Sunday, November 27, 2011

Caroline Abbott Revisited

Caroline in her new cheese kitchen
Life after the Year of Yeast Contamination...

Back in May, we did an article about Caroline Abbott in Otsego, Michigan who had "mystery holes" in her goat cheese.  After months of research and experimentation, she finally realized that it was being caused by yeast bacteria in the air from making bread.

Recently, Caroline told us she had solved the problem by setting up a new cheese kitchen in her basement.  Now she's back in "business" making all kinds of cheeses for her family...



Abbott Farm
So, what's new?

After all these months, I finally have my new cheese kitchen!  All summer long my daughter has been making bread outside on the deck.  Now it is starting to get cold, and she really can't do that anymore, so it was just in time!

We made A LOT of cheese this summer.  At one time my daughter was making two two-pound cheeses a day six days a week.  We filled up one beverage cooler and a dorm refrigerator and bought another beverage cooler and filled that up!
 
The goats are still producing well enough to make cheese at least four days a week, which is really good for this time of year.

We have been able to start EATING our way through the oldest cheeses, which makes room in the coolers for more new cheese.


Caroline's daughter, Anneliese


We went on vacation for two weeks in September and my farm sitter made cheese for two weeks and had no problems!  We are eating colby, co-jack, gouda, manchego and some montasio.

We opened up a romano from May 31 and it didn't have much flavor yet.  I think I waxed the romanos too early, so they are not dry enough.  We have made a couple since we got home and I will leave them a little longer before waxing.


What is your "make room" like?

We have a large basement with a walk-out.  Half of it is finished, the back half is divided into three unfinished rooms, the center room is the furnace room and we have three deep freezers and a large refrigerator for our milk in there. 


New beverage cooler








The other two rooms were just unfinished storage rooms.  I homeschool my kids, and one of the finished rooms is our school room.  Off of the school room is one of the unfinished storage rooms, which I was using for storing my home-made soap and my bottles and baskets.  That is the room we converted into a kitchen.

It is 9' X 12', so it is large enough for the kitchen counter, sink and stove, plus room for shelving for storage for some of my soap and lotion supplies, as well as canning equipment and other "food" equipment that has been tucked into places all over the basement and kitchen upstairs.


We built our house eight years ago.  Originally the room we made into the cheese kitchen we planned to make into a dark room someday, so we had the plumber set the pipes to put in a sink someday.  That made things a lot easier, because the floor is poured concrete, which would have made a big headache for putting in a sink.
 
Since it is right off the school room, my younger kids can use it for science experiments, too.  My older kids are jealous of that - they had to do everything upstairs and improvise.  We just are making sure they don't do any experiments involving yeast in there!

Older beverage cooler






How are you aging your cheese?

The coolers are actually beverage coolers by Haier.  They are just like wine coolers except they have flat shelves instead of shelves designed to hold wine bottles.  They look just like the little coolers you see at the checkout at stores with the pop and water in them.

Because they are designed for beverages, they stay around 50 degrees, perfect for cheese.  I got mine at Sam's Club, the most recent one was $120 and we probably have 50 cheeses packed in there.  Our area of the country doesn't have any natural caves, so this is terrific.


What have you learned lately?

Before we had our yeast contamination issue we had spent three years experimenting and perfecting our cheese making.  We settled on the recipes that worked for us, that we liked and that were practical for our setting.

We "tweaked" recipes based on what worked in our setting, for instance, we discovered that it was inconsistent to attempt brining Italian cheeses because unless you make a new brine each time (using 2 pounds of salt!), you don't know the exact salinity of your brine. 

We had problems with our cheeses molding.  So, after some experimentation, we discovered we could salt the curds like we did with our mesophilic cheeses and it tasted the same and gave us a consistent result.  Much easier, without a big jar of brine taking up space in the refrigerator. 


Taking cheese out of the press


Another thing we learned along the way was that smaller parmesans and romanos need to be waxed at some point, or they turn into a rock!  But, like I said before, we are still working out the exact timing on that, so they aren't too moist.

We also learned that we like colby to be moist.  The temperature at which you wash the curd and bring it down to determines how moist the cheese ends up. 



Making Mozzarella


All this explanation is to tell you that we developed recipes and procedures that work and taste like we like.  We make these over and over and can make them without even looking at a recipe now because we know the procedure so well.

So, although we don't take notes, we know what we do and have worked it out to something we do without even thinking about it.  Some things we have written out in step by step format for teaching purposes, especially if it varies significantly from a recipe in a book.  We aren't done "tweaking".
 
We are always figuring out ways to make it more practical.  Like just recently we discovered it works just as well to "cook" the curd on the stove as it does to do it in the sink in hot water.  It takes less time, less energy, less water and the result is the same. 

Because I make so many pressed cheeses, I have found it is easier to use the disposable cheese cloth available from New England Cheesemaking.  I bought a bulk pack (twelve at a time, I think), and it lasts a long, long time.

As I have the opportunity to teach more people how to make cheese, new questions come up that make us look at how we do things to determine if it can be done a better way.  When we discover something that works, we keep doing it until it becomes part of the routine.

Abbott chickens

Abbott turkeys

Caroline sells honey (bears and jars), beeswax lip balm, soaps and goat's milk & honey lotion http://www.michiganbeekeepers.com/honey/abbott.
She ships anywhere.

Abbott Farms
Otsego, Michigan
269-692-2328

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sandie McDonald - Making Cheese and Teaching How


She's made every cheese in our book!

Sandie McDonald began making cheese in 1981 and she has been ordering supplies from us ever since.  Her copy of our book (Home Cheese Making) is so old, it has the original name- Cheesemaking Made Easy! 

Now Sandie is teaching classes out of her home (Midden Meadows Farm) in Langlois, Oregon. That is, when she isn't running her business- Wild Rivers Wool.  Sandie works 12 -14 hour days, processing about 10 lb. of raw animal fiber every day of the week.

  


She has 40 head of purebred Shetland sheep on her 32 acre farm on the southern coast of Oregon, 15 miles south of Bandon.  With the sheep, she has one baby alpaca, chickens and fruit trees.  At one time, she had goats, but she says:

We declared the farm a "No Goat Zone" in 1990.  I love goats, but they are smart, unlike sheep, and the joke around here is, "What does GOAT stand for?  Gets Out All the Time."

Sandie and her husband have three daughters and 4 grandchildren, so far.  Their youngest daughter is 17.


Sandy teaching a workshop.
How did you get started making cheese?

Well, my 10 year old daughter joined 4H, and brought home a 4 month old "chain animal" purebred registered Jersey heifer calf.  We were required to breed her and return a heifer calf to the "chain animal" program.  When a cow gives birth, especially a milk cow, all of a sudden there's all this milk.

I have to tell you the conversation between my aunt and myself when we acquired this tiny sweet little deerlike baby animal.  She asked me "What are you going to do with all that milk?"  (She'd grown up in the post depression era, on a dairy farm, hand milking 6 animals before going to school every morning.)  I enthused, "We're going to make butter, and ice cream, and cheese..." She replied dryly, "Yeah?  And what are you going to do the NEXT day?"

It turned out that cheesemaking became my sole recreation.  I was working full time 10 hours away from home as a legal secretary, I'd get up, milk the cow, make a cheese, go to work, come home, milk the cow, make a cheese, and go to bed.  That was the beginning.

Sandie with her milk cow, and her (then) 2 year old daughter Marion.  Sandie says "Marion would beg for a cupful of warm milk every morning. (Ick).  The cow was a purebred Jersey 4H chain animal, and her milk was 1/3 cream, no kidding.  Her name was Carmel, and we all loved her.  She unfortunately died of liver failure after producing twin calves, and we still miss her.  You could milk her without tying her up, anywhere, without even grain to munch.  The only time she ever kicked over the bucket was when she shifted her weight and stepped on a cat...."


What kind of cheese did you make back then?

When I had the milk cow, I made everything in Ricki's book, plus called them on how to make provolone and some others that weren't in the book.

I made my own blue version using cultures from the original old Langlois Blue Cheese Factory that was here till the late 1960's... the culture is alive and well in Wisconson, (Maytag brand) so we can get more when we need it.

I think my favorite cheese I ever made was the best Parmesan I ever tasted.  It took 6 months of careful babysitting, but it was SO worth it.

Oh, and since I run sheep, I did make one sheep cheese, but I don't have milking machines and milking non-dairy breed sheep is... not easy.

Fresh cow's milk cheeses
What kind of cheese are you making now?

These days, without a milk cow, having to purchase unhomogenized cow's milk from local producers that live an hour's drive from my farm, I usually make a fresh cheddar, and if we're really feeling frisky, ricotta afterward.

Everyone loves the squeak of the fresh cheddar, and since new green cheese* is such a novelty to people, it doesn't last long enough to make it to a refrigerator or to need any long term babysitting.



Fresh goat's milk cheeses

I also make fresh goat cottage cheese at the request of the local organic goat dairy, when they have too much excess milk. I have an agreement with them, 3 gallons of milk come over, half the cheese goes back.

And they also request the whey when I'm too rushed to make ricotta too.  They use it in their garden.

I will never have a cow again although I keep contemplating a milk goat.  I'm 57, and have two separate shoulder injuries, one sustained when I was 34, and the other more recently, so milking a cow is out of the question without machinery, and where's the fun in that?  I loved milking.

Literature laid out before a workshop

Do you have any advice for new cheese makers?

Buy Ricki's book.  It's how I learned.I also have a list of things to purchase from your catalog that I hand out to them.

Start SIMPLE.  Make one kind of cheese over and over for a while.  And unless you have a milk animal, be prepared to spend a lot of money for just a little cheese, because it's not cost effective to make cheese unless you have free or very inexpensive milk.

Supplies ready for a workshop



I emphasize you can't be clean enough.  Boil things, use bleach, wash hands, etc. 

Here's my shopping list:  Ricki's book (Home Cheese Making), good thermometer (grocery store ones are inaccurate), the mesophilic and thermophilic cultures, the liquid vegetable rennet (organic or not, both are great), basic kit mold, and ALSO the "disposable" ricotta molds, because you will need to be making small cheeses to give away to people for the rest of your life, and these are great for that.  I usually advise people to hunt and gather the rest of what they need, to look around their house, they usually have the other things they need.

What kind of classes are you teaching?

I usually run a 2 hour cheese class, we dive right in and introduce the culture and the rennet, then I talk about cheese making in general, hand out your catalogs, give people an idea of what I think they should purchase if they want to do this again.

Then, we cut the curd, taste the curds and whey, discuss whether or not there really was a spider that little Miss Muffet saw, or if she just wanted to avoid eating her curds and whey... then we salt the curds by hand.  We discuss what to do with the whey while salting.

Usually someone wants to take it home and try making ricotta, so I give it away (I'm pretty busy).  Then, as you see, we taste the new pressed cheese thoroughly.

I hurry the process of course, all the way through, to keep people's interest, and to keep the class to 2 hours.  It makes a great moist squeaky fresh cheddar.

You may note in the photo of the fresh cheese that I pressed 1/2 using a piece of cheese cloth, and 1/2 using just the ricotta mold, to show how to get decorative effects on the outside of cheese, and how to create a smooth exterior suitable for keeping for several months after waxing.

I have two separate types of cheese class, one is a demo, where I simply lecture and do it all while they watch, the other is hands on.  Usually I require each student to bring his/her own equipment (I furnish a list), milk, etc., so there is no danger of cross contamination, health wise.

This particular class was given to a weaving/spinning guild, so I furnished the equipment and we made two cheeses, one with store homogenized milk, and one with pasteurized local goat's milk.  We used mesophilic bacteria culture and liquid vegetable rennet.  As you can see from the photos, everyone enjoyed eating the fresh cheese.  A good time was had by all.


The best part of any workshop is tasting the results.
How do you advertise your classes?

We advertise our classes through my business, Wild Rivers Wool Factory, Inc. (wildriverswool.com) and through word of mouth.  There's no schedule, we arrange the classes around the students' needs.  Have kettle, will travel.

* Archaic (apparently!) term for new cheese, cheese that hasn't been aged, although it is of a variety that is intended to be made.  Ever hear the expression "the moon is made of green cheese"?  Green would be the euphemism for "unripe" in this case.  A cheese is green until it's ripened by the bacteria culture introduced while making it.


Contact Info:
Factory outlet store phone - (541) 348-2033 (10 to 5, Tuesday through Saturday)
Farm/factory/home phone (541) 348-2550
Wild Rivers Wool Factory, Inc., P.O. Box 33, Langlois, OR  97450

Friday, November 18, 2011

Raid at Quail Hollow Farm in Nevada

The farm is located 50 miles north of Las Vegas in the Moapa Valley

Another Skirmish in the Battle for Food Freedom ...

As Joel Salatin says in the title of his latest book- "Folks, This Ain't Normal!"

A couple of days ago, Ricki got an e-mail about an outrageous event that took place in Nevada last month. We read it and agreed that it seemed too weird to be true. But, just on the chance that it was, I checked it out.

Amazingly, it did turn out to be totally true.  A Southern Nevada Health Inspector raided Quail Hollow Farm on the night of their "Farm to Fork Dinner" for 100 guests and made them throw out all of their food.  Just to be sure they didn't feed it to their pigs, they forced the farmers to pour bleach on the food they had thrown out!  They did this because the meat the farmers were serving (from their own cows) was not Grade A Certified by the USDA.

The following video is hard to watch:  (More videos at Really Vegas Photo)



Laura and Monte Bledsoe, owners of Quail Hollow Farm are very nice people.  They gave us permission to use pictures from their website (all the pictures in this article) and to share with you this letter they wrote to their dinner guests and their CSA Shareholders after the incident:

Laura Bledsoe in their garden
Letter from the Bledsoes

From their website - http://www.quailhollowfarmcsa.com/30.html

Dearest Guests, (You have all become dear to us!) 

What an evening we had this last Friday night! It had all the makings of a really great novel: drama, suspense, anticipation, crisis, heroic efforts, villains and victors, resolution and a happy ending.

The evening was everything I had dreamed and hoped it would be. The weather was perfect, the farm was filled with friends and guests roaming around talking about organic, sustainable farming practices. Our young interns were teaching and sharing their passion for farming and their role in it. (A high hope for our future!) The pig didn’t get loose. Our guests were excited to spend an evening together. The food was prepared exquisitely. The long dinner table, under the direction of dear friends, was absolutely stunningly beautiful. The music was superb. The stars were bright and life was really good. And then, …

for a few moments, it felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath us and my wonderful world came crashing down. As guests were mingling, finishing tours of the farm, and while the first course of the meal was being prepared and ready to be sent out, a Southern Nevada Health District employee came for an inspection.

Monte Bledsoe with young friend
Because this was a gathering of people invited to our farm for dinner, I had no idea that the Health Department would become involved.

I received a phone call from them two days before the event informing me that because this was a “public event” (I would like to know what is the definition of “public” and “private”) we would be required to apply for a “special use permit.”  If we did not do so immediately, we would be charged a ridiculous fine. Stunned, we immediately complied.

We were in the middle of our harvest day for our CSA shares, a very busy time for us, but Monte immediately left to comply with the demand and filled out the required paper work and paid for the fee. (Did I mention that we live in Overton, nowhere near a Health Department office?) Paper work now in order, he was informed that we would not actually be given the permit until an inspector came to check it all out. She came literally while our guests were arriving!

Friend Sara helping with the apples

In order to overcome any trouble with the Health Department of cooking on the premises, most of the food was prepared in a certified kitchen in Las Vegas; and to further remove any doubt, we rented a certified kitchen trailer to be here on the farm for the preparation of the meals.

The inspector, Mary Oaks, clearly not the one in charge of the inspection as she was constantly on the phone with her superior Susan somebody who was calling all the shots from who knows where.

Susan deemed our food unfit for consumption and demanded that we call off the event because:

1. Some of the prepared food packages did not have labels on them. (The code actually allows for this if it is to be consumed within 72 hours.)

2. Some of the meat was not USDA certified. (Did I mention that this was a farm to fork meal?)

3. Some of the food that was prepared in advance was not up to temperature at the time of inspection.
(It was being prepared to be brought to proper temperature for serving when the inspection occurred.)

4. Even the vegetables prepared in advance had to be thrown out because they were cut and were then considered a “bio-hazard.”

5. We did not have receipts for our food. (Reminder! This food came from farms not from the supermarket! I have talked with several chefs who have said that in all their years cooking they have never been asked for receipts.)

Jars of cider

At this time Monte, trying to reason with Susan to find a possible solution for the problem, suggested turning this event from a “public” event to a “private” event by allowing the guests to become part of our farm club, thus eliminating any jurisdiction or responsibility on their part.

This idea infuriated Susan and threatened that if we did not comply the police would be called and personally escort our guests off the property. This is not the vision of the evening we had in mind! So regretfully, again we complied.

The only way to keep our guests on the property was to destroy the food. I can’t tell you how sick to my stomach I was watching that first dish of Mint Lamb Meatballs hit the bottom of the unsanitized trash can.

Here we were with guests who had paid in advance and had come from long distances away anticipating a wonderful dining experience, waiting for dinner while we were behind the kitchen curtain throwing it away! I know of the hours and labor that went into the preparation of that food.

Monte with a cider press he made

We asked the inspector if we could save the food for a private family event that we were having the next day. (A personal family choice to use our own food.) We were denied and she was insulted that we would even consider endangering our families health.

I assured her that I had complete faith and trust in Giovanni our chef and the food that was prepared, (obviously, or I wouldn’t be wanting to serve it to our guests).

I then asked if we couldn’t feed the food to our “public guests” or even to our private family, then at least let us feed it to our pigs. (I think it should be a criminal action to waste any resource of the land. Being dedicated to our organic farm, we are forever looking for good inputs into our compost and soil and good food that can be fed to our animals. The animals and compost pile always get our left over garden surplus and food. We truly are trying to be as sustainable as possible.) Again, a call to Susan and another negative response.

Okay, so let me get this right. So the food that was raised here on our farm and selected and gathered from familiar local sources, cooked and prepared with skill and love was even unfit to feed to my pigs!?!

Winter squash and pumpkins
Who gave them the right to tell me what I feed my animals? Not only were we denied the use of the food for any purpose, to ensure that it truly was unfit for feed of any kind we were again threatened with police action if we did not only throw the food in the trash, but then to add insult to injury, we were ordered to pour bleach on it.

Now the food is also unfit for compost as I would be negligent to allow any little critters to nibble on it while it was composting and ingest that bleach resulting in a horrible death. Literally hundreds of pounds of food was good for nothing but adding to our ever increasing land fill!

At some point in all of this turmoil Monte reminded me that I had the emergency phone number for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) on our refrigerator. I put it there never really believing that I would ever have to use it.

We became members of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund several years ago as a protection for us, but mostly to add support to other farmers battling against the oppressive legal actions taken against the small farmers trying to produce good wholesome food without government intrusion.

Little friend of the family enjoying the view
The local, sustainable food battle is being waged all across America! May I mention that not one battle has been brought on because of any illness to the patrons of these farms!

The battles are started by government officials swooping down on farms and farmers like SWAT teams confiscating not only the wholesome food items produced but even their farm equipment! Some of them actually wearing HAZMAT suits as if they were walking into a nuclear meltdown! I have personally listened to some of their heart wrenching stories and have continued to follow them through the FTCLDF’s updates.

Well, I made the call, told my story and within a short period of time received a phone call back from the FTCLDF’s General Counsel, Gary Cox. When told the story, he simply suggested that we apply our fundamental constitutional right to be protected against “unlawful search and seizure.” I simply had to ask Mary two questions. “Do you have a search warrant?” “Do you have an arrest warrant?”

Sam, an intern in 2008
With the answers being “No”, I politely and very simply asked her to leave our property. 

As simple as that! She had no alternative, no higher power, no choice whatsoever but to now comply with my desire.

She left in a huff making a scene shouting that she was calling the police. She left no paperwork, no Cease and Desist order, no record of any kind that implicated us for one thing, (we had complied to all their orders) only empty threats and a couple of trash cans full of defiled food. I will get back to “the inspector” and her threats shortly.

Let’s get to where it really gets good. While I am on the verge of a literal breakdown, Monte and Gio get creative. All right, we have just thrown all of this food away, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, what CAN we do? Well, we have a vegetable farm and we do have fresh vegetables. (By the way, we were denied even using our fresh vegetables until I informed our inspector that I do have a Producers Certificate from the Nevada Department of Agriculture allowing us to sell our vegetables and other farm products at the Farmers Market. Much of our produce has gone to some of the very finest restaurants in Las Vegas and St. George.)

The view from the back of the house

The wind taken out of the inspector's sails, Gio and his crew got cookin’. It just so happened that we had a cooled trailer full of vegetables ready to be taken to market the following day. Monte hooked on to the trailer and backed it up right next to the kitchen.

Our interns who were there to greet and serve now got to work with lamp oil and began harvesting anew. Knives were chopping, pots of pasta and rice from our food storage were steaming, our bonfire was now turned into a grill and literal miracles were happening before our eyes!


In the meantime, Monte and I had to break the news to our guests. Rather than go into the details here, you can see the video footage on Mark Bowers and Kiki Kalor’s (our friends and guests) website at: http://www.reallyvegasphoto.com/Events/CSA-Farm-Government-Inspection/19707296_v2zFML#1546717636_dJJDZjw

We explained the situation, offered anyone interested a full refund, and told them that if they chose to stay their dinner was now literally being prepared fresh, as just now being harvested. The reaction of our guests was the most sobering and inspirational experience of the evening. In an instant we were bonded together.

They were, of course, out-raged at the lack of choice they were given in their meal. Out-raged at the arrogance of coming to a farm dinner and being required to use only USDA (government inspected) meats.

Outraged at the heavy handedness of the Health Department into their lives. Then there was the most tremendous outpouring of love and support.

Monte at the break of dawn

One of our guests, Marty Keach, informed us that he was an attorney and as appalled as everyone else offered his support and counsel if need be, even if it be to the Supreme Court. He was a great comfort in a tense time.

With their approval, Giovanni and crew got cooking and the evening then truly began. The atmosphere turned from tense and angry to loving and supportive. As soon as I heard my brother Steve sit down and begin strumming his guitar, I knew something special was happening. Paid guests volunteered their services. Chef Shawn Wallace, a guest, joined Gio and his team his knife flying through the eggplant and squash. Wendy and Thierry Pressyler and so many that I am not even aware of, were helping to grill and transport dishes. Jason and Chrissy Doolen offered to run quick errands. Jeanne Frost, a server for the Wynn hotel, didn’t take a seat and began serving her fellow guests.

Before long we were seated at the beautiful table and the most incredible dishes began coming forth. It was literally “loaves and fishes” appearing before our very eyes! We broke bread together, we laughed, we talked, we shared stories, we came together in the most marvelous way.

Now this is what I had dreamed, only more marvelous than I could have ever imagined! The sky being bright with glittering stars, we had the telescopes out and invited any guests who desired to look into our starry heaven. While we were looking into the heavens, heaven was looking down upon us! I can’t tell you the number of times I have felt the hand of providence helping us in the work of this farm.

Greenhouse
As hard and demanding as this work is, I KNOW that this is what we are meant to do.

I KNOW that it is imperative that we stand up for our food choices.

I KNOW that local, organic, sustainable food produced by ourselves or by small family, local farms is indispensible to the health and well-being of our families and our communities now and in the future!

If this work were not so vitally important, the “evil forces” would not be working so hard to pull it down. We were victorious, we will be victorious, we must be! Our grandchildren’s future is at stake!

Back to the inspector. She did call the police. You must remember that we live in a small town. We know these officers. They responded to the call dutifully but were desperately trying to figure out why they had been called. Never in all of their experience had they ever received a call like this.

Friends of the family visiting the farm
Mary, the inspector, demanded that they give us a citation. The officer in charge said that she was to give us the citation, she responded that no, they were to give us the citation, which they then asked her for what violation. Even with the help of her superior on the phone she could not give them a reason.

They asked her to leave which she did. The police were very kind and apologetic for the intrusion. All of this was done without fanfare and out of sight of our guests. The police officers are commended for their professionalism!

Now that we have come to the last chapter of our novel, I realize that it ends with a cliff-hanger. As happy as the ending was, it isn’t “happily ever after” yet. This will remain to be seen in the ensuing days, weeks and even years ahead.

CSA share basket
Tom Collins, our County Commissioner, furious by the events that took place, having formerly been a board member for the Southern Nevada Health District is putting together a meeting with himself, the current board members and ourselves to make sense of all this mess.

As so many of you have related verbally and through emails your desire to help and be involved, we will keep you informed as events take place. I feel that we have been compelled to truly become active participants in the ongoing battle over our food choices. This is just one small incident that brings to our awareness how fragile our freedoms are. We are now ready to join the fight!

We would encourage all of you who can to contribute and to become a member of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. They are not only fighting for the farmers, they are fighting for the consumers to have the right to choose. You can find them at farmtoconsumer.org

As I close, I am reminded of the passage written so forcefully by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

The same battle continues. I pray the result of the battle will be the same, that we have been “endowed by our Creator with … life and liberty”.

We love you all, and thank you with all our souls for your continued love and support! We will stay in touch.

With warmest wishes for you and your families,

Monte and Laura Bledsoe

Written from Quail Hollow Farm October 24, 2011

The Bledsoes ask for your support of the Nevadans for Food Freedom:

Farm Food Freedom Coalition

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Year of Cheese with Suzanne McMinn

A year ago, we challenged Suzanne to make a different cheese every month and she accepted the challenge.

We had noticed her fun website and her easy going writing style, so it was a "no-brainer" for us.  (As Ricki is the "Cheese Queen," Suzanne is Her Royal Highness the Queen of the Barnyard!)

Suzanne reasoned that she would be forced to learn and grow if she had a monthly commitment.

And, it worked.  She did become a fine cheese maker and, in the process, she taught her readers and our readers how much fun it is to make your own cheese.

The year is over and now Suzanne has to focus on some new projects, but we promise to hound her relentlessly until she returns.  Meanwhile, of course, you can get your Suzanne fix anytime at Chickens in the Road.


The Year of Cheese
By Suzanne McMinn
http://chickensintheroad.com/cooking/the-year-of-cheese/

In the past year, I’ve made huge strides in my cheesemaking thanks to my cheese challenge with New England Cheesemaking. It all began with a profile about me on the blog at New England Cheesemaking. (Check that article out if you haven’t read it!) Before my cow could say moo, I was opening my “cheese lab” to make a different cheese every month, writing about it here on my blog and on the New England Cheesemaking blog. What an experience! I want to thank Ricki, the Cheese Queen, for letting me do it, and Jim Wallace, the NEC cheese expert, for answering so many dumb questions from me, and especially Jeri Case, the “NEC Newsletter Queen” for putting up with me (and also for the day she bought all those gallons of store-bought milk to help me test one of my crazy cheese ideas).

I’m not finished making cheese, but in the coming months, I’ve got a number of other projects pressing on me, so I won’t be writing about cheese as much. But! I have one more fantastic and generous giveaway for you from the people at New England Cheesemaking. If you missed any of my “Year of Cheese” posts, please check them out!

Monterey Jack: Get to know Jack!

Making Munster: STINKY CHEESE!!!! And a very different and interesting cheesemaking process.

Gouda: A “washed curd” cheese that has become one of my favorites.

Making Romano: The cheese of emperors. You have to wait a long time for this one, but it’s worth it.

Fresh Cheese, Please: Queso fresco! A “hard” cheese that isn’t aged. It’s a chance to try out your cheese press–and eat the cheese right away.


Stirred-Curd Cheddar: A short-cut cheddar that makes a perfect alternative for the new cheesemaker wanting to try their hand at cheddar with a little less fuss.


Make It Quick with Caerphilly: A cute little cheese that is aged in less than 3 weeks.

A Cheese of My Own: What am I doing? I have no idea. I’m in the mozzarella lab!

30-Minute Burrata: A tasty continuation of my “mozzarella lab” experimentation.

Coeur a la Creme: A celebration of the Cheese Queen’s wedding with a delicious treat.

The Biggest Cheese Challenge of All: My experience teaching other people how to make cheese!

The Joy of Lactic Cheese: Lactic cheese is one of the easiest, and most versatile, of the soft cheeses. It delivers an incredible yield on just one gallon of milk. (Check out the lactic cheese recipes in that post.)

Please join me in thanking the fabulous people at New England Cheesemaking for making this year of cheese possible!

Special thanks to Beulah Petunia for her participation in this year-long project.

And thanks to Glory Bee for her milk sacrifices!