Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Cheesecloth
So I was just thinking about cheese like I do every morning, noon and night. This is not going to be a oh-what-a-world entry in the life and times of a boring not-knowing it all...it's more of a holy-shit-that-was-cool kind of post. BECAUSE IT'S ABOUT MAKING CHEESE!
That's right, suckas (my U key is really sticky for some reason but I didn't mind until it made it hard to type suckas), my man Karl Frost makes his own delicious farm fresh cheese and he does it sans animal bits or cultures. He milks his goats twice a day and saves it up in mason jars, sticking them in coolers. They have one cooler out in the barn under a Power Rangers blanket and one in the kitchen. The Frosts have no fridge so this makes them eat up all the little bits of leftovers most of us forget in the back of our refrigerators until they're as discolored and malformed as our sense of human decency. I ate a lot of meals there that I then ate for lunch the following day and then again for dinner but with some yogurt mixed in or something (yogurt also made my Karl. The man is a wizard). It sounds boring but it kind of made the cook/s more creative in their cooking because they knew the taste would have to entertain them for awhile. Also there were a lot of us to eat everything-Karl, Alison, Jason, myself and the young family down the road who I think of as The Gilligans even though that's only the mom's name, Wendy. Yuri is her non-husband and Elu is their baby. They had recently moved to Commonplace and were fixing up a cabin far up the road with the promise that they could live and homestead there in exchange for their work. I liked them very much but was also weirded out because Wendy is my exact age. Watching her carry around a baby is freaky though their family in general seems really happy. Wendy and Yuri stopped by most evenings after a long day of spackling and ditch filling by their cabin, either to help cook or do some work around the farm in exchange for their CSA share. Elu is about eleven months and when I first met them at the Strawberry Festival I thought "This poor sunburned bug bitten baby! Damned hippies!" Now I just kind of feel sorry for all those lily white babes who never breath fresh air or eat dirt.
When the coolers are full Karl gets out his equipment-a double boiler, a thermometer, and a cheese cloth. He boils about five gallons of goat milk to 180 degrees, takes it off the stove then adds one and a half cups either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. BAM! Milk curdles.
He uses a strainer to separate the curds from the whey (suddenly that little Miss Moffet jam bag has some visuals) then packs them in a cheese cloth adding salt and chopped garlic, which in turn gets stuck into a cheese shaped container with holes all over and a lid. On top of the lid he sets a bucket full of water. The weight of the bucket pushes down the lid and squeezes more whey through the cheesecloth. The longer you leave the weight on, the dryer the cheese gets. Karl saves the whey for Alison to soak beans in since she thinks it makes them less gas inducing...No. No, it doesn't.
The final product is very light and airy cheese. It's not meant to be aged but rather eaten up right away. It's almost like cottage cheese but not nearly as curdy or wet. You can slice it. And eat it. Mmm. People call all the time asking for Karl's cheese which he no longer makes to sell. This isn't hearsay, I answered the phone a few times to these requests.
A kind of interesting 'fact' (I didn't verify it at all) is that a lot of dairy farmers, of which there are many in upstate New York, make money through specialty items they can produce with their milk like cheese or butter. We kind of undervalue milk even grass fed organic because we're so used to buying cheaps quarts of cow juice. Dani, from Cross Island Farms, described this as Added Value, their time and knowledge making the milk more valuable to buyers. Also CHEESE IS DELICIOUS!
I was going to put a link here to a make your own cheese website but there are a million of them. Go to 'google.com' and type in 'make cheese'. Or follow Karl's recipe if you have a lot of goat milk handy. I'm buying a cheesecloth myself.