Latest News from the Farm

Nostalgia

heirloom-tomatoes-istoc39e1_6-16-14When I was a child I wouldn’t eat tomatoes. My mom would snack on cartons of cherry tomatoes while we rode in the car, eating them until the acid made her mouth hurt. Oh, not me. Ketchup? On a hot dog, maybe…Sauce? Okay, once in awhile – but never touching my buttered spaghetti. And raw tomatoes…nope, never.

I don’t recall exactly when I changed my mind about tomatoes, but it was a slow, gradual shift. It started with a slice on a sandwich, then salsa fresca. Then I learned about heirlooms…and fried green tomatoes…and tomato jam, and chutney and, and, and…Finally, three years ago I ate my weight in fresh garden tomatoes, quartered and sprinkled with salt, drizzled with emerald green Italian olive oil – a friendly gift from a garden that kept on giving.

If Adult Me could go back and have a sit-down with Child Me, one of the pieces of wisdom I would offer is about the vast sweet deliciousness of a perfectly ripe tomato. The satisfaction of the taut skin of a cherry tomato bursting between your teeth. The warm earthy scent that wafts from tomatoes clinging to the vine in the hot summer sun. I would ask that little girl to close her eyes and inhale the scent, take a little bite and give it just the tiniest chance. I would sit in anticipation while she scrunched up her face and moved the fruit around in her mouth, trying to decide whether she liked this new thing, or she didn’t. But even if Child Me turned up her nose, I could still be satisfied that at some point in her life, she did change her mind. And Adult Me is enjoying every bite.

Extend your tomato season: join us at Jammin’ Crepes on September 16, for a class all about preserving the tomato. Tickets available here.

Our Farm-to-Table Community

Author and Chef, Rachel Weston

Author and Chef, Rachel Weston

Being a part of the community has always been a big part of what defines Cherry Grove Farm. As the farm grows and expands its meat, cheese, and class offerings, we’re also expanding our reach into the community, teaming up with some very skilled, passionate locals.

Rachel Weston is one such local. A talented writer and culinarian, Rachel is the voice behind “The Gutsy Gourmet,” a column for The Star-Ledger, celebrating the people and places that make New Jersey’s food culture so vibrant. Her cookbook, “Jersey Fresh”, was released in May of this year. The collection of recipes and tips for cooking over fifty types of seasonal New Jersey produce is a testament to Rachel’s knowledge of the multitude of thriving farms, CSAs, and local farmers markets that pepper the Garden State.

We’re excited that Rachel is bringing some of that flavor to Cherry Grove Farm with two upcoming interactive farm dinners: Farm Fiesta, on August 29th, and Moroccan Feast, on September 26th. Both BYO dinners will feature demonstrations by Rachel, and hands-on cooking activities, all-in-all a night of friends, family, and food.

To reserve a seat for our Mexican “Farm Fiesta”, click here.
Tickets for the Moroccan Feast can be purchased here.

Sweet Skinny About Honey

Human beings have gathered honey for over 2000 years. Honey is delicious, and chock full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes. Reported to have antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, honey has been used as a folk medicine for dandruff, coughs, allergies, burns, and minor wounds for generations. (During World War I, honey was used as an emergency coating for battlefield wounds to help retard infection.)

Typically, the commercial honey found in supermarkets is processed at high temperatures for a long period (160 degrees) then filtered to remove pollen, beeswax, and propolis. This “long cooking” of the honey effectively pasteurizes it, killing the beneficial vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants and retarding crystallization.

Raw honey — honey in its natural state – is uncooked and usually unfiltered. As such, it contains small amounts of pollen and propolis. Raw honey also crystallizes, though different varieties granulate faster than others.

Raw honey will granulate when it is stored in a spot reliably under 50 degrees. Crystallization also occurs faster in plastic versus glass containers. Many people prefer crystallized honey for its easy to spread texture. If you prefer a runny honey, do not despair. Heat the bottle gently in a bath of hot water (no higher than 120 degrees or it will pasteurize) and the honey will re-liquify.

honey varietals

Wide Variation in Honey Colors

There are many types of honey varietals; as many as there are plants that flower. There are single flower (monofloral) honeys, and multifloral honeys. We offer a list of some of the most popular varietal honeys. (This symbol Ω —indicates the varietal is sold in our farm store).

Avocado Blossom Honey is a dark, full flavored honey. Hard to find because southern beekeepers are collecting orange blossom honey when the avocado trees are blooming. Extremely slow to crystallize.

—Ω Blueberry Blossom Honey is medium amber in color and the perfect complement to a bowl of fresh fruit.

Buckwheat Honey is not for the faint of heart. It is very dark in color with pungent flavors of molasses and malt, and a lingering aftertaste. The buckwheat plant is an excellent nectar source for bees, often planted by beekeepers specifically because the blossoms are nectar rich and late blooming. As a general rule, darker honeys tend to be higher in antioxidant compounds and mineral content than lighter honeys.

—Ω Clover Honey is a light-colored honey, with heavy floral tones and a pleasant taste. Clovers contribute more to honey production in the United States than any other group of plants. The clover types most often found in honey production include white Dutch clover, white blossom clover, and yellow blossom clover.

—Ω Cranberry Blossom Honey is medium-colored with a hint of tartness. A good cooking honey, delicious in homemade applesauce.

Goldenrod Honey has been described with a variety of color and taste descriptions, probably because it can be a multifloral honey, depending on bloom times. A light to medium honey, it often has a bit of a bite. Mead makers love it. Crystallizes quickly.

—Ω Knotwood Honey comes from the Japanese Knotweed plant, an invasive found in 39 of the 50 states. Japanese knotweed (also called bamboo honey) is a dark honey with a pleasant sweetness, like a slightly milder buckwheat honey. Japanese knotweed flowers are valued by some beekeepers as an important source of nectar for honeybees, as they bloom at a time of year when little else is flowering.

Orange Blossom Honey comes primarily from orange blossoms, but can be a combination of citrus sources. Usually pale gold with a fresh scent and mild citrus notes. Orange blossom honey is produced in Florida, Southern California and parts of Texas. This honey has exceptional taste and is commonly spread on breads or biscuits.

Sourwood Honey is gathered from native sourwood trees. The honey has a unique pink/purple color and a spicy flavor that becomes more complex as it sits on the tongue.

Star Thistle Honey, from the yellow star thistle plant, originated in the Mediterranean and migrated to the US in the mid nineteenth century. Light golden in color, with a mild, pleasingly floral taste, this honey takes a long while to crystallize and makes a delicious creamed honey.

Tupelo honey is a golden amber color with a mild, pleasant flavor. A popular honey in the south, its buttery texture is perfect for spreading on biscuits It is also slow to crystallize. The best Tupelo honey producing region in the world exists in the wetlands of the Florida panhandle along the Appalachicola, Chipola, and Choctahatchie River systems of creeks and backwaters where the Tupelo (Nyssa ogeche) is native. The Tupelo tree has been added to the Ark of Taste, the conservancy list of heritage plants and animals that are endangered and must be protected.

—Ω Wildflower Honey is a mixed (multifloral) honey that comes from bees visiting a variety of wildflowers and plants blooming in a given season. It is a thicker honey with great variation in flavors and aromas. The color and flavor of a honey labeled wildflower will vary widely based on the region and the wildflowers, trees and plants in bloom. Most have a mild to medium taste with variations of floral and herbal tones. Taste a variety of wildflower honeys from different regions of the country (and the world) to get a true feel for terroir.

—Ω Cherry Grove Farm Wildflower Honey changes with the seasons. In early summer the honey is a golden straw color with distinct clover notes reflecting the white and red clovers in our pastures. By autumn, thought the color is still golden, the flavors have shifted to more herbal tones reflecting the wild thyme, mints, and thistles blooming in the fields.

A Blue Ribbon for Cherry Grove Cheesemaking

Another Blue Ribbon Cheese for Cherry Grove Farm

We are proud to announce that “Abruzze Jawn” was a blue-ribbon winner for Cherry Grove Farm at the 2015 American Cheese Society Conference Awards on July 31,

Customers this earlier this summer were introduced to this meaty, smoky cheese through the farm store and local farm markets.  “A simple Jack recipe allows the quality of the grass-fed milk to shine and creates a backdrop for our seasonal line of flavored cheeses,” said Head Cheesemaker, Paul Lawler. “Our ‘Abruzze Jawn’ is a blend of six different smoked and sweet peppers with green peppercorns that harmonize to give the cheese robust, salami-like flavors.”

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Farmstead cheeses are all about terroir, the unique flavors imparted by the land and forage of a specific place. Fittingly, the name “Abruzze Jawn” also reflects the local terroir. “Abruzze Jawn was named, firstly, because it tastes like salami,” offered Jamie Png, cheesemaker at Cherry Grove Farm, “And secondly, because Jack is short for John, and ‘Jawn’ is short for everything.”

‘Jawn’ is Philadelphia slang for a thing, or anything you cannot recall the word for at a moment. It is also the Philadelphia pronunciation of the name John, of which Jack (as in Monterey Jack) is a diminutive. These cheesemakers know their stuff.

This is the third blue ribbon for Cherry Grove Farm in three years. We previously won blues for our Buttercup Brie and Lawrenceville Jack Reserve cheeses.

Come in to the farm store for a taste, we will be sampling Abruzze Jawn all week!

Shared Memories

CookbookWhen I was a little girl, my favorite place to be was my grandma’s kitchen. I can still remember the ever-present smell of garlic and butter, herbs and dust. Her refrigerator was a frightening hodge-podge of smelly cheeses, strange fish, and homemade pepper jams and relish. I would spend hours standing on a stool grinding seeds and spices with a mortar and pestle, making spice concoctions that likely made no sense whatsoever, while she rolled out fresh pizza dough and sipped burgundy.

The best part of my grandma’s kitchen, though, was the wall of cookbooks. Small pictureless paperbacks on Chinese cooking. Massive colorful tomes full of Italian olive groves, or the streets of Paris. Julia Child classics and brand new Emeril Lagasse. Whole series of books that covered cooking around the globe, from one end to the other. And it wasn’t just books – stacks of Bon Appetit and Gourmet Magazine piled up around the dining room, just waiting to have their recipes ripped from the pages and stuffed into envelopes, and cards, and care packages.

My grandmother didn’t just amass recipes; she shared them. And every time I sneak a peek at the donated cookbooks threatening to overflow their home on the bottom shelf in our farm store, I think of her and the love she spread through food, and I wonder where each of these books will end up, whose kitchen they will call home. Because it’s not enough that we have this knowledge and love of animals, and farming, and food – we want to share it, too.

 

Need new inspiration for your dinner table? Come check out our second-hand cookbooks, donated by members of our community and sold to benefit “Farmers Against Hunger”.

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1902 - Family purchased farm

1910 - Leased land to dairy farmer

1987 - Hamill Brothers inherit farm

2002 - Started as a family business

2003 - Started a beef herd, laying hens, and pigs

2004 - Added sheep and attained organic certification of pasture land

2005 - Added dairy herd and began making fresh cheeses like mozzarella

2006 - Built aging caves and began making aged cheeses

2012 - Grid Magazine’s Cheese of the Month (Nov – Full Nettle Jack); Finalist at the Good Food Awards (Toma)

2013 - Won 2 blue ribbons from the American Cheese Society(for Buttercup Brie and Lawrenceville Jack Reserve); Added second cheesemaker

2014 - Broke ground on additional aging space and began process of getting AWA certification for our chickens
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