Monday, January 31, 2011

Angelique Haschalk in Virginia

Tips for using mozzarella, her own dog food recipe with whey and making farmhouse cheddar!

Angelique Haschalk first wrote to us with a tip for using our 30 minute mozzarella:

In your instructions you mention to be careful using fresh mozzarella because with the high moisture content it can make your crust soggy.  Well, I have a tip to prevent that (I think I discovered this by accident a couple of years ago).  First, I always bake my crust for about 20 minutes before adding any sauce and other toppings to make sure that the crust comes out really crunchy.

Grated mozzarella on her pizza before baking

Then, before I grate the fresh mozzarella, I put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm it up a little.  This makes it much easier to grate since it is such a soft cheese.  The tip is that I grate my cheese and put it in the fridge on a plate uncovered for about 30 minutes prior to putting it on the pizza.  This seems to dry it out just enough so it's not too wet when you sprinkle it on top of the pizza. 

I asked her how she began making cheese:

My Mom got me both your Basic Cheese Making Kit and your Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit for Christmas.  Dad said that he wasn't sure if she made a hit or a miss on this one this year.  I love to cook and so Mom always gets me things related to cooking for Christmas.  Fresh mozzarella is one of my all time favorite cheeses so I had to try and make that first. 

Since I live in an area of Virginia where there aren't any local farms, I was worried that I would have to substitute by making the powdered milk and cream version.  However, when I was in the dairy department of our local Food Lion today I discovered some good news.  Some of the national brands like Pet were clearly listed as "ultra-pasteurized" but the Food Lion brand was only listed as "pasteurized".  The lady that worked in the department said that she had never had the question asked to her about if their milk was just pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized but that their dairy farms are in North Carolina so that's not too far to travel up here to Virginia.  I said that I was going to give it a try and she asked me to let her know if it worked because she was really interested and was laughing.

Ready to eat!
Well, I got home and poured the whole milk into a glass pyrex pot; I added my citric acid solution and stirred away.  The milk probably is cooked at a little higher temp above what the "normal" temp (if there is one) for pasteurized is suppose to be because it took about 14 minutes for it to get pretty good curd.  It still wasn't as solid and separate from the one in your book but once I strained it from the whey, microwaved it and pulled it out, it came out PERFECT!!!

Thanks so much for getting me into becoming a cheesemaker and I'm really looking forward to making many more of your cheeses as my wonderful Mom also got me your cheese making cookbook! (Home Cheese Making)

Angelique has a cute little rescue Pomeranian (Coco) who doesn't have any teeth, so Angelique makes her a special soft dog food, using some of her leftover whey.  (Recipe below.)  She makes the chicken stock herself (with no salt).

Angelique's Own Recipe for Homemade Doggie Food

1/2 cup dry long grain brown rice
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 cup whey left over from mozzarella
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk or half & half
1 Tbsp cream cheese
1/4 Granny Smith or Red Delicious apple

For chicken version add the following:
2 chicken quarters (legs and thighs)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp lemon herb seasoning (no salt)
1/2 tsp garlic and herb dried seasoning (no salt)

In a medium sauce pan add the rice, chicken stalk, whey and cream cheese.  Cook over high heat until it boils and then reduce to simmer and partially cover. 
Defrost veggies in a microwave safe bowl in 2 tbsp of water, grind up in food processor and add to rice mixture.
With the skin on, cut up apple into small, bite sized pieces and add to rice mixture.  One of my two pups is a rescue so she has no teeth, therefore I cut up her food into tiny pieces.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk or half & half together and mix into the rice mixture.  Cook for about an hour stirring periodically until rice is tender.  You may need to add a little additional chicken stock or whey until the rice is fully cooked.
For the chicken:
Season both sides of chicken with the herbs.  Spray a sheet tray lined with foil with butter cooking spray.  Place the chicken on the tray and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until juices run clear.  Let chicken rest on a wooden cutting board for 10 minutes.  Cut up chicken into small pieces and add to the rice mixture.
Your pups will enjoy much better than their old processed food and you'll be happy knowing that you're feeding food that is much healthier for them!

Angelique tried her first "hard" cheese recently, and she took pictures of the process:

Angelique's First Farmhouse Cheddar
Heating the milk.
Curds beginning to form.
Draining the curds in a cheesecloth-lined colander.
To drain, I tied the curds in the cheesecloth to my kitchen faucet above the sink and put a bowl below it so I could save the yummy and healthy whey to use in my homemade food for my two pups.  Speaking of how healthy whey is, there are many ads running on TV now for powdered whey protein supplements to purchase because of the great nutrition they offer.  As a result, my two pups are probably healthier than lots of people!
Yes, I used two of my husband's ten pound free weights to weigh down my drained curds and it worked perfectly!  I left the curds that were in the cheesecloth in the colander and folded the cheesecloth over.  I set the colander into the bottom of the sink and put a sturdy paper plate on top of the drained curds and then a piece of plastic wrap.  Then, I added two of my husband's ten pound free weights which fit perfectly on top and let that sit for 12 hours.
Just out of the mold.  (Note:  Ideally Angelique's cheese would be quite a bit smoother.  It's likely that the weight situation did not work properly and the cheese wasn't pressed enough- a very common occurrence on the first attempt.)
View from the side.
My cheese is dried and ready for waxing.  I waited until day 5 to wax my cheese because it still had some moisture on the outside.  I turned it over and wiped the moisture off of my cheese about four times a day and dried it on a bamboo mat on a wooden cutting board.
Here's the bottom of my cheese, ready for the wax!
Melting the wax in a double boiler:
I have a really nice double boiler that I use to melt chocolate for my husband's cakes so I couldn't use that one.  I actually just went to a local thrift store and bought two stainless steel pans for $5.00.  One fits inside of the other quite nicely and now these are my dedicated wax melting pots.
First application of cheese wax.
It's really important to put your cheese in the fridge (uncovered) for about three hours before waxing it so the wax will harden on it very quickly.  Also, make sure not to leave any area uncovered because mold can easily form.  I "painted" the cheese with my right hand and held the cheese with my plastic gloved left hand and painted away.  I also laid out a couple sheets of wax paper on the stove for any wax drips and that worked out great.
Three coats of wax are on the cheese with no bubbles or non-covered spots or crevices.  I only needed to melt half of the one pound block of wax and there was still more left over in the pot.
The only thing left to do is to label my cheese.
And we're all done!!!
I want to let it age for the full six months but my mom and dad will be passing through from Florida on their way back up to their farmhouse in Maine in May.  We may have to eat it then!  This was so much fun to make and watch what it it evolved into. 
I made a nice cheese analogy today that my mom thought I should pass on:  For people that don't understand how something as simple as milk can be made into so many different cheeses, I like to think of it like looking at flour.  By just adding a few simple ingredients, even by just adding water in some cases, flour can become many different types of bread, pasta, pie crust, pizza, pastries and other things.

Note:  Angelique has just started a blog and she would welcome any comments along the lines of how to do it.  Her address is:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mustafa Hakkani

Making Cheese at a Sufi Community in the Catskills
I was all set to write an article about Mustafa, a young Sufi (32) who wrote to us from his farm in the Catskills with a few questions about making cheese.  I thought it would be an interesting article, so I had asked him some questions and he sent me some answers and some beautiful pictures.

When I went to write the article, I realized I really didn't know what a Sufi was.  So, I looked up "Sufi Communities" and discovered that Mustafa's community was recently the center of a controversy so intense that Steven Colbert made a remark about it on his show!  (I don't have TV and I guess I don't read the right newspapers, so I had missed it.)

Before I tell you about that, let me say a few words about Sufism;  First, according to Wikipedia, "Sufism is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam.  Another name for a Sufi is Dervish.  Mainstream scholars of Islam define sufism as simply the name for the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam.  It is so different from the form of Islam we know most about that, in fact, "The government of Iran is considering an outright ban on Sufism, according to the 2009 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom."

Unfortunately, most Americans don't know much about the Islamic faith.  Because of what many consider to be bigotry, Mustafa's community was targeted and, some say, persecuted by local officials in Sidney Center, NY where the community lives (150 miles north of New York City).  Amazingly, the citizens of that town rallied to the aid of the Sufi community and pressured the town supervisors to leave the community alone.

According to an AP article by Helen O'Neill published in the Seattle Times December 10th (

"They packed the civic center for a chaotic town meeting, where - as more than a dozen Sufis watched - about 150 locals yelled at their board.  "Shame on you!" they cried.  "Apologize!"

Many had never been to a town meeting before.  Many had never met a Muslim.
And they trekked to the Sufi center eight miles outside town, to sip tea with the sheik, to vow that Sidney, population 6,000, will be in the spotlight again, this time as an example of tolerance and understanding."

Mustafa, quietly continued to milk his cows and make his cheese while this tornado whirled around him.  When I interviewed him, I had no knowledge of these political events and he never mentioned it ...

Where do you live?

My Sufi community is called the Osmanli Naksibendi Dergahi and we are in the Catskill Mountains, in the town of Sidney Center, New York.
We have been here for over 9 years. Our Seyh, Seyh Abdul Kerim Efendi founded this place and we moved here not long afterwards. We really needed a farm to live in, because we believe that a natural life is very important in our spiritual development. We are stressing a natural and organic lifestyle - we plant our own vegetables, raise our own free-range and organically raised sheep, chickens and meat.
Seyh Efendi, founder of the community
How did you end up making your own cheese?

I originally come from Turkey. We love cheese and yoghurt in our culture and I always wanted to make my own cheese and yoghurt, especially when the milk is all natural and organic.

When we first started milking sheep about 5 years ago, I started making sheep yoghurt and I really liked it. We have about 50 ewes in our flock and when it came time to wean the lambs, we thought- instead of letting the ewes dry up- why not get some milk? 
So, as the days went by, we started to have milk building up in the fridge.  We just separated the lambs from the mommies but milked the mommies everyday twice a day - by hand!  It was not that easy, especially in the beginning, but it was very rewarding.

Later we were given some dairy cows- they were Holstein and Jersey. So, I started making mixed sheep and cow yoghurt and it was even better.  But I really wanted to learn how to make cheese.
(at left) Cemal holding PINAR (Spring), (at right) Mehmet Ali holding Sari KIZ (Blonde Girl)
The leader of our spiritual community, Sheykh Abdul Kerim Kibrisi, likes hellumi cheese so when he was away I made some.  It was ok.  When he came back, he was surprised that I was able to make the cheese especially when my technique was all wrong! So he taught me the real way to make it.
Mustafa's Hellim (recipe posted next week)
I have a small aging room where I put all my cheese.  There is a humidity fire in the room.  I try to keep the temperature at 55F and the relative humidity at 70-80% as much as I can.

I really like the process of making cheese and especially seeing people enjoy it.  I started to look for recipes online - but had difficulty getting the results I wanted.  In all honesty, it wasn't until I got your book that it all made sense - the recipes work, the instructions are clear and the results always consistent. Thank you!
I wax some of the cheeses and I use a vacuum sealer.  I sometimes also do natural rinds with my Dill Havarti and my Manchego.
Mustafa's first big Farmhouse Cheddar on a stand he made for the picture.
Mustafa graciously wrote out his recipe for Hellim (also known as Halloumi) and took pictures of the entire process of making it.  I will be posting it next week.  Thank you very much, Mustafa.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Learning to Make Cheese at a Bed & Breakfast Farm-Stay

Ward and Barb Halligan
CornerStone Farm in Red Oak, VA

What if you wanted to have a getaway weekend at a farm in the country and learn to make cheese at the same time?  Or, what if you wanted to learn to make cheese but the rest of your family didn't and you wanted to all be together anyway? Or, what if everyone in your family (even your young children) wanted to learn to make cheese?  Or, what if ... well, you get the idea!

Young guest learning to milk a goat

It's all there at Barb and Ward Halligan's bed & breakfast farm-stay in southern Virginia (20 miles above the North Carolina border).  Depending on the season, while you're staying at the farm you might opt to learn cheese making (spring - early fall) as well as: bread making, goat milk soap making, potpourri making, spinning and felting.

You might also choose to participate in the farm chores- gathering eggs, feeding livestock, milking goats, and picking vegetables from the garden.

Another happy guest milking a goat

Or, you might just decide to relax and have fun fishing in their pond, hiking their trails, gazing at stars through their telescopes, bird watching, playing yard games, goat packing (hiking with a goat carrying your pack), bicycling (bikes included), horseback riding, and kite flying.  They really do have it all!

There are about a million different packages at their website ( 

When I found them online, I had never heard of a bed & breakfast where you could learn to make cheese, so I had a lot of questions for Barb:

How did you make the decision to own a bed & breakfast farm-stay?

Ward and I worked for AT&T when we lived in New Jersey- we were both middle management. We purchased a small farm in central Jersey right after marriage. In NJ we were the place to visit, as we had the largest parcel of land amongst our friends and some "critters" (poultry and goats) to entertain them.

We had talked about opening a B&B in our retirement years since we both share a gift for hospitality and enjoy country life. We discussed having a few critters around in our retirement years to keep our own love for livestock alive and also for our guests to enjoy.

We moved to Virginia shortly after 9/11 due to Ward's job being outsourced. I was able to keep my corporate job, but was downsized as well shortly after the move. We discussed selling the farm or opening up a B&B. We decided on the latter since our hearts have been country- even living in suburban NJ. Although not close to retirement, we also decided to run the farm as breed-stock farmers.

Since we had all the land, 92 acres, we researched and thought about the type of B&B we would offer. Since Red Oak, Virginia is in the middle of nowhere, we decided a destination B&B was our best option. We had added different species by this time and thought a farm-stay would be ideal. So, CornerStone Farm was born. We added what we felt would be activities reminiscent of farm-life during the agricultural days of our country, so guest families could experience, at a certain level, what farm-life was like when families operated them.

So, we went from 8 acres in New Jersey to 92 acres in Virginia. We added donkeys, mini-Jersey cattle, sheep, horses, and alpacas to the diversity on the farm; giving us many options with our guests and livestock buyers. We only breed the goats, cows, poultry, and donkeys at this time.

The farm was already here with barns, fencing, a pond and good pastureland. The farm was in disarray, but mostly workable for our needs. Going from a small hobby farm to a relatively large "real" farm was a life change and commitment for each of us. We brought the livestock we had down with us from NJ and added more since we had the room.

How did you learn to farm? 

Both Ward and I processed a love for the land and country living, even though we both grew up on small residential partials in suburban NJ. When we started purchasing livestock, we were blessed to have great mentors, both in knowledge and in patience with each of us. We are also avid readers and read a lot on the species we chose to start off with.

Our goat herd grew as did everything else. The Nigerians on average give about 7% butterfat, so their yield in by-products from the milk is greater.

Kitchen prepared for class

Liese teaching guests to make cheese

How did you learn to make cheese?

I had advertised that we offered cheese making as one of the options available at the CornerStone Farm B&B, Farmer Package. Little did I know that one of our first guests would request cheese making and I knew nothing of it. Thank goodness for my dear friend Gail Putcher, otherwise known by many as "Mother" Putcher. I called "mom" and asked her for very easy, idiot proof, recipes. She gave me two. The one I used is a very simple "farmer's cheese," using vinegar as the coagulant.

Pouring out the curds

The first batch of cheese was scary and yet a fun time with our B&B guest. I didn't have time to try it on my own, so it was - "let's hope this at least turns out to be something edible, since I don't even know what it is supposed to look or taste like." This experience got me hooked on cheese making.

After that first "fly by the seat of my pants" experience, I contacted New England Cheesemaking Supply and ordered their beginner book with many recipes, along with the needed equipment to present ourselves better.

A good friend of ours, Liese, at the same time started making more complicated cheeses and I asked her if she would be willing to partner with me in offering one day basic cheese making classes at the farm. We have been able to offer these on a limited basis from the spring through fall, and have found them enjoyable for those in attendance.

The Nigerian milk is sweet and high in butterfat, which offers a pleasant surprise to those attending. Some are not sure they will like goat milk's cheese because of the typical "goaty" flavor associated with some commercial goat cheeses. After sampling what's made, they enjoy the flavor. With these recipes, you can use either goat's or cow's milk. Since it is illegal to sell goat's milk in Virginia, the attendees leave knowing they can create cheese from pasteurized store-bought cow's milk.

What kinds of cheese do you make in your classes?

We make chevre, mozzarella, and still the farmer’s cheese- all easy soft cheeses. Our classes are about 6 hours long and we provide a lunch as well, so our choices are limited. At this time, most attendees are only interested in simple easy recipes that they can do at home with good results.

Preparing to hang the curds in cheesecloth

Do you use only goat's milk in your classes?

At this time, yes. Since we can not sell the milk and we have an over-abundance of goat’s milk, it is the best solution for us. Some attendees have goats and want to know how to produce something from their own milk. Others realize they can not get goat’s milk, so cow’s milk will have to do when they go home.

Are the cheese making classes popular?

Of all the farm-crafts we offer at the farm, cheesemaking is the most popular, followed by goat soap making. The milk for soap can be sold because it is not being consumed. The most difficulty we have at this time is getting the schedule coordinated with those interested in attending. We are limited in the size of our classes, so getting everyone together at the same time has been our most challenging aspect.

What do you think is the key to your success?

Families that come here for vacation really enjoy stepping back in time, and seeing what it must have been like decades ago when family farm-life was the norm. It is not only a family vacation, but an education for them – even for the adults. The most popular package we offer for vacationers is the “Farmer Package,” where family members get out and help with the chores.  Guests not only help with all the farm chores, but are exposed to the fun side of farm life as well; such as hiking, fishing, goat packing and horseback riding.

Cheesemaking is one of the amenities they participate in as a family. This includes milking the goats, where they receive an “I milked a dairy goat” ribbon to take home with them. What the guests find most enjoyable about the chores is eating the fresh eggs they gathered and making cheese from the milk they got from learning how to hand-milk goats.

Homeschoolers passing the farmer's cheese after pressing
through cheesecloth

This is most rewarding for us as well, sometimes even more so than the cheese classes themselves. Guests, especially children, understand from start to finish what it takes to get the cheese made by hand. The mystique is taken out of it when they are involved in the care and feeding of the goats, the harvesting of the milk, and the production of their own cheese from scratch. The actual separation of the curd and whey is the most intriguing part of the process to the guests. And of course at that time, “Little Miss Muffet” has to be brought up and recited.

CornerStone Farm Bed & Breakfast
525 Barnes Road
Red Oak, VA 23964