Brooklyn so I decided to make some goat cheese. Chevre’, meaning goat in french, is technically the term for all goat cheese but we think of chevre’ as the soft, cream cheese like goat cheese we are often used to in the USA.


Goat's Milk

I decided to make chevre’ with dill and garlic. I bought a half gallon of pasteurized goat’s milk and used my chevre’ starter from New England Cheesemaking which I keep in the freezer.

At left is the goat’s milk right out of the bottle in a pot on my stove.

I heated it to around 80 degrees (fahrenheit), added the starter and a few tablespoons of dissolved vegetable rennet. Rennet helps to coagulate milk. Rennet is traditionally made from the stomach lining of an animal but I prefer the vegetable variety. If you want to learn more about rennet, check out this article.

After mixing the milk for a few minutes, I covered it and just let it set for around 12 hours, waiting for the curd to form. After 12 hours, I had a nice curd in the pot – the milk becomes a custard-y consistency and there was a little bit of clear liquid at the top.

Dill and Garlic

Next, I minced some dill and 1 garlic clove and mixed it all up with the curds. Then, I ladled the curds into a butter muslin (cheese cloth) that I lined inside of a colander. Last, I tied the four corners of the muslin together and fastened the whole “bag” to my kitchen faucet, handing over the sink.

I let the bag hang, draining slowly, over the sink, over night.

In the morning, I united the bag and here is what I got:

Finished Garlic and Dill Chevre

From half a gallon of goat’s milk, I ended up with one small tupperware carton of chevre’. It’s delicious, fresh and not too “goat-y.” It’s a great starter cheese for anyone interested in cheesemaking. I’m going to bring mine to a dinner party and we’ll eat it on crackers and bread with olives and fresh vegetables.

Avi's Brooklyn Chevre

In America, Chevre’ only became popular in the 1980s. Laua Chenel is known as the mother of American goat cheese. She pioneered artisan chevre’ production in California and reigned as the doyenne of American goat cheese for more than 20 years. As the NY Times reported, Chenel’s business was bought out by a larger company in 2006.

Last but not least, have a look at some great chevre’ recipe suggestions from this Chowhound page.

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More Cheese in the News

God Bless the nuns!

Nuns Have Faith in Gouda

From:  http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/09/19/nuns-have-faith-in-gouda/?hpt=Sbin


Editor’s Note: CNN Photojournalist Bill Alberter brings us this report from Virginia.

Tucked away in the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley just west of Charlottesville, Virginia, lies a convent of nuns who – along with their daily worship – create a homemade Gouda cheese that’s just heavenly.

Just about 23 years ago, a group of Catholic nuns from Massachusetts set out for Virginia to create a convent for worship that was totally self-sufficient. It became the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels. “Part of our tradition is to support ourselves by some sort of manual labor,” Sister Barbara Smickel explained.
They purchased a sprawling farm, which had a barn that housed cheese-making equipment. Even though none of the sisters knew how to make cheese at that time, they decided that was how they were going to provide for themselves.

The sisters of “Our Lady of the Angels” had some help along the way. Friendly neighbors Jim and Margaret Morse lent their expertise in cheese-making. “I think what they really needed to know was how much hands-on work there was,” Jim Morse said.

Nearly every Thursday, the sisters are up at 3:00 a.m. to start the cheese-making by hand. They make about 21,000 pounds of cheese each year, which they sell at the monastery, via mail order and at local grocery stores in Charlottesville.

This fall marks 20 years that the sisters have been making their heavenly creation.

The 117 Year old Piece of Cheese

If you didn’t think cheese can be a window into culture, family history and identity, then think again.

From this week’s  New Yorker:

SAY CHEESE

This is the story of a hundred-and-seventeen-year-old piece of cheese. The cheese has lived in an apartment in Brooklyn for the past year. Prior to that, it travelled the world, or more of the world than the average piece of cheese has travelled. The cheese is small—four inches long, one inch high—and it is an orangey-brown color. A person who comes in contact with it might not recognize it as cheese. Its shape more resembles that of a heart or a teardrop, or something that you would want to have a hazmat suit on to touch. Its owner, Clare Burson, a Tennessee-born singer-songwriter by night and a docent at the Tenement Museum by day, is aware that the cheese evokes visceral reactions. When she gives tours at the Tenement Museum, she sometimes cites the decades-old bagel that was discovered in the building when it was renovated, in the nineties, which disgusts people. “You think that’s something?” she then adds. “I have a hundred-and-seventeen-year-old piece of cheese!”

Burson, who is thirty-four, recounted the cheese’s history the other day at her apartment in Cobble Hill, where she lives with her husband, a criminal-defense attorney, and their cat, Kreplach. She carried the cheese carefully from her bedroom to a table in the living room—she is reluctant to travel any greater distance with the cheese. “I worry about it,” she said.

The cheese was a going-away present for Burson’s paternal great-grandfather Charles Wainman (née Yehezkel), upon his emigration from Lithuania, around 1893, to Johannesburg. For reasons lost to history, he never ate the cheese but kept it in a trunk that travelled with him while he worked as a trader among the Zulus, and then when he fought, on the Dutch side, in the Boer Wars. About 1904, the cheese travelled to Memphis, via Leeds, in England, and Galveston, in Texas. Wainman opened a grocery store, and then, after the Great Depression, was a security guard. He died in 1944. The cheese was stored away until 1971, when Burson’s mother discovered it in the old trunk.

Burson first learned of the cheese in 1999. She had just returned from Germany, where she was on a Fulbright, researching identity politics and the Holocaust. (Her maternal grandmother, born in Leipzig in 1919, escaped Germany on the morning of Kristallnacht, and ended up in Memphis.) When Burson returned home to Tennessee, her paternal grandmother, Jojo, presented her with some more history. “Apropos of nothing, Jojo brought out the cheese,” Burson recalled. “She said, ‘Have I ever shown you this? It’s a cheese!’ ”

At that time, the cheese was wrapped in tinfoil and stored in an unmarked envelope. “Every time I went to visit after that, I checked on the cheese,” Burson said.

In 2007, Burson went to Lithuania, hoping to learn more about the history of the cheese—her grandmother knew only that it came from a place she called Pushville. In Vilnius, looking at a pre-Holocaust map, Burson surmised that Pushville was Posvol, which is now Pasvalys. She discovered that no one there spoke English except for a guy at the local agricultural museum. He took her to see the site of the old synagogue, now a housewares store, and then mentioned that one of the town’s main industries is cheese. In a supermarket, she found cheese that looked a lot like her cheese, if it were a hundred and seventeen years younger: it had the same dolloplike shape. The cheese was a fat-fermented variety called Svalia, for the local river. According to a modern producer, it is “a tasteful component of sandwiches” and “goes very well with beer.” Burson bought a small chunk of it, but it did not make it to Tennessee for her family to taste. “I took it back to Riga, and I basically ate cheese and crackers in the hotel room for the next two days,” she said. “It was kind of nutty. It was good.”

When her grandmother died, in 2009, the cheese went to Burson. She flew down from New York to take possession. When she got to the house, the cheese was not in the box on the shelf in the closet where it usually resided—her aunt Linda had put it in the freezer. “I was a little freaked out about it,” she said. The cheese flew back on a Delta flight to LaGuardia. It breezed through security, probably because it smells only when it is close to your face. “It smells like old cheese, stinky feet, that sort of thing,” Burson said. Her husband was fully supportive. “He takes issue with me having a lot of stuff,” she said. “But I wouldn’t exactly call the cheese a tchotchke.”

Last summer, Burson took the cheese on a subway to Manhattan, where Tenement Museum employees helped her seal it in a jar. She feels the cheese is preserved now, which pleases her landlord. But Burson worries that it seems less like a relic and more like something in a lab. “I’m a little conflicted about it,” she said.

Making Delicious “Mozz” at Home

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A lot of people who know about my proclivities for and activities related to cheese-making in my Brooklyn, NY apartment have asked me for an easy cheese they can try making at home.

Mozarella is by far the easiest and will give you the most instant gratification for your efforts. Before we dive into the recipe, let me digress for a moment about the history of Mozarella. It’s not clear how mozarella was invented, but like many of the best inventions, it was probably an accident. A cheese curd probably fell into a pot of boiling water, an Italian farmer fished it out and, voi la, mozarella.

We do know that the classic buffalo mozarella comes from Aversa near Naples:

Classic Buffalo Mozarella is made from the milk of water buffaloes. According to Wikipedia, “more than 33,000 tons of buffalo mozarella are produced per year in Italy and it is an industry worth more than $430 million.”

Unless you have access to water buffaloes, you will most likely make your mozarella from cow’s milk. Technically, mozarella made from the milk of cows is called Fior di latte .

OK, now for the good stuff. Here is an easy, “in-an-afternoon” cheese that anyone can make at home. If you need help with any supplies, I recommend Cheesemaking.com but you can also get all of the ingredients for Mozarella at Wholefoods or another health food store.

First, watch this video to get a visual (and aural – Spanish guitar music always helps) sense of how it looks to make Mozz and then see the recipes below for details:

Although it takes a little effort, once you’ve tasted your home-made Mozz, you’ll know it’s worth it.Most recipes for mozarella are similar so you can browse the internet for other variations. This recipe is from Instructables.com:

step 1 Equipment you will need:
Equipment: 1. At least an 8 quart pot either enameled or stainless steel. (Do not use aluminum, cast iron or other reactive pots) 2. Thermometer. (A candy thermometer will probably work but a good digital thermometer is much better for accuracy.) 3. A couple measuring cups or something to dissolve the Citric Acid and Rennet in. 4. A big strainer to strain the Curds fro…

step 2OK First things First
1. Pour 1 teaspoon Citric Acid into 1/4 cup unchlorinated water and stir. Crush the Rennet tablet and pour it into the other cup of unchlorinated water. The Citric Acid should be dissolved by the time you have to use it. Most of the Rennet will be dissolved but there will still be some residue left. 2. If you haven’t done so already, pour milk into your pot. Make sur…
step 3Pour in the Citric Acid.
1. Pour the dissolved Citric Acid in the milk and stir for 1 minute. 2. Sprinkle the other teaspoon of Citric Acid in the milk and sir for another minute. You will probably see the milk start to curdle very shortly.
step 4Heat milk to 88-90 degrees F. Stirring occasionally.
This is not an error. You are not trying to pasteurize the milk. If you get it too hot or too cold, the Rennet will not make curds. Use a low heat so it doesn’t go past the 88-90 degrees. It should take about 10-15 minutes.
step 5At 88-90 degrees turn off the heat and stir in the Rennet solution for 15-20 seconds.
Cover the pot with the lid and LEAVE IT SET UNDISTURBED FOR AT LEAST 15-20 MINUTES until you can get a clean break. I usually let mine set for 15-30 minutes. Time is not critical here as long as you get the clean break.
step 6Wait for a clean break.
This is what a clean break looks like. When you poke your finger into it and move for an inch or so and lift it out, the Curd and Whey should separate shortly. If it is still liquidy (Is that a real word?) and sticks to your finger let it set a while longer.
step 7Cut the Curd.
Cut the Curds into 1/2 inch cubes from top to bottom as shown. Then do the same thing at a 45 degree angle.
step 8Let the Curds set undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.
Just let them sit there.
step 9Apply low heat and heat to 108 degrees.
Apply low heat and stir the curds occasionally to keep them separated until they reach 108 degrees. This will take about 15 minutes. The Curds will shrink and start to sink as the Whey is expelled from them.
step 10Turn off the heat.
Turn off the heat and continue stirring every few minutes for an additional 20 minutes. The Curds will keep shrinking.
Once you’ve finished making your mozarella, you will have a pot full of whey left over. Now, for the bonus recipe:
this leftover whey is the key ingredient in making Ricotta cheese! Ricotta cheese is technically a whey cheese since it is made from re-heating and coagulating the left-over whey that results from making other cheeses. Check out the history of Ricotta here.
To make your Ricotta, follow this recipe from hobbyfarms.com.
Once you have your fresh Mozarella nd Ricotta, here are a few good “summer-y” recipes:

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Urban Farming in NYC and Beyond

Fact – more than 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban environments. It’s estimated that by 2050, the number could be as high as 80%. If we think we’re disconnected from our food supply now, the future looks even more bleak.
This is just one reason that urban farming and urban agriculture projects are so important and interesting.

Urban farming projects range from re-claiming unused public land to school gardens to more innovative vertical farming schemes.

I love the Eagle Street Rooftop garden here in Brooklyn, NY. Ben Flanner and Annie Novak built and tend this rooftop garden. Check out this picture of the farm:

For the full story, check out the article on Serious Eats. Even if you don’t have roof-space like the Eagle street operation, you can grow food in much, much smaller spaces as well.

Another great project in New York City is Added Value, a community farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn. According to their own website:

“Added Value is a non-profit organization promoting the sustainable development of Red Hook by nurturing a new generation of young leaders. We work towards this goal by creating opportunities for the youth of South Brooklyn to expand their knowledge base, develop new skills and positively engage with their community through the operation of a socially responsible urban farming enterprise.”

Added-Value took over a dilapidated, unused city lot and turned it into a functioning 2.75 acre farm. It’s an incredible project and they take volunteers on weekend. Go visit.

For a list of some large-scale NYC gardens check out this article.

A great organization to check out is Growing Power, a great organization founded by former NBA player and MacArthur Fellow Will Allen. Growing Power’s projects in Milwaukee and Chicago are teaching kids and adults alike the value and power of sustainable food production. Watch Allen’s youtube video to see what Growing Power is all about:

Please leave comments about other interesting urban farming/gardening projects.

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The Hazon Food Conference

I plan on devoting the next few posts to my take-aways from the Hazon Food Conference where I was last week in in Monterey, California.

Monterey California

Monterey is gorgeous and the conference was fantastic. Hazon (Hebrew for vision) is a prominent Jewish environmental organization and the food conference brought together an eclectic mix of more than 600 farmers, wanna-be farmers, passionate eaters, activists, environmentalists.Hazon is famous for its Jewish environmental bike rides which it sponsors on the east coast, west coast and in Israel. Their slogan is: the people of the hike, the people of the bike and the people of the bite.”

“I finally found my people,” my friend Dara Frimmer said. I couldn’t agree more.
The conference reinforced my belief that the way we think about what we eat and the way we relate to our food is critical to the future of the planet and to each individuals’ health and sense of connectedness. As an activist in the Jewish community, it was great to explore these issues in a Jewish context.

At the beginning of the conference, the double decker, upside down Hazon Climate-Change bus pulled into Monterey after driving all across the United States fueled entirely on vegetable oil! Check out this video to see what this was all about:

I went to sessions on amd will write blog posts over the coming days on the following topics:

Honey Bees and “colony collapse disorder.” (did you know that we rely on honey bees for 2/3 of our fruits and vegetables?) Definitely check out the film: The Vanishing of the Bees.

Rice and how a cool companu called Lotus Foods is helping to introduce new, more efficient rice farming techniques around the world and is inyroducibg new rice varieties into the US market. (did you know that more than half of the world relies on rice for a significant part of their diet?)

Slow Money. Author Woody Tasch expounded on the Slow Money movement and how spending and investing locally can re-orient us toward building a sustainable, healthy economy.

Composting. Farmer D, an entre-manure from Atlanta, Georgia gave a presentation on the ins and outs of composting. Stop laughing- He’s litetally made a real busIness of shovelling shit.

Urban Agriculture. There are so many intrresting people doing cool things in this area. From school garden to roof-top gardens to reclaiming unused city land, this “field” is booming.

The role of “place” or “land” in Judaism. Rabbi Steve Greenberg discussed the centrality of being attached to the land in Jewish thought and history.

A do-it-yourself mozarella class. Having made a bunch of my own mozz, i skipped this one.

A do-it-yourself sourdough making class taught by Sarah Klein. She has a lot to say about bread and is a really good teacher.We made bagels. I got some pointers for my next sourdough starter.

Stay tuned for more posts about all of this and more….

Women in Cheese in NYC

I found this from my friends at Slow Food NYC. I’ll be there on January 6th. If you’re not familiar with the Slow Food movement, check out their website here and then look for them locally in your city.

“Do you love cheese? Have you ever thought about why so many women are making such good cheese?

Join Slow Food NYC Jan 6th for an evening filled with local women in cheese. On hand will be local cheese purveyor Anne Saxelby, of Saxelby Cheesemongers, leading a discussion with Karen Weinberg of Three Corner Field Farm, Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark of Salvatore Bklyn, Angela Miller of Consider Bardwell Farm, and Lisa Schwartz of Rainbeau Ridge.

Hear the story behind the cheese and how this diverse group of women got into the business. They will discuss the cheese making process from the pastures to the shelves and what makes each of their cheeses so wonderful and unique. And of course each participant will also bring plenty of cheese to try, paired with local New York State cider.

Proceeds from this event will help support the activities and programs of Slow Food NYC.

Where: Astor Center – 399 Lafayette St. (at East 4th St.); Manhattan

When: Wedesday, January 6th, 2010 – 6:30 to 8:30

Tickets Available at:

http://www.astorcenternyc.com/class-slow-u-women-in-cheese.ac

Slow Food Members: $25 – use promotional code SFNYCMEM
Non-members: $35 – use promotional code SFNYCNON”