cherry grove farm

Spring Blooms

Greetings on this balmy March evening that feels of late May. Seems like just yesterday we were in the depths of January doldrums. Things are in bloom, whether by natural order or not, and I spied fiddleheads at one of our customer co-ops.
 
This all means we are days away from the sound of young moos filling the air, followed in weeks by a hoppin’ influx of milk. Time for this cheesemaker to get his garden planted before all of that hits. Exciting days ahead, indeed. 
 
Inline image 1
Trilby, basking in the afternoon spring light.
 
But unto the cheese:
 
Brie: Young batches of regular size. With limited availability per the usual winter milk supply.
 
Herdsman: Wheels from October and early November. Nice wheels with creamy farmhouse flavor. Baskets return (some with ash through the middle) for those that prefer those!
 
Havilah:  August and Sept 2014 batches. Caramel, grass, pineapple, hints of hazelnut, with a really great texture.
 
Lawrenceville Jack: Our usual creamy grass-fed, mac n cheese buddy. Summer wheels
 
Full Nettle Jack: Spicy oregano and lemon notes shining through from the nettles. Spring and summer wheels.  Raw Milk
 
Trilby: Our local rye whiskey-soused friend is currently available in .50 and 1 lb rounds. Lovely beef, buttermilk and even walnut flavors – and just a fistful o’ funk on that rind. Pasteurized.
 
Sweet cheese dreams! Enjoy these longer evenings.  
 
Psst…don’t forget about this :
Curd Convention at Philly Farm Fest: April 10th

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

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.

 

When the Cows Come Home: The A2 versus A1 debate

friesian head

For the past year or so, we have been in a transitioning from a pasture-based model, where the cows got some grain during winter, to a 99% grass fed dairy. That is a slow transition. Going purely grass fed is both an adjustment for the cows, and for the farmer, who must monitor his cows to see how they are adjusting, and plan appropriately to grow and harvest enough hay for the winter months.

Cows adjusted to grain give more milk, so our grass fed model requires more cows to maintain the volume of milk needed to make our cheeses. In the name of balance, we decided to introduce a few new cows to the herd; ten hearty Friesians with A2A2 genetics.

What are A2A2 genetics, you ask?

It seems that hundreds of years ago there was a mutation in a gene that changed the nature of the proteins in cows’ milk. Now, this was a long time ago, but over generations this A1 mutation predominated in Europe and the US, while the original A2 cows continued to thrive in Africa and Asia.

Fast forward to today. There are many claims about the digestibility and health detriments/benefits of A2 milk versus A1 milk. Although there are no concrete studies to prove it one way or the other, there is a book, “The Devil is in the Milk” by Dr. Keith Woodford, that has become a bible for believers.

There is, however, anecdotal evidence that cows with the original A2 gene are more hardy, more likely to thrive, in a 100% grass fed environment. These are the original cows, with the more feral genetics, and as a grass fed creamery that has meaning for us. Introducing some A2 genetics into our herd seemed right.

After much googling and visiting, we found a farm in New York State with a herd of healthy, thriving grass fed A2 cows that we felt would be a match for our herd. Our ten debutantes arrived the last Friday of February, pushing into the pole barn to get acquainted with the CGF herd. Our girls lined the paddock fence, craning their necks to see the new arrivals, amidst much mooing, snorting, and sniffing.

The new cows will be kept apart for a while to give them time to acclimate, and when the grass springs again, they will be introduced to our pastures and begin their life at the farm. We expect about 45 calves this spring. We hope you will drop by to visit and say hello to the newcomers.

Note: A1A1 and A2A2 genetics are not, as sometimes reported, breed specific. The A1A1 gene may predominate in certain breeds, but you can find A2A2 Holsteins and A1A1 Jerseys. The only way to know for sure is to test the milk.

Melted Cheese Chases the Blues Away

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.

RacletteScrape

image by rachelinlux.com

 

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.

Living Through The Dumb Time

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.


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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