Everyone is busy, me included. I've made time to do some holiday baking this year though and I would be delighted to share my wares with you. A few favourites on the list as well as a couple of new treats (photos posted below). Something missing? Send your requests to Cindy@ElginHarvest.ca . Sorry, no tourtieres this year. Beer brined cheese curds will be available in limited quantities.
The title of this post is Homage de Fromage but it could just as easily be called The Big Cheese.
I say big because it's a big deal to me. It's something I have always wanted to do and with a how-to book, the internet, and grocery store milk the magical transformation from goat to chèvre has me hooked on curds. Although I had made "30-minute mozzarella-style cheese" several times before (which always took a lot longer than 30 minutes), I had never made a real cheese, using live cheese cultures until just a few months ago. Since then the world of cheese has awakened my inner dairy-goddess and my biggest wish is to have a milking goat in the backyard (and steady employment, but I digress).
The process or making cheese is rather simple: heat milk, add a culture and/or enzymes to coagulate and acidify the milk, cut to form curds and whey (the solids and the liquid, respectively), drain off the whey, add salt, mold into a shape (if desired), age (if desired), and eat.
The many different cheeses of the world come from the infinite variables that can be altered. Cow's milk will have a different taste and fat content than sheep's milk. The cow's milk will taste different in the spring than in the fall and will also vary from what the cow ate. Different cultures, ripening times, curd size, aging time, humidity levels, temperature, and the hands that made the cheese will also alter the outcome. Coat it in wax, inject it with a mold, layer it with ash, rub it with grappa...the possibilities are endless. One thing will always stay consistent - the cheese will be influenced from where it was made.
As I stated above, the taste of the milk will reflect what the animal ate, but what the animal eats depends on where it is located and how it is raised. In studies such as viticulture (grape growing and wine making), there is a term called terroir. Terroir basically means "sense of the land" and is a word used to generally describe the regional and local qualities that make an area (or vineyard) unique. Climate, soil make-up, and location can differ lands across the world and across the farm, and those differences can affect what is grown or raised on that land. Cheese prepared from milk obtained from a specific animal or region will be influenced by the terroir.
For example, if I had a goat here in my backyard in little Aylmer, and I prepared cheese with milk I obtained from that goat, my cheese would taste different from the cheese you made with milk you obtained from your goat raised in your backyard way up north in Bancroft.
What else affects the taste of cheese? The skill, craftmanship, palate, knowledge, and touch of the artisan who prepared it.
I'm just a newbie to the hobby, but I can easily say making cheese is a fascinating and rewarding process and compliments my love of preservation and fermentation.
Cabécou: this is a goat's milk cheese developed by an American cheese maker based on a traditional French version. Cabécou means "little goat" and refers to the small discs. It's a mild ripened cheese that is marinated in olive oil and spices. Believe me, after the cheese is gone, the olive oil is just as delicious for dipping bread in.
Goat's Milk Feta: I like feta cheese so I thought I'd try to make some. The compressed firm blocks - tangy, salty, creamy, crumbled with spinach - have always mystified me on how they are prepared. It's a fairly simple process with a short ripening time... but the saltiness...ugh. I tried it after 2 weeks and found it too salty. I halved the brine and added plain spring water to dilute the salt a wee bit and will taste the results tomorrow evening.
O'Banon: This recipe was based on the style of the French cheese Banon. Creamy & mild goat's milk cheese drained into small disks. The disks are then ripened in alcohol-soaked leaves for 3 weeks. In my attempt, the cheese is wrapped in Ontario Brandy soaked maple leaves harvested from the tree in the front yard. Tomorrow night (Nov. 16, 2013) will be the official unwrapping and tasting.
Jack Cheese: Fashioned after Monteray Jack cheese. It's thought this cheese style was developed by a man in Monteray, CA, who was influenced by Franciscan monks who traveled through Mexico. The desired outcome is a creamy, mild, firm cheese without a thick rind. Aging time is anywhere from 2-6 weeks. As of today it's only been a week. I'll keep you posted. The loonie is in the picture to demonstrate the size of the compressed cheese. 2 gallons of cow's milk was used to make size.
More cheese talk: I'll be heading to Toronto this weekend to help out another local producer, Crossroad Cheese, at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. Crossroad's has a booth at the show and I will be sharing my love of their sheep's milk gouda with other food lovers. I'm looking forward to having my cheeks hurt at the end of the day from all the smiling and talking.
Sunday's mission was to prepare dessert without leaving the house to purchase any extra ingredients. Basically it was clean the pantry & freezer day.
Pastry dough, whipping cream, and frozen bananas are staples in the kitchen, but I surprised myself by having sliced hazelnuts on hand. Whip it all together with the addition of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor) and it's a dessert worthy of snug waistbands. At least that's what I'm telling myself.
November is a transitioning month: the clock's have fallen back into standard time, the pumpkins have been tossed to the curb (unless you have a compost pile in your backyard where you like to play pumpkin roulette in the summer), and it is absolutely too early to turn on any Christmas lights (do you hear me, Shedden?? It's too early!) even if it does get dark at 5:00 pm.
In the meantime, we keep the furnace off as long as possible, put the lawn furniture away, harvest any green tomatoes brave enough to attempt a shot at turning red on the vine, and we get cozy.
Some of us get hungry, too.
This recipe for Chestnut & Chocolate Semifreddo is available in the Holiday issue of Relish Elgin magazine. You can pick up a copy (or three) at many local establishments or view it online through their website at RelishElgin.ca.
I bought a book. I bought a bag of flour.
I didn't buy a big enough bag of flour.
In the past months I've been tinkering away at a few projects. First, it's harvest season and I've been putting up as much as time permits. Along with fermenting and pickling, Joy from Empire Valley Farms has lent me her food dehydrator and it has been filled several times with tomatoes, chile peppers (I'm trying to make my own chile powder/paprika), and even strawberries.
Second set of projects include cheese making. I can tell you right now unless you own a cow or a goat it isn't any less expensive to make your own versus buying from a cheesemonger or grocery store. What is different is the sense of satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.
Third project: sourdough bread. I know how to make it awesome, I'm just trying how to figure out how to make it more than one loaf at a time awesome without having to purchase a ten thousand dollar deck oven with steam injection. Follow me...
Back when I used to work in grocery stores, people were incredibly predictable with what fresh produce they would buy. I'd like to think that having a culinary background and a good memory was what enabled me to be able to remember produce codes (or PLU's), but the truth is much of the time I was using the same seven to ten codes for the same seven to ten items on every customer's order.
Iceberg lettuce, celery, bananas, hot house tomatoes, green peppers, green onions, english cucumbers, granny smith apples, white button mushrooms...repeat repeat repeat. Those PLU's are so ingrained in my mind I still can recite them from memory.
I couldn't even imagine living in an area with fresh produce all year-round. Those temperate zones like the Mediterranean & California have growing seasons 12 months of the year. The sun sticks around long enough for treasures like olives, artichokes, and blood oranges to grow and mature. I would spend all my money on food if I lived there. Oh, right - more food.
That being said, the middle and end of August in Elgin County is looking pretty spectacular. Edamame, early squash, raspberries, peaches (and peaches and peaches), tobacco, tomatoes, first red peppers, watermelon, pickling cukes, sunflowers, and corn are just the tip of the Elgin Summer Harvest Iceberg. I saw someone walk by earlier with blackberries but by the time I got to the market stall they were sold out...Tuesday is the next picking day, so they say.
Each year, for the past five years, St. Thomas has had its own food & beverage tasting event take place at the historic CASO station. What started as a one-night event pairing local producers with chefs has turned into a weekend-long event showcasing the best in culinary achievements from across the county. As the major fundraiser for the station restoration, supporting FreshFest means supporting the community. The event took place July 19-21, 2013.
Elgin Harvest served "Croughnuts" and also teamed up with Brad & Janine Lunn from Lunnvale Farms to present a locally-sourced, ingredient-packed sample for the tasting event held on the Friday evening. A little rain didn't stop us from celebrating a delicious night full of Mexican-Korean-Canadian-Elgin County love.
There is a food fad sweeping its way across North America and it's full of fat, sugar, and immorality. It seems completely sinful to take croissant pastry dough, cut it into a round shape, then deepfry it like a donut. But wait - there's more! After being fried, the cronut (croissant + donut) is filled with pastry cream then iced with a glaze. Sometimes the edges are even rolled in sugar. Sinful? Perhaps. Delicious? In a completely over-indulgent, go-big-or-go-home, kind-of way - yes.
I would eat this cake for breakfast.
Really, a crêpe is basically a very thin pancake, either sweet or savoury, filled or layered with just about anything you can think of under the Canadian summer sun. If maple syrup flowing over the edges of pillowy soft pancakes is an acceptable start to a lazy Sunday morning, then I'm sticking to my guns (and rationalizing) an entire stack of thin pancakes layered with honey sweetened & vanilla flavoured pastry cream should be just as customary.
Besides, it's the celebratory weekend where it's demanded we show our Canadian pride with anything and everything red, white & delicious. Snowbirds, beaches, farmers' markets, parades, fireworks, bbq's, backyards, beer, and cake!
Mille crêpe is the classical name for this cake as mille means 'thousand'. A bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea of many layers composing the cake. It is quite forgiving to prepare if you need another reason to attempt the recipe besides the stunning presentation.
This crêpe cake can be prepared in stages if it seems overwhelming to complete all at once. Prepare the batter up to a day in advance; prepare the crêpes up to a day in advance; prepare the pastry cream up to 4 days in advance. Assemble the cake up to a day in advance. If you follow along with my work at all, you know I like to share ideas and recipes that can be adapted to whatever seasonal ingredient is available. Could you imagine this cake topped with juicy peaches or blueberries?
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.