We are knee deep in planning our year’s classes and events. Tamara is setting up expanded cheese making sessions and we are talking with local chefs, restaurateurs, and food fanatics about collaborating on farm dinners and other educational opportunities.
Self-sufficiency seems to be the 2016 theme: home cheesemaking, DIY homesteading techniques to help you stretch the harvest, and seasonal foraging. All good skills should you ever need to survive the zombie apocalypse.
Check out our plans and register here.
Wintry weather conjures visions of friends gathered round a roaring fire, cooking, laughing and sharing a warm toast. Communal cooking around a hearth is sure fire way to banish the winter blues.
The alpine regions of Europe have given us great traditions of communal hearth cooking. Here at the farm, we love an evening with a tasty raclette.
Raclette is a semi firm meltable cow’s milk cheese that has given its name to a time-honored meal born in the mountains of Switzerland. Historically, Swiss cow herders would take a wheel of raclette with them when moving cows to and from the mountain pastures. Around the evening camp fire, they would place a part of the wheel close to the fire and, when it reached the perfect softness, scrape the melted layer onto bread for a nourishing, warm meal. (The term raclette derives from the French word racler, meaning “to scrape,”)
At the home hearth, a cheese wheel is cut in half or quarters, depending on the number of guests, and placed with its face close to the fire so it begins to soften and melt. The melted cheese is scraped from the wheel onto plates and served, traditionally, with bread, small firm potatoes, tiny gherkins, pickled onions, and cured meats.
In Switzerland, raclette was typically served with tea or other warm beverages. However a dry fruity white wine, such as the traditional Savoy wine, a Reisling or Pinot Gris is also a good match. (Take note that local lore cautions that other drinks, water for example, will cause the cheese to harden in the stomach, leading to indigestion. So they say.)
For the hearth-less, there are small electric table-top grills with small trays for melting the slices of cheese. Generally the grill is placed over a hot plate or griddle that will keep the cheese warm. The cheese is brought to the table sliced, with boiled or steamed potatoes, pickled vegetables and charcuterie. The accompaniments are mixed with the potatoes, topped with the cheese and set under the grill to melt and brown the cheese. Alternatively, slices of cheese may be melted and browned in the trays, then scraped over the accompaniments.
Raclette dining, like fondue dinners, are supposed to foster a relaxed and sociable atmosphere, often stretching over several hours. What better way to beat these late winter blues?
Cherry Grove Farm’s Herdsman makes a good raclette-style cheese. Think of us as you while away the hours in front of the fire.
There aren’t many grass-fed dairies around, but our numbers are growing. Grass fed dairying is something that our grandparents and great grandparents knew all about. Once upon a time, grass fed was the only way, yet in the space of three to four generations, we’ve forgotten how to do it.
A number of progressive Pennsylvania and New Jersey farmers believe that getting back to basics is the best way to produce wholesome, quality products. These dedicated souls meet periodically to share their knowledge, their challenges and their successes. Slowly, through trial and error, these farmers are rediscovering the art and science of running a grass fed dairy herd.
Transitioning a dairy farm from conventional process to grass fed, is far more complicated than just hanging up the grain bag and turning the cows out into the field. Most U.S. dairy cows are bred for conventional, grain-based dairy farming. These cows do their best work when eating grain, genetically selected over time to convert grain to energy effectively. That means that not all breeds of cow, or even individual cows, transition to grass easily. Some take to it, some take time to get in the rhythm, and some cannot adjust. As information about transitioning to grass is not readily accessible in a book or online, what we need is the down and dirty; the detail you get from sharing knowledge with your peers.
To get the high quality milk required for artisanal cheese you must have quality forage. A good farmer manages the herd’s health and well-being, while also managing the pasture’s healthy and productive. Without added organic nutrients, soils deplete over time as energy is removed through grazing. If you don’t put something back, the pasture won’t thrive and support the cows, which means a good dairy farmer is also a grass farmer, monitoring the pastures, adding organic matter when necessary. It’s a many-headed beast, farming. You need to understand a lot about livestock, soils, plants… and in real time, as your animals and pastures grow and change with the seasons.
One dairy farmer we know describes the early transition to grass-fed dairying as “living through the dumb time.” He says, “We all go through it, searching for the path to a healthy farm.” What makes it easier is this meeting of the minds, the sharing of knowledge and discovery. We are proud, as a farm, to be a part of the rediscovery.