The Taste of Cheese

The Taste of Cheese

Trying to get the download links to show up at the top.

The Taste of CheeseI want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast every week. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.

There’s a lot going on. It’s spring. Lambs are coming. Calves are coming. Plants are sprouting. There is not enough time in the day to get everything done. This will go on for a while. I love it. It’s so good to be alive.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • The Taste of Cheese
  • Best Lasagna Ever

Homestead Life Updates

We have lambs. This morning we found a set of triplets who are doing well and a single. There are still 4 more ewes yet to lamb.

We still only have two calves. They are drinking all of the available milk from one cow. So no cheese, butter or yogurt yet.

In the garden Scott planted 50+ strawberry sets and I planted over 100 strawberry seedlings that I started indoors a few weeks ago. I am overwhelmed with celery. I started way too many seedlings. Likely I will offer some of this from the homestead store later this summer. Home-grown celery is nothing like the bland, tasteless stuff in the grocery store. My tomatoes and eggplant seedlings are doing great. It will still be a few weeks before they can be planted out in the garden.

Today, we placed row covers on our cabbage. Hopefully, this year we will actually have a crop that the cabbage moths don’t destroy. Pray for us in that regard. We’ve never been successful because of those pesky cabbage moths. Integrity and love for the land keeps us from using any poisons. This could just be the year for cabbage for us.

In the orchard the kiwis are going crazy. We had a few very small fruit starts last year but I got too busy and did not keep them watered enough. The fruit dried up and fell off before it got to any size. I’ll be keeping a better eye out this year. The grapes and blackberries are putting on leaves. No blooms yet but soon. The blueberries have bloomed. June is the month for those lovely jewels to reign supreme. If we can keep the raccoons out, we just might have a blueberry crop this year. We got an electric fence up last year, but most of the blueberries had already been eaten.

We’ve had rain and more rain. Our homestead is doing okay with all of this wetness, but lots of flooding just south of us in North Carolina. We will be getting even more rain this evening. Our location keeps us safe, though there is mud everywhere. Especially where 1,000 pound cows are tromping over and over up and down the travel lanes to the milking shed.

The creamery walls are steadily rising. I have to give it to Scott, he is consistent. Every moment he has available, he is out there making that happen. He did give me a half hour or so this morning to help with those row covers for the cabbage and it was much appreciated.

Hey, I have quail eggs in the incubator. Yes, quail eggs. In just 18 days, we will have quail chicks. I think I mentioned that I don’t like to interrupt Scott in his faithful mission to get that creamery built. So, building housing for chickens and pigs is out of the question at this time. However, he has said he will give me a half-day to build a couple of simple quail breeding cages. The quail will be providing much-needed eggs for us. We eat a lot of eggs and are constantly facing the decision to buy cheap less-than-optimally nutritious eggs from the grocery or paying lots of money for those great farm fresh eggs offered by our fellow Farmer’s Market sellers. The Farmer’s Market eggs are definitely worth it but our budget will be less stressed with us growing our own eggs.

Lastly, let me talk about the Herd Share program we are working on. We want to offer you the opportunity to have your own cow and reap the benefits that we are blessed with by virtue of operating our homestead. I know all of you cannot possibly do what we are doing, but you’d like to have the benefit of fresh dairy products from pasture raised cows. Soon you will be able to purchase part of the herd and simply pay a monthly boarding and maintenance fee. We will take care of everything else for you. On a weekly basis, you can come to the farm and pick up your fresh milk products. We are still working out the details of what we will offer as far as value added services and how much we will charge for that service. Butter and yogurt for sure and perhaps some fresh cheeses such as mozzarella, cream cheese, or lemon cheese. Let us know what you want. After all, we are doing this for you. How can we serve?

For those of you out there listening to the sound of my voice, if you are in the southern/southwestern Virginia area or northern North Carolina area, we are here for you. It is about an hour trip from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and perhaps an hour and a half from Greensboro. In Virginia, Martinsville, Hillsville, and Galax are all less than an hour away. Wytheville is slightly over an hour. It takes us an hour and 10 minutes to get to the downtown Farmer’s Market. Roanoke is 2 hours from us. Floyd, Christiansburg and Blacksburg are somewhere in between.

We are open for on-farm sales and herd share pickups: Saturdays 3 – 5pm and Tuesdays 10am – 12pm. Come on out and get yourself some homestead sunshine. Take a look at how our animals are raised. We’ll answer all of your questions and make sure you get the best grass fed and finished beef, lamb and goat on the market today. Tuesdays 10am – 12 pm and Saturdays 3 – 5 pm.

The Taste of Cheese

A few episodes ago I talked about the sensory experience of taste. Next, I talked about the basics of cheesemaking. Today, I’m putting those two together. This episode is going to be all about the taste of cheese. What is it? Where does it come from?

As I said, in a previous episode (link above) I talked about the basics of cheesemaking. We learned about how complex organic compounds in milk are transformed during the cheesemaking and aging processes. Many of these compounds are broken down into other water or fat-soluble compounds. Some of them are volatile, which means they can be detected as flavors or aromas by our taste buds and the smell receptors in our noses, respectively. Let’s explore where these flavors and aromas come from, and delve into how we perceive, describe, and compare them.

Whether professional or amateur, the way all cheese people approach the subject of flavor is framed by Prof. Frank Kosikowski’s theory of component balance. According to Kosikowski’s model, very specific compounds in very specific amounts and combinations are responsible for the often-mind-boggling array of flavors detected in cheeses, yogurts, and other dairy products. When we talk about a cheeses flavor profile, were referring to its overall taste as comprised by multiple individual components.

Any fine artisanal cheese has many distinct aroma and flavor components, which, when well put together, form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. While each fine cheese is unique—with individual pedigree and identifiable terroir—it is also similar to others of its type; in fact, it distinguishes itself precisely because of the way it’s many volatile compounds combine, interact, and balance each other to present a signature flavor profile. The more components a cheese has in its flavor profile, the more complexity it is said to possess. If one or more of those components dominates and drowns out the others, we say the cheese lacks balance. If it only has a few of them, we say it lacks complexity.

Where Do Cheese Flavors Come From?

The three principle nutritive substances found in cheese—casein (milk protein), butterfat, and lactose (milk sugar)—are the building blocks of its flavor. Those volatile compounds we perceive as cheese aroma and flavor, often referred to as “aromatics,” come from two principal sources: first, the plants the animals eat and the breakdown of chemical compounds in those plants during the animals’ digestion process; and second, during the cheesemaking and ripening process the action of key enzymes, secreted by microorganisms, is used in breaking down those three “building blocks”.

Dairy and flavor scientists who study cheese generally estimate 20 to 30% of aromatics come from the feed the animals eat (and the water they drink). The remaining 70 to 80% is determined by cheesemaking and ripening parameters. As we learned in the basics of cheesemaking, making cheese is mostly a process of dehydration, that is of increasing the percentage of milks solids; in terms of taste, the flavors of these aromatics become more focused and concentrated.

Starter cultures release their enzymes, which continue working after the bacteria cease to function, and remnants contribute their animal or plant enzymes. These agents start the breakdown and flavor making processes. Molds, yeasts, and bacteria introduced during cheesemaking and/or ripening secrete their own enzymes, which in turn act on the fats and proteins to create volatile compounds. Each different substance contributes it specific flavors. Brie style cheeses, for example, obtain their delicious mushroomy flavors from the white candidum species of Penicillium mold growing on their rinds. Thistle rennets used in certain traditional Portuguese and Spanish cheeses lend a typical hint of bittersweet flavor.

Terroir: From Cow Pasture to Cheese Plate

Common sense tells us what the animals eat will affect their milk and thus have a tremendous impact on the cheese. The greater the amount of natural, local food our animals consume, the more of our lands’ character (terroir) will eventually end up in our cheese.

A study co-authored by Drs. Carpino, Licitra, and Barbano and published in 2004 in the Journal of Dairy Science, examined the difference between cheeses made from the milk of pasture fed cows versus ones made from the milk of those consuming a TMR or dry formula feed (TMR is total mixed ration).

The study provided conclusive scientific evidence for two key concepts of flavor origin: first, pasture feed yields more flavors and aromas; second, native plants and grasses offer unique aromas and flavors, that is, terroir makes a big difference. The study showed that a significant portion of the aromatics came from specific plants known to have been eaten by specific animals. As the cows chewed up grasses and flowers, crushing them and oxidizing the chemicals within, aromatics got released into the animals’ digestive tracts. Those aromatics eventually made their way into the milk. Even later they emerge as aroma and flavor-giving substances in cheeses.

How to Describe Flavor and Aroma

Aromatic compounds are described by way of references to other substances with the same flavor or aroma. Many flavors and aromas are very, very specific; others are significantly more vague or complex. An example: to most people—even serious foodies—the chemical name diacetyl means absolutely nothing; however, the reference “movie popcorn butter” has immediate resonance. Its aroma is unique and has no other clear reference; in fact, the chemical diacetyl was used for many years to create artificially flavored buttered popcorn.

To know cheese, you’ve got to taste it—and lots of it. By far your most crucial skill as a cheese connoisseur is your ability to taste, first recognizing what’s in a cheese and, second, articulating what it is you like and don’t like about it.

Tasting cheese in a vacuum is difficult: there is nothing to compare it to. Once you have two or more cheeses, you can develop references and begin to see the range of possibilities, and eventually accumulate a vocabulary based on your personal library of cheese experiences. Again, taste lots of cheese.

Another way of tasting cheeses is alongside wine or other beverages which provide further contrasts and/or complements. Sometimes a wine or beer pairing with cheese will evaluate both partners and in almost every case it will reveal something interesting about each of them.

How Do We Taste Cheese?

What we perceive as cheese flavor is made up of a few fundamental components: first, the four flavors detected by the taste buds on our tongues—sweet, sour, bitter, and salty; and second, the thousands of odors we can pick up with our noses. The pleasures of cheese tasting are made possible by two things. First, the incredible sensitivity of our olfactory system—we can pick up something on the order of 10,000 aromas—and second, its physiology, namely, the retronasal passage connecting the nose to the mouth at the top of the back of the throat. These oral and nasal perceptions, added together, comprise an overall taste impression, or “flavor by mouth.” When you include the additional factor of texture, you have another compound sensation called mouth feel. Remember I spoke of these in the previous podcast on Why Food Tastes So Good. Link is in the show notes.

About 90% of what you taste in a cheese’s “flavor by mouth” is aroma. Our sense of smell comes into play twice: first, when we put a cheese under our noses and, second, when we put it in our mouths. One reason for the difference between the smells and tastes of cheeses is due to our ability to smell only surface volatiles, in what flavor scientists called the “headspace” of a cheese (the immediate vicinity of its surface). When we put cheeses in our mouths and begin to chew, however, all the different aromatics inside them become available. Four tastes and thousands of aromas.

Many of the compounds on a cheese’s surface, including that which makes an ammonia smell and quite a number of potentially stinky, barnyardy (even somewhat noxious) odiferous substances, have actually had a mellowing effect on the interior of the cheese. If you can get past the initial smell, you will find they are among the ripening agents responsible for balanced flavor development and are one reason why a really smelly cheese can taste quite mellow and mild.

Once we put a cheese in our mouth, another breakdown process has begun: Our body’s own digestive enzymes, starting with those contained in the saliva, go to work at releasing flavor compounds. Multiple component taste factors immediately come into play, starting with those four primary flavors of the tongue and including the tingle, rasp, or caress of the cheese’s textures stimulating all those nerve endings on our palates and creating an overall impression of flavor by mouth, plus mouth feel.

Cheese and the Four Primary Flavors

Of those four flavors of the tongue, fine cheeses do exhibit quite a bit of underlying sweetness and also sourness. After all, milk sugar (lactose) is one of the three building blocks of flavor, and fermentation, producing lactic acid. It is the first step of cheesemaking.

What about bitterness? A little bit of basic bitterness goes a long way. And if at all, we only want a little and it must be balanced.

Next comes “salty.” This is the most common flavor in all cheeses. Like any other flavor component, salt should be in balance and it should complement the other flavors. Of all cheese defects, over-salting is the most frequent. Salt should emphasize or bring out a cheese’s other flavor components—not call attention to itself.

The tactile sensation of a cheese—how its texture is perceived in your mouth—is an important part of its overall profile. Whether it’s satiny smooth and near liquid or crunchy and more crystalline or anywhere in between, a fine cheese’s texture and consistency will settle over the tongue in a particular way to deliver a distinct impression. As with flavors and aromas, personal preferences come into play: some of you will prefer softer types, others will salivate over harder ones. In any case, contrasting tactile sensations can enrich your cheese experience.

How to Practice Tasting Cheese

The main steps in tasting a cheese are look, touch, smell, taste—wait, think about it and reflect, and don’t miss the finish. Clear your palate; do it all over again with the same cheese again, take your time and move on to the next one only when you’re good and ready.

What to Look For:

Examine the rind and, if it’s a cut piece, the interior or paste. Make a note of all the textures and colors there and also if there are any interesting, different, curious or potentially meaningful markings. Think aesthetics: what is it about this cheese that looks good or bad and/or bodes well for how it might taste? Bear in mind that some very scary looking cheeses can be very delicious.

How to Assess Cheese by Touch:

Poke it, tap it, run your finger over the service, roll or press a small portion of the paste between a thumb and forefinger. How hard is it? Does it have any resistance, any kind of springy, bouncy consistency or texture? How does it break or crumble? A tactile assessment does not make or break a cheese’s reputation, but it’s an interesting piece of the bigger picture. By the way, if a cheese feels too cold, give it more time to warm up to room temperature before going any further.

How to Smell Cheese:

Take a good sniff. A very common question we ask is, “Why do some cheeses smell a lot stronger than they taste?” This question leads quickly to the realization that the character and intensity of the cheese’s aromas do not necessarily coincide with its flavors. A strong cheese may have a deceptively mild aroma; a real stinker may taste mellow and mild. Also, make sure your hands are clean and free from any kind of perfume or other potentially conflicting odors.

Tasting Cheese:

Take your time throughout the tasting but particularly with the all-important moments after you put it in your mouth. Keep a clean, clear neutral palate and an open mind. This is where a little bit of good white bread (classic baguette or its equivalent) and a sip of water or some other fairly neutral beverage can help clear your palate of any potentially clashing or conflicting flavors. Just a tiny piece of bread works like a swab to take acid and fats off the tongue so you can taste a cheese more clearly.

Take a small bite of the cheese at first and make sure it comes into contact with every part of your tongue and as much of the inside of your mouth as possible. This is important because your taste buds are spread around the tongue and other parts of the back of the mouth and also because different receptors may focus on different flavors. Chew slowly and gently. Note all the flavors on the tongue and try to determine whether they are in balance. Be sure to note the initial sense attack and also to what extent there is an evolution of flavors: some fine cheeses make a strong immediate impression; others build from a quiet start to an impressive crescendo. As the cheese settles over your tongue and then migrates to the back of your mouth, begin to taste its full flavor profile. Note its texture and mouth feel.

Wait for the finish and see how long it lingers; great cheeses don’t disappear quietly or slink away meekly, but they frequently offer distinct final impressions.

Finally, Describing Cheese

Descriptions can be quantitative or objective as well as qualitative or subjective. Outlining a cheese’s appearance is more objective than trying to capture all of its aromas and flavors. Observers can generally agree whether its rind is reddish orange or orangish red. Once taste and preference enter the equation, however, all bets are off. A cheese that tastes sour to you may seem only slightly tangy to me. One I feel is lush and luxurious may strike you as boring tub of butterfat, but hopefully we can objectively identify and acknowledge the traits upon which we base these opinions. It can be a valuable exercise to compare tasting notes with your cheese-lover friends.

In the beginning you may find it difficult to move past such seemingly mundane adjectives as salty or buttery or creamy. That’s fine. People attach all kinds of different tags to an item in order to keep track of it in their memory banks. After years of tasting, there may be still many cheeses that you file under simple terms like buttery or crumbly, but with experience, your vocabulary will broaden. The more cheeses you taste compare, the more sophisticated your descriptions and references will become.

To assist you in developing your vocabulary I’m going to offer a couple of free downloads one will be sample vocabulary terms that describe color, color modifiers, firmness or density, texture, mouth feel, flavor and aroma, flavor modifiers, and subjective, qualitative, or interpretive terms. The second download will be an outline of the basic cheeses by types and categories.

How Are Cheeses Classified?

Categorizing cheeses can be a useful extension of describing them. It helps you find substitutes or alternatives when your preferred cheese isn’t available, and it can help you create an interesting, varied selection when putting together a cheese plate for your friends.

Any categorization system that accurately describes cheese traits can be useful not only in sorting them out but also in understanding and appreciating their various qualities and attributes.

The basic international categories include: Fresh, chevre, bloomy rind or soft ripened, washed rind, natural rind, uncooked and pressed, cooked and pressed, and blue.

Other types include: stretched curd (pasta filata) and whey cheeses.

Due to the melting pot that is America, the American Cheese Society Awards have a huge number of categories. These categories include: Fresh unripened, soft ripened, American originals, American made/international style, cheddars, blue molds, Hispanic and Portuguese style, Italian type, butter, low fat and low salt, flavored, smoked, farmstead, fresh goat, fresh sheep, marinated, aged sheep, aged goat, and washed rind.

In the end, they are still all based on the international categories.

What Makes a Cheese Great?

In assessing greatness complexity of aromas and flavors, stimulating textures, balance, distinct or unique character, and impact—in the sense of making a memorable impression are central. You might taste a cheese once, and not even remember its name, but you can’t get it out of your mind. Maybe it doesn’t even have strong aromas or flavors—after all, great cheeses can be very subtle—but it begs you to try it again.

If a cheese is unique, it may qualify as great. But, to be an exceptional cheese, it doesn’t absolutely have to be one-of-a-kind. Cheeses that are variations, or even imitations, of great types should not be automatically ruled out. They may be very similar in character but at the same time could possess enough individual personality to stand out. My favorite cheese, cheddar, comes to mind. A great cheddar will stand out.

Another key question: does it truly express its terroir? Great cheeses, like great wines, have an uncanny ability to transport you. Merely good cheeses taste like a type or are recognizable as a category; great ones taste like the place they are from. An outstanding Chianti beams you right to a sundrenched hillside vineyard beside a dusty road in Tuscany. Likewise, a taste of a perfectly ripened Appenzeller take you to a flowered mountain meadow with a backdrop of majestic glaciered Alps.

Great cheeses live and breathe; they evolve and grow—not just from cheesemaking through ripening but on your palate when you taste them. Cheeses with profound, complex flavor profiles inhabit your mouth and offer a broad evolution. They start with an attack, subtle or not-so-subtle, hitting the taste buds of the tongue with fundamental flavor highlights. Those flavors develop and expand, melding and competing with myriad aromas, working their way back to the retronasal passage and up into the intellectual and memory centers of your brain. You are excited, stimulated, challenged. Tasting a great cheese makes you say, “wow.” Strong or mild, hard or soft, you’re bowled over by its brilliance.

At this point I’m going to remind you that we now have store hours where you can come to the homestead and see our terroir. We currently have various grassfed meats available and I would love to talk with you about what you are looking for in your dairy products. Before the end of summer, we will have cheese, yogurt, and butter available for our herd share members. Let’s talk about you owning part of a cow herd.

Best Lasagna Ever

Good Lasagna takes a little work, but it is so worth it.

What You Need

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 2 6.5-ounce cans canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

What To Do

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water.
  4. While noodles are boiling, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl.
  5. To assemble, spread 1 ½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13” baking dish. In layers, arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with ½ of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with one third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 ½ cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Final Thoughts

Whew, that was a long one. There is a lot going on here. Between the plants and the animals, things are growing, growing, growing. We are still looking for 3 calves and who knows how many more lambs—Scott just stepped in and said we have another set of twins. Three more ewes still need to give birth. I’d say no more than five more—that is unless someone else has triplets. Thanks for stopping by and keeping up with our homestead life.

Go out there and taste some cheeses. Then come visit us and taste our cheese. We think you will be delighted. Our traditional food practices make great food choices for you. We are dedicated to providing you with the most nutritionally dense foods money can buy. Remember to visit our website, zip down to the bottom of the page and get those 2 downloads for expanding your vocabulary in your quest toward cheese connoisseur status. You’ll also receive a notification for a free download of my herbal bone broth recipe.

Try out that exceptional recipe for lasagna and then ask us about the possibility of fresh mozzarella from your own cow via our herd share program. Yum, yum.

If you enjoyed this podcast, don’t forget to subscribe via iTunes or your favorite podcast listening app. Also, please share this podcast with any of your friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”

Thank you so much for listening and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

References

Expand Your Cheese Vocabulary

Classifying Cheese by Type and Category

Recipe Link

Best Lasagna Ever

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment on our Facebook Page
  • Share this show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

To help the show:

Website

www.peacefulheartfarm.com

Patreon

www.patreon.com/peacefulheartfarm

Facebook

www.facebook.com/peacefulheartfarm

Instagram

www.instagram.com/peacefulheartfarm/

Best Lasagna Ever

Best Lasagna Ever

This traditional lasagna is stacked high, with three full layers of pasta filled with sauce, ricotta, Italian sausage and ground beef , then plenty of mozzarella and Parmesan. Finally, one last layer of pasta gets added, topped with a sprinkling of more cheese and some sauce.

It’s decadent and delicious.

Best Lasagna Ever

It takes a little work, but it is worth it.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 6.5-oz can canned tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons basil dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper ground
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped

Noodles and Cheese Layers

  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound mozzarella cheese sliced
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Instructions

Sauce

  • In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Noodles and Cheese Layers

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. 
  • While noodles are boiling, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl.

Assembly and Baking

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  • To assemble, spread 1 ½ cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13” baking dish. In layers, arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with ½ of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with one third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 ½ cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. 
  • 6. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.
This Week At Peaceful Heart Farm: 4/17/19

This Week At Peaceful Heart Farm: 4/17/19

weekly newsletter banner

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm:

Hello everybody,

If you haven’t listened to the latest podcast, I’ll bring you up to date on the previous birth. We lost the mom three days after she gave birth. It was a very sad day for us. On the upside, we had a new calf born 2 days ago. Always a joy to see that. Mom and boy are doing very well. 

We are looking into starting up a herd share program. That’s right! If you’ve ever wanted to have the benefits of consuming your own milk and milk products from your own cow but were not prepared to care for the animal, we can take care of that for you. 

The way it works is you would buy a share of the herd. That entitles you to the benefits of the milk produced by the herd. Please let us know if you are interested in this kind of arrangement. Get on the wait list early as there will be a limited number of shares available. 

We’d love to meet you in person. Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market, April 27th from 10 am to 12 noon. We can also serve your needs at the farm. Email me if you’d like to come out to the farm and pick up your lamb, beef, or goat.

I’m so excited to share the Farm News from this week.

  • This week’s FarmCast is a quick look at the Tradition of Dairying.
  • Most Recent Recipes
  • Important Stuff in the News This Week

Peaceful Heart FarmCast

This episode is a lead up to you having your own family cow. Some myths are dispelled and lots of great info on these lovely creatures. “The Tradition of Dairying” is the topic. 

This is an educational one with a bit of history, so LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HEREOr, if you have an Alexa device, just say: “Alexa, play podcast Peaceful Heart FarmCast.”

And don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the Peaceful Heart Farm podcast on Apple PodcastsAndroidTuneIn, Stitcher or Spotify


Recent Recipes

gheeGhee: This is a shelf stable product and so easy to make. When you become part of our cow herd Share program, you will have lots of butter. It’s so easy to turn that into ghee. This fantastic cooking medium lasts a very long time on your shelf. 

easter leg of lambEaster Leg of Lamb: Easter is fast approaching. Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market and pick up some Easter lamb. We have bone-in legs (on sale 40% off), boneless shoulder roasts (on sale 40% off), and ground lamb. I have Greek Meatballs for Easter, Easter Leg of Lamb and Southwestern Shoulder Roast recipe cards. Choose one FREE with your purchase.

Cheesy Garlic Roasted AsparagusCheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus: Around here we are just waiting for the asparagus to peak its head up from the ground. Yes, it’s that time of year. From about April through June an abundance of fresh asparagus is available. Check out your local farmer’s market to find this delicious veggie for your family.

grilled cheeseGrilled Cheese Sandwich: If you’re going to enjoy cheese, I can think of no better way than melted on some toasted bread slathered with butter. A grilled cheese sandwich is simple to make but improvements can always be made. This recipe will give you the confidence to make your grilled cheese sandwich spectacular. Here are four tips for making that perfect grilled cheese sandwich even better.


Important Stuff in the News

Top 10 Herd Share Questions Answered: This is a great and informative piece that will answer many of your questions. Feel free to contact us as well and we will answer or find the answer and get back to you.

5 Quail Species to Raise: I just got the word that the quail eggs I ordered for incubation are in the mail. I’m including this fun article to give you a bit more info on this topic. My eggs will be here within 48-72 hours. We will be raising coturnix quail. 

Notre Dame Cathedral History: My heart said to include this piece. The disaster at the Cathedral of Notre Dame is heartbreaking. Such a rich history. I get choked up and can’t really say more here. 


The Tradition of Dairying

The Tradition of Dairying

 The Tradition of DairyingThe tradition of dairying has been around for thousands of years. Today, in the United States, the number of small dairy farms continues to decline. The desire for the fresh and nutritious commodity we call milk remains steady and is mostly fulfilled by gigantic mega-dairies. As with anything else, the bigger it gets, the cheaper it gets. But the other side of the coin is that the bigger it gets, the less concerned the producer is with the nutrition and health of the livestock. They simply need to meet their goals for the bottom line as cheaply as possible. In the United States, have become consumers of cheap goods. Quality that was valued above cheap in the 50’s and 60’s seems to be nearly extinct in this country.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • The Tradition of Dairying
  • Ghee Recipe

Homestead Life Updates

Homestead life updates are both happy and sad this week. If you are on our mailing list, you received a newsletter on Wednesday in which I shared the good news of our first calf just 2 days earlier. You can get on our mailing list by going to www.peacefulheartfarm.com and entering your name and email address. I send out a newsletter once per week that highlights this podcast, recent recipes, and some pretty interesting articles that I come across from time-to-time about food, cheese and tradition. Join us, we’d love to have you ride along with us on the homestead journey.

The day after the newsletter was published, we had very sad news. The cow who had delivered the calf died. She had a very virulent systemic infection that resulted from her difficult birth. The calf was breech. We thought she was going to be fine the day of the birth and even the next day. But the third day she was despondent, not eating and isolating herself. I had the vet out on the farm and on the phone all three days keeping tabs on what to look for and what to do. However, it was only hours between the despondency in the morning and her ultimate demise.

Her name was Dora. It is short for Adorable. She was the most adorable calf. In fact, that is her picture on our home page. She has been there for years, welcoming you all to our website with her adorableness. We miss her so. Her calf missed her so also, but he is doing splendidly now and follows us around like a puppy. We call him Trooper.

I still don’t have the strawberries planted. That is on the docket for Monday. I had to replant some of the cabbage due to it getting frosted and stunted so bad that I thought it better to start over with some more well-established plants. Cold weather plants must be planted early, but not too early or they get frosted. And they must mature before it gets too hot. It’s a delicate balance.

Creamery walls are still rising. It’s a beautiful site. It’s going to be a beautiful dairy and creamery. Speaking of which, let’s get to the topic of the day.

The Tradition of Dairying

We love it and can’t imagine doing anything else at this point. Sure it’s a lot of work, but so worth it. So fulfilling. We hope to pass on the tradition of dairying to the next generation, keeping it alive far into the future.

The tradition of dairying in its most reductionist form, merely swiping some milk from a cooperative grazing animal, goes so many thousands of years back into prehistory that we can’t get a fix on it. It is known that Laplanders herded and milked reindeer 11,000 years ago. 30,000 years ago, people in the High Sinai were confining and breeding antelope with the aid of fences, a human invention arguably as important as the spear. Wherever antelope, reindeer, sheep, camels, goats or cattle have been brought under human control, they have been milked. Among the very earliest human artifacts are vessels containing milky residues.

Even horses have been milked. The hordes of Genghis Khan swept out of Asia eight centuries ago on tough, speedy horses. They triumphed everywhere because of two important military advantages: they used stirrups, thus freeing both hands to use weapons. And they had a lightweight, high protein food source always handy: mare’s milk, ingeniously dried by their wives prior to their raids. Each day a horseman put about half a pound of dried milk into a leather pouch, added water, and by dinnertime he had a tasty fermented yogurt-like food. No army travels far nor fights well without provisions. Because he didn’t have to wait for the quartermaster to catch up with the speedy horses, Genghis Khan always maintained the advantage of surprise.

On the other hand, more peaceable folks milked goats and sheep. Sheep and goats had the advantage of being able to thrive on steep, rocky land and they reproduced rapidly. Gestation takes only five months. It’s nine months in cows and a full year for donkeys. Goats and sheep often have twins and are old enough to breed by one year. Cows need to be at least 15 months old before being bred, giving birth no earlier than two years of age.

But wherever people have the choice and needed resources, they choose the cow. So long ago was she chosen and so much was she valued that her wild ancestors vanished many hundreds of years ago. The last known wild cow died over 500 years ago in Poland. Cows were integral in a relationship with humans at least 10,000 years earlier than that. They have been lovingly nurtured and defended throughout Africa, Asia and Europe ever since. The cow lives in symbiosis with us humans.

Archaeologists and anthropologists have shown much greater interest in the role of grains in human history, speaking of what came before as “mere” herding. In fact, discussions of modern diet seem oblivious to the long prehistory of herding. Arable farming, growing grain, began about 10,000 years ago. This is an unknown number of years after dairying was already being practiced as I just talked about. But most writers link arable farming together with animal husbandry apparently assuming they sprang up together. Not true. It is often stated in otherwise well researched sources that dairy products are a comparatively recent addition to the human menu. To the contrary, grain is the recent inclusion in the human diet, not dairy foods. This false assumption about dairy foods is apparently linked to the widespread belief that milk production is dependent upon grain. It is not.

To produce grain in useful quantities requires rich wetlands such as floodplains. It requires a large amount of energy, available in antiquity only where complex cultures had developed. This energy was produced by slaves. The more slaves you had, the more grain you could grow. And the more grain you could grow, the more slaves you could afford, thus giving rise to a wealthy class able to afford monumental tombs and other durable artifacts of civilization. Grazing animals have been around for millions of years thriving on grass. They are not dependent on grain. For many thousands of those years they were herded and milked, tasks which require neither slaves nor even permanent dwellings.

To herd animals requires only the availability of shepherds and can be done on any kind of land from rocky mountain sides to the beach. Wherever herbivores have been herded, their milk as well as their meat became important parts of the human diet. Herbivores transform grass, bushes and weeds into high-grade readily available food. They do this with enormous efficiency whether in captivity or not. Remember the great herds of buffalo on the plains. No grains, just grass.

Grain is not necessary in the diet of grazing animals, but where it is available in excess of human requirements it can be fed to animals to fatten them and as an extra energy source. We use it as a supplement when the cows are lactating. They get a couple of handfuls of a specially prepared supplement twice a day during milking. It takes a lot of energy to produce the milk in the quantities they provide. The health of our animals is at the top of our list of desired goals. They can survive just fine on their own on grass. But when sharing their resources with us, we make sure they get some daily candy.

Historically, the fence served less to keep animals from running away than to protect them from the predators at night. Ancient Sumerian writings reveal that it also provided a means for keeping the best milk producing animals close at hand. But this was only feasible where there were servants available to fetch and carry feed to the milking animals. The downside of fencing is that it forfeits the transcendent advantage of the grazing animal, that it finds its own food.

The fence served another function basic to animal husbandry. It permitted selective breeding of cattle, sheep and goats. By confining smaller and more docile males and permitting only these to breed, at least 10,000 years ago people were manipulating animal genetics to create the domestic breeds. These breeds began to have smaller horns and be of more manageable size and temperament. This was particularly important in the case of cattle which like all dairy animals, are often handled by women and children. The original wild cattle were huge and quite dangerous. Although in actual numbers worldwide there have always been more sheep and goats being milked than cows, the cow very early in human history became the most prized of the dairy animals.

The Cow, the Premier Dairy Choice

The cow is the premier dairy animal because of her cooperative temperament, the comparative ease with which she can be milked, the volume she is able to produce, and because of the versatility of cow’s milk. The cream is easily skimmed and made into much prized butter and ghee. Ghee is butter that has been melted, rendered and strained.

The cow is a primary producer of wealth. She can support a family. She not only turns grass into milk in quantities sufficient to feed a family but also provides extra to sell and she contributes a yearly calf to rear or fatten. The byproducts from cheesemaking (whey) and from butter (buttermilk) will support a pig or two. Her manure improves her pasture and when dug into the garden, results in plant growth that cannot be surpassed by other growth mediums. The family that takes good care of its cow is well off indeed.

The cow is now forever domesticated. Other domestic animals can revert to a wild or feral state with predictable success. Put hogs in the woods and they won’t look back. They won’t get fat but they will immediately form a breeding population. So will horses on the plains. Many breeds of sheep can establish themselves in hill country. Goats are well-known for this aptitude so long as they are not too far from the sea; they have a high iodine requirement. Cows are dependent on humans for their survival as a species.

So Huckleberry Finn’s Pap might’ve had a pig or goat he could turn loose and still call his own but a cow requires consistent responsible care. If she doesn’t get it she won’t give milk and she won’t start a new calf and she won’t live through much cold or draught.

She Created the Surrounding Community

The dairy cow doesn’t ask for much but she asks every day. Historically, people creating wealth with the cow either are hard-working and reliable or they get that way in a hurry. This is the way it has been for a very long time. The fine farms of Europe, England, New England and much of the United States were all established thanks to the wealth derived from cows. Wherever there is, or used to be, a big barn it was built to store winter hay for the cows which once dotted the pastures.

The need to milk a cow twice a day determined the location of churches; people had to be able to walk there and back without disruption to the milking schedule of cows. Formerly, every district in Europe, England and the Eastern United States had a corn mill situated so that a farmer driving a horse and wagon could deliver his load of corn and still get home in time for milking. It is certainly no coincidence that such a large number of our finest American statesman were born on farms. Important virtues are nurtured on the farm, including a graphic understanding of the relationship between working and eating. Homestead living is making a resurgence in the US for just those reasons. Moms and dads want to raise their children to be virtuous. A farmstead with a milk cow goes a long way to accomplishing it.

If Cows Are So Great, Why Doesn’t Everybody Have One?

Not so very long ago, a great many people did indeed keep a cow and she was often an adored member of the family. Well-to-do families even in cities kept a cow well into the early part of the 20th century. During the Victorian era, country homes of the wealthy included charming accommodations for their cow. Some of these were quite fanciful and included beautifully tiled dairy rooms for making butter and cheese. All this attested to the high regard in which the dairy cow and dairy products were held.

Peasant homes were built to take advantage of the considerable heat given off by a cow. In Scotland often the cottage was built to surround a stall in which the cow spent the winter; picture an arrangement like a playpen in the middle of a low-ceilinged room. In other locales, including Spain, the family lived in rooms above the cows, using them like a furnace in the basement.

Some of the forces that stopped cow-keeping were the same ones that have stressed the American family. An insatiable desire for consumer goods focusing the whole energy of the family on acquisition of every imaginable gadget was certainly a factor. The automobile was important; it dispersed families and directed interest away from home-based activities. A rising desire for consumer goods fostered a yearning for enhanced social status. There have been eras and there still remain places in the world where the cow accords status. But nowadays status is more likely to derive from real estate in a good location. If it is a country property, the high-status animal is now the horse. We call them hay burners. They provide no sustenance for the family, but they sure do eat a lot themselves. But all these factors are as chaff compared to the power of the 20th century revolution in food production, processing and distribution.

The food revolution is lauded in school text, political speeches, virtually everywhere as an exemplary modern triumph that is showered us with endless choice and plenty. Occasionally there are warning from farmers and homesteaders like me. We point out that the current food system is extremely wasteful and definitely nutritionally compromised. But the most astonishing feature of this food revolution is usually overlooked.

For all of human history until very recently, and still for many people living in the world today, food is something you find, you grow, you fish from the sea, or you obtain locally from the actual producer. The purpose of this food is straightforward and obvious: it is to feed people. If sold, it changes hands only once. It goes directly to people who intend to eat it. Designer food intended only as a source of profit has arrived late in man’s history.

The foods in our shining supermarkets were produced as a financial investment. They are not so much food as consumer goods. As such the primary constituents of the majority of finished goods, the wheat, corn, edible oils and sugar cane or sugarbeets, are grown as a monoculture on millions of flat acres, traded on the stock market, the constituents are broken down and reassembled into something that keeps nicely on the shelf and vaguely resembles food.

As for milk, because of its extremely perishable nature, milk initially presented a challenge. In the late 19th century as the size of American cities rapidly expanded, the demand for milk was met in several ways. One enterprising solution was to position a great barn full of cows right downtown next to the inevitable brewery. The cows were fed the spent malt. In theory, this could have proven satisfactory; in practice it was disgusting. The cows were kept in filth and were milked by hand by anybody off the street. On top of that, the milk was routinely watered down diminishing its nutrition even further.

Rural dairies had a better reputation and made a valiant effort to get milk delivered fresh and cold by train. And in most smaller towns and cities, it was possible to get fresh milk delivered right to the door by the actual producer. These dairies took enormous pride in their products.

Milk trains moved through the countryside before dawn picking up milk cans that waited on platforms. The milk did not travel great distances and it was bottled and delivered fresh to doorsteps that very morning. Cans on their way to the creamery were kept cold by blocks of ice cut from the northern lakes in winter. Ice cutting was an important industry in northern states. The big blocks of ice were packed in sawdust, available in quantity from sawmills, and it kept right through the summer. There was an amazing support structure for the rural and small-town dairy industry.

Honorable dairymen well understood that milk quality depended on healthy cows, clean milking practices, rapid chilling and expeditious delivery. Milk itself tells the tale at the table just as unmistakably as does fish. Your nose knows when it is fresh.

There are two ways to achieve a safe, edible product. Number one is by conscientious handling. Number two is by sterilizing and preserving the milk or fish or any other food, after which it matters a great deal less how it is stored or for how long. Small dairies able to exert quality control every step of the way, often even bottling and delivering their own milk and cherishing the one-on-one relationship with their customers, supported the method #1. Larger, well-funded consortiums seeking control of dairying favored method #2. Their approach was to pool larger quantities of milk, drawing it from greater distances, overcoming problems of quality by heat treatment or pasteurization. The outcome of this struggle was by no means a foregone conclusion. Heating changes the appearance, flavor, nutritive and culinary properties of milk and none for the better. As for its keeping qualities, everybody and his grandmother knew milk goes sour after a few days. It wasn’t expected to keep; after all, that’s why we make cheese. Everybody preferred fresh milk and consumers understood perfectly well that pasteurization served as a substitute for quality. Dairymen who wanted to continue selling fresh milk geared up for more efficient delivery using ice and seemed about to make their case for quality control at the source. Quite apart from concern for their customers preferences, this enabled them to maintain financial control of their own product.

The Winter of 1886

Then came the winter of 1886, the winter the lakes didn’t freeze. Lacking ice, the case for fresh milk was lost by default. Dairy farmers were forced to sell their milk to the middleman as they do to this day. They have never been able to regain control over their own product. The mega-dairy industry overwhelmed the little guy.

Consumers had their minds changed about pasteurization by a fear campaign based on disease standards said to be unavoidable from unpasteurized milk. Indeed, this is likely to be true when milk from thousands of cows is pooled, although then as now, it is perfectly possible for herds to be clean and disease free. What is not possible when fresh milk is pooled and transported great distances is to avoid it’s going sour and becoming unsalable; pasteurization was instituted for the benefit of distributors. But a nervous public was sold on a slew of new public health statutes that fostered the concept of pasteurization as being the only safe way to consume milk. Though we had survived as a species for 10s of thousands of years on unpasteurized milk, today unpasteurized milk is demonized nearly as harshly as poison. Indeed, at that time America was in the mood to sterilize everything possible. It was the heyday of the hospital-white kitchen and bathroom. Dairymen were required to paint everything white too, as part of the mystical association of whiteness with health and cleanliness. To this day, we dairy farmers must conform to public health regulations far more strict than those imposed on any other industry including the very processing plants where milk is conveyed to be pasteurized.

That’s as far as I’m going to go with the history today. In another episode I’ll talk about the demise of the Family Cow in the 20th century and how we have evolved in terms of milk production today. There is a renaissance of desire for fresh milk from our own cow. Perhaps the family cow will return in great numbers. Or at the very least, families will buy their milk from a nearby farmer whom they know. More and more will want to buy a share in a cow herd, paying the farmer to house, care for, maintain and milk their cows for them. Herd shares are gaining in popularity here in Virginia. We are currently looking into the possibility of providing butter, yogurt and cheese to folks just like you who want to own a family cow but don’t have the time, place or know how to properly care for her. We’ll take care of that for you. Just stop by the homestead and pick it up each week. What do you think?

Ghee

Making ghee is a process I enjoy, and it yields a wonderful cooking medium. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, ghee is an unsalted butter that has had the milk solids removed after separating from the butterfat, resulting in beautiful, golden, pure fat with an unusually high smoking point.

This means ghee (and its cousin, clarified butter) is remarkably stable, even at higher temperatures. The process for making clarified butter is similar to that of making ghee, ghee is simply cooked longer and has more contact with the browning milk solids, in turn lending a different flavor profile.

Tips for Cooking with Ghee

  1. Use less. If you’ve never cooked with ghee before, just go easy to start. I’ve found that I typically need less throughout the process compared with, say, olive oil.
  2. Wok cooking or stir-fry is an exercise in high-temperature intensity. Which can be hard on oils, and you end up having the oils break down, and not in a good way. So, ghee is a good option, as long as it works for the flavors you are cooking. I don’t think it works alongside soy sauce, for example, but a quick vegetable stir-fry is a winner
  3. In my opinion, the best ghee comes from homemade butter. Meaning, you first make butter from fresh cream you got from your herd share. Then you turn that butter into ghee. You might try making cultured butter and turning that into ghee.
  4. Ghee can be stored, unopened, in a cool, dark, place for 9 months. Once opened, a jar can be kept on your counter top for 3 months. Beyond that, the open jar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. How’s that for shelf life.

What You Need

  • 2 pounds unsalted butter (I’ve used salted as well)
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

What To Do

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low. It will start to bubble and separate. The whey will float to the surface creating foam. Skim the whey foam as it arises. Continue to cook the butter until it turns clear and the milk solids sink to the bottom. This is clarified butter. (You could actually stop here.)
  2. Continue to cook your butter until the milk solids brown (lightly) on the bottom of the pan. It will smell like popcorn butter.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat, add salt (optional); cool for about 2 minutes.
  4. Pour ghee through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store in tightly sealed mason jars or refrigerator.
  5. Use it in place of almost any cooking oil. It will add butter flavor without burning.

Notes

  • If butter turns dark brown or black, you’ve burned it and you will need to start over.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today. I hope to have better homestead news next time. We checked Buttercup today and she looks like she might give birth in the next 2 to 3 days. Pray for her please. She had trouble last time.

I hope you enjoyed the history of milk tour. Lots of people say we are not meant to drink milk. However, we have been doing for thousands of years and have prospered as a species. Lots of people say that no other animal drinks milk after a certain age. Perhaps that is because they are smart enough to figure out how to squeeze that teat and get at that luscious white nectar. For sure, anyone who has ever had a barn cat in the dairy knows that cats will most definitely continue to drink milk when it’s offered to them. They would have a real problem getting those paws trying get at it themselves.

And lastly, give that ghee recipe a try. Homemade butter and other natural animal fats are very healthy. Humans have survived on animal fats for thousands of years. Ghee is a great way to preserve that milk/cream/butter for a long time. It is an excellent cooking medium.

Ghee is even used in traditional ayurvedic medicine. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. And that’s a beautiful thought to end with.

As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”

Thank you so much for listening and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

Recipe Link

Ghee

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment on our Facebook Page
  • Share this show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

To help the show:

Website

www.peacefulheartfarm.com

Patreon

www.patreon.com/peacefulheartfarm

Facebook

www.facebook.com/peacefulheartfarm

Instagram

www.instagram.com/peacefulheartfarm/

Ghee

Ghee

Making ghee is a process I enjoy, and it yields a wonderful cooking medium. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, ghee is an unsalted butter that has had the milk solids removed after separating from the butterfat, resulting in beautiful, golden, pure fat with an unusually high smoking point. This means ghee (and its cousin, clarified butter) is remarkably stable, even at higher temperatures. The process for making clarified butter is similar to that of making ghee, ghee is simply cooked longer and has more contact with the browning milk solids, in turn lending a different flavor profile. 

Ghee

Tips for Cooking with Ghee 
1. Use less. If you’ve never cooked with ghee before, just go easy to start. I’ve found that I typically need less throughout the process compared with, say, olive oil. 
2. Wok cooking or stir-fry is an exercise in high-temperature intensity. Which can be hard on oils, and you end up having the oils break down, and not in a good way. So, ghee is a good option, as long as it works for the flavors you are cooking. I don’t think it works alongside soy sauce, for example, but a quick vegetable stir-fry is a winner 
3. In my opinion, the best ghee comes from homemade butter. Meaning, you first make butter from fresh cream you got from your herd share. Then you turn that butter into ghee. You might try making cultured butter and turning that into ghee. 
4. Ghee can be stored, unopened, in a cool, dark, place for 9 months. Once opened, a jar can be kept on your counter top for 3 months. Beyond that, the open jar can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. How’s that for shelf life.
Course: Spice Mix/Ingredient
Cuisine: American, Indian

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds unsalted butter I’ve used salted as well
  • Pinch of salt optional

Instructions

  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low. It will start to bubble and separate. The whey will float to the surface creating foam. Skim the whey foam as it arises. Continue to cook the butter until it turns clear and the milk solids sink to the bottom. This is clarified butter. (You could actually stop here.)
  • Continue to cook your butter until the milk solids brown (lightly) on the bottom of the pan. It will smell like popcorn butter.
  • Remove skillet from heat, add salt (optional); cool for about 2 minutes.
  • Pour ghee through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store in tightly sealed mason jars or refrigerator.
  • Use it in place of almost any cooking oil. It will add butter flavor without burning.

Notes

• If butter turns dark brown or black, you’ve burned it and you will need to start over.
This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm: 4/10/19

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm: 4/10/19

weekly newsletter banner

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm:

Hello everybody,

Yay, first calf is born. He required a vet to visit him and get his tail out first. Yes, our first calf came breech, but he is doing really well right now. His dad should be proud. Looks almost just like him. The milking routine has begun. 

Easter is on the horizon. In honor of the event, we are running a sale on leg of lamb and shoulder roasts.

40% off Leg of Lamb and

Shoulder Roasts! ! !

Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market, April 13th from 10 am to 12 noon. We can also serve your needs at the farm. Email me if you’d like to come out to the farm and pick up your lamb. 

I’m so excited to share the Farm News from this week.

  • This week’s FarmCast is a study in the science behind the senses as they relate to the taste of food.
  • Most Recent Recipes
  • Homesteads in the News This Week

Peaceful Heart FarmCast

Last we I talked about what makes our food taste great. This week, in preparation for a follow up on what makes food taste the way it does, I’m introducing the basics of cheesemaking. This is a needed background to discuss what gives cheese its flavor. Look for that episode coming up soon. This week’s podcast also includes a recipe for making that great Easter Leg of Lamb

This is an educational one with a bit of history, so LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HEREOr, if you have an Alexa device, just say: “Alexa, play podcast Peaceful Heart FarmCast.”

And don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the Peaceful Heart Farm podcast on Apple PodcastsAndroidTuneIn, Stitcher or Spotify


Recent Recipes

easter leg of lambEaster Leg of Lamb: Easter is fast approaching. Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market and pick up some Easter lamb. We have bone-in legs (on sale 40% off), boneless shoulder roasts (on sale 40% off), and ground lamb. I have Greek Meatballs for Easter, Easter Leg of Lamb and Southwestern Shoulder Roast recipe cards. Choose one FREE with your purchase. 

Cheesy Garlic Roasted AsparagusCheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus: Around here we are just waiting for the asparagus to peak its head up from the ground. Yes, it’s that time of year. From about April through June an abundance of fresh asparagus is available. Check out your local farmer’s market to find this delicious veggie for your family.

grilled cheeseGrilled Cheese Sandwich: If you’re going to enjoy cheese, I can think of no better way than melted on some toasted bread slathered with butter. A grilled cheese sandwich is simple to make but improvements can always be made. This recipe will give you the confidence to make your grilled cheese sandwich spectacular. Here are four tips for making that perfect grilled cheese sandwich even better.

Home Made Butter: There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take control of your family’s nutritional needs – not depending on your local supermarket. Making your own butter is just one way to instill that peace. 

 


Cheese in the News

Why Americans Don’t Get to Eat Delicious Raw Milk Cheese: The title is a little misleading. We do get to eat “some” raw milk cheese. This article gives the details on which ones. Also, I was shocked to find out that the forced pasteurization by the FDA began in 1987. I thought it happened at the same time that raw milk liquid was required to be pasteurized in 1924. 

Raw Milk Cheese – A Natural Source of Probiotics: Milk is known as a complete food. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, cholesterol, and beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Perhaps it is the perfect food! Well maybe not. Perhaps cheese is the perfect food. ♥♥♥♥♥

“Lies My Doctor Told Me” – Presentation by Dr. Ken Berry :This has got to be the most interesting thing I read all week. Looks like I’m going to have to buy another book. I love reading. More importantly, I love reading about how to live a healthy life. So much information, so little time. 


The Basics of Cheesemaking

The Basics of Cheesemaking

The Basics of CheesemakingThis episode focuses on the basics of cheesemaking. This is in preparation for the next episode which is about why cheese tastes the way that it does. It’s all milk. Why is each cheese different?

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • The Basics of Cheesemaking
  • Easter Leg of Lamb

Homestead Life Updates

We are still trying to get Dora trained for milking. This morning she didn’t even come to the milking shed. Tomorrow is another day. The new halter that is just the size for her has arrived. No calves or lambs yet, we are still waiting.

The last of the hay went out yesterday. No matter what, they go out on the grass as soon as that hay is consumed. The grass is greening up very nicely. We are expecting a bit of rain for a couple of days next week and the temps are going to be in the 70’s. All signs are good for a successful spring launch into those lush pastures.

Walls continue rising on the creamery. It’s so exciting to go out every day and see the progress. Since we are taking so long to get cheese out to you, I am looking into setting up some cow shares. That will allow us to assist you in your goals for dairy products. You buy part of a cow and we board it, feed it, care for it, and milk it for you. We will even make you some yogurt and/or butter if you like. If you are interested in this arrangement, please visit us at www.peacefulheartfarm.com and get on our mailing list so you can be first in line when we open this up. The number of shares will be extremely limited due to our herd size.

The spring garden is on the move. Adding to the seeds we planted last week, onions were planted, the celery has been transplanted to bigger pots, and the strawberries are lined up for planting tomorrow. Early tomato plants and eggplant have sprouted. It will be weeks yet before they get out into the garden.

Easter is fast approaching. Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market and pick up some Easter lamb. We have bone-in legs, boneless shoulder roasts, and ground lamb. Choose a free recipe card with your purchase. I have Greek Meatballs for Easter, Easter Leg of Lamb and Southwestern Shoulder Roast.

Email me at melanie at peacefulheartfarm.com if you would like to pick up at the farm.

The Basics of Cheesemaking

It has been my experience that the more you know about how something is made and what goes into it, the better you can appreciate the value and tradition that surrounds it. Understanding cheesemaking fundamentals will help clarify the differences between types of cheese and also helps explain how individual cheeses express their distinctions and character. Prof. Frank Kosikowski, who founded the American cheese Society (ACS), outlined the eight basic steps, which have become the standard for how cheese is made.

First, let’s look at some of the additional varied procedures involved in making the cheese we know today. Then we’ll consider the raw material that is milk that goes into cheese. Finally, I’ll outline a layperson’s overview of Kosikowski’s Eight Basic Steps.

Cheesemaking Developments: Step-By-Step

From a historical viewpoint, each of the basic steps represents one step in a series of technological advances. In the centuries-long evolution of this artisan craft, these advances led to innovations in the cheese recipe; they added complexity, created distinctions, and thereby defined the various modern cheese types.

The first step, acidification of milk, remains the basis for all cheeses. In fact, some still don’t require much more than that. Go back and take a look at that Lemon Cheese recipe in “The History of Cheese” episode or Crème Fraîche recipe in the “Why Normande Cows” episode. Links in the show notes.

Prehistoric fresh cheese, which were not all that far removed from today’s sour cream, clotted cream, or quark, eventually evolved into something resembling a basic Farmer’s cheese, also known as white cheese or, in Spanish, queso blanco or queso fresco.

After simple souring to make fresh cheeses, the next big step is the coagulation of milk to form curds, which is generally done via the proteolytic enzymes contained in rennet from the stomachs of young ruminant animals, the very substances that helped those suckling’s break down the proteins and digest their mother’s milk. You could say the discovery of the use of rennet started modern cheesemaking because it opened the door to add the curing and aging steps. It is assumed this advance was a stumbled upon through happenstance kind of discovery. I’ve talked about this in previous episodes. Some clever shepherd used an animal stomach to transport milk, noticed the milk ended up in a large lump with lots of water around it. It tasted good and lasted longer before souring beyond recognition. Shepards may have been the ones to develop a useful procedure for preserving milk in a tasty, transportable form. Voila! Modern cheese was born.

Further developments, beginning in Roman times and extending into the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, included more extensive draining as well is cooking, pressing, molding, milling, and salting. These procedures resulted in harder cheeses that can be aged, stored, and/or transported. That certainly opened the door to a major food staple and commodity for trade. These advances also posted logistical challenges requiring the invention and manufacture of mechanical devices such as vats; baskets or colanders; pots; kettles; and knives; and other efficient cutting, cooking, and draining tools.

Some of Cheesemaking’s “Developmental Steps”

Large Format “Commodity” Cheeses

By Roman times, cheesemakers had established procedures for making hard cheeses. These cheeses were larger; they utilized rennet coagulation as well as cooking, pressing, and salting. To make rennet, they would either dry the young ruminant stomachs, cut them in strips, and add them to the milk in that form or stir in a rennet solution made with brine.

Blue Cheeses

Encouraging blue molds to ripen cheeses such as Roquefort dates back to pre-Roman times. Today’s Roquefort recipe, which includes propagating the molds in large loaves of bread, specifically baked for that purpose, was codified over 300 years ago.

Smoking

Ancient artisan cheesemakers often lived in mountain huts. To keep themselves warm, dispel flies, and dry their cheeses they built fires inside the hut. As a result, their cheeses would acquire pleasant smoky flavors.

Mixing Milk

Small family farms would make the young cheeses for their own consumption from the milk they didn’t drink. These small operations might have one or two cows, a few sheep, and a goat—not enough of one species to fill the cheesemaking vat. So, they blended the milk and delicious results evolved.

Leaf wrapping

Soft and semisoft primordial types of cheese were often used as currency and sometimes brought to market. For this, they needed protection, so they were wrapped in leaves. Low and behold, this technique also offered some nice flavor benefits. Today, cheese wrapped in grapevine leaves mark this ancient method.

Commodity cheeses

Among the cheesemaking steps beginning in the 16th and early 17th centuries was partial skimming. Removing the cream to make butter created cheesemaking milk that underwent higher and more rapid acidification. This was a first step toward bigger, harder, lower moisture cheeses. Further steps included scalding, pressing, cheddaring, and salting the curds themselves as opposed to an external salting commonly used in fresh cheeses.

Early “vegetarian” cheeses

Sephardic Jews in Iberia (Western Spain and Eastern Portugal) invented—or at least advanced—the practice of using plant coagulation. Thistle-renneting of curds to make cheeses proper for their kosher diet began about 1,500 years ago.

“Monk” (or Monastery) Cheeses

Monks were prodigious farmers and dairymen who developed fermented, brewed drinks such as abbey ales which they often used to wash their cheeses. Washed-rind cheeses began to evolve about 15 centuries ago with the gradual spread of Christianity and construction of these monasteries across Europe. Munster is an example of a modern descendant of the medium-sized semisoft luxury cheeses which still maintain their traditional form.

Bloomy-rind cheeses

Cheeses of the brie and Camembert types—made with creamy rich milk acidified overnight, gently ladled into draining and shaping forms, and ripened by external molds—had likely been produced, in rustic versions, since at least late medieval times. They originated in the Île-de-France region, not far from Paris, and in nearby Normandy.

What’s in cheese?

Since cheese is essentially concentrated, preserved milk with some added salt, in order to answer this question, we need to take a step back and answer a more fundamental one: What’s in milk?

The solid content of milk runs from approximately 12.5% in cows to about 19% in sheep. Its principal solids are the protein casein, the sugar lactose, and butterfat, all of which are dispersed or emulsified in water. The fact that all of the solids in the milk are not completely dissolved but rather they float in self-contained units within an emulsion is what makes cheesemaking possible. It supports the separation of the milk-solid curds from the watery whey.

Vitamins and minerals are an important part of milks composition. Milk contains the vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, D, E, and K. Although these and the minerals account for less than 1% of milk’s total volume, they are significant nutrients. Minerals also contribute flavor and texture to the cheese. The principal minerals in milk are calcium and phosphorus; it also contains sodium, potassium, and magnesium as well as trace elements, including zinc, iron, manganese, and copper.

Variability of Milk Composition

Different species have different breeding and lactation cycles—determined by their different gestation periods and expected ranges for weaning. This is the main reason most traditional cheeses are not made year-round.

Another crucial factor determining milk composition is terroir—all the components of environment and geography, water, and feed. Water will affect milk and cheese character on two counts: first, via the ground and/or meltwater, which irrigates the animal’s plant foods; and second, via the drinking water given to the animals. Whatever special local traits the water possesses—certain mineral flavors, for example—are likely to show up in a cheese.

What the animals eat will also help determine the taste of the milk and the cheese. The fundamental contrast is between a diet of dry feed in the winter and pasture plants in the summer. The types of plants eaten are going to be unique from farm to farm and region to region. No two farms will produce the same terroir.

Kosikowski’s Eight Basic Steps of Cheesemaking

Now that we know what’s in milk and cheese, we can discuss how cheese is made.

Step One: Setting the Milk (Acidification and Coagulation)

Acidification will occur naturally if the milk is left to sour on its own: inherent and/or ambient bacteria will ferment lactose into lactic acid. Cheesemakers normally add bacterial starter cultures to jumpstart the process. Coagulation is considered first among the microbiological miracles without which cheese as we know it would not exist. A natural chemical reaction, it transforms fresh liquid milk into one of the world’s most delicious solids. Coagulation makes one giant curd.

Step Two: Cutting the Curds

Once the milk has coagulated into a giant smooth curd, it will naturally begin to contract and expel the whey, which mostly consists of water. The technical term for this process is syneresis. The more surface area the curds have, the more syneresis will occur. This means the more the curds are cut—that is, the smaller the pieces—the less moisture they will retain. To produce a softer cheese with higher moisture content, the curds will be left larger, whereas for a harder cheese with less moisture, they’ll be cut smaller.

Step Three: Cooking and Holding

This third basic step involves some amount of heating or cooking of the curds as well as a holding period during which they are left to sit in the vat while the effects of acidification, cutting (if applicable), and heating proceed. Timing is crucial: the time and temperature of cooking is adjusted according to the composition of the milk and the nature of the curds. The smaller the particles, for example, the hotter they will get.

Curds intended to become softer, higher moisture bloomy rind cheeses, such as Camembert, will undergo relatively mild heating, a gradual cooling, and a resting period, with little or no stirring. Semisoft types may require slightly more heating and some more gentle stirring. Curds for harder cheeses are “cooked”—that is, they are heated to higher temperatures—and also stirred more.

Step Four: Dipping and Draining

Curds are transferred by way of a scoop or ladle to some sort of draining receptacle or mold. Draining vessels are usually some form of basket or colander, but occasionally a large cheesecloth bag is used. At this point, the cheesemaking milk has separated into whitish or cream-colored curds and greenish or yellowish whey.

Step Five: Knitting (Curd Fusion)

During this stage, the curd particles fuse together into a uniform body and begin to attain a distinct consistency. Depending on the recipe and the eventual cheese type goal, knitting can occur in the vat, in a draining vessel such as a hoop, mold, or basket, or in a press where weight is applied.

Step Six: Pressing

This step takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days and is designed to exert varying degrees of pressure to achieve the desired moisture content, density, and texture of a cheese. Soft and semisoft cheeses, and bloomy or washed rind cheeses, are drained gradually and subjected to very little, if any, pressure. Harder types may have weights placed on top of them or pressure applied by various devices. How much pressure is applied and for how long helps determine moisture content, density, and texture.

Step Seven: Salting

Salt is a main ingredient in cheese not only for taste but for moisture reduction and control of bacteria and molds. It can be applied in two ways: dry or wet. Dry salting can occur either before or after pressing. Before pressing, the salt is sprinkled directly in and on the curd mass where it begins to exert its effects on the development of a cheese more immediately. After pressing the salt is sprinkled or rubbed onto the surface as it’s about to enter its aging process.

Wet-salting is properly referred to as brining. For this technique, cheeses are immersed in a saltwater solution for anywhere from several hours to several days. Brining recipes, and brining procedures vary and have subtle yet significant effects on the final results. Washed rind cheeses have brine—among other solutions—rubbed onto them during aging.

Step Eight: Special Treatments (Curing)

This step—a series of treatments, many of them optional—marks the end of the active phase, the formation process, and the beginning of ripening. The curds are now cheese, but they have a long way to go before they become great cheese. Their traits have been etched but their true character has yet to emerge.

“Curing” is a term to describe treatments introduced for desired effects during aging. These might include rubbings, brushings, sprayings, wrapping in cloth or leaves or bark, and regular turnings.

That’s It!

That’s it for the steps in cheesemaking. Even the simplest cheese goes through all eight of these steps. From a fresh lemon cheese created in a matter of hours to a two-year or more aged cheese such as our Dutch style Ararat Legend, it is the variations along the way that create each unique cheese flavor profile.

In the next podcast I want to talk about cheese flavor: what it is and where it comes from. I hope with these basics you’ll be able to follow along more easily with that discussion. Let’s get to today’s recipe. Easter is fast approaching. Today I’m presenting a recipe for creating the centerpiece for that great traditional Easter dinner.

Easter Leg of Lamb

On Easter, lamb may be what’s on the menu for your big family dinner. It’s a tradition that goes back to ancient times.

Because sheep adapt well to a variety of climates and are raised the world over, many recipes span the globe.

  • In Argentina, whole young lambs are cooked close to smoky, glowing wood embers.
  • In Italy, legs are coated with garlic, herbs, and breadcrumbs and slowly roasted.
  • In Syria, chunks of lamb shoulder are scented with cumin, braised slowly, and served with muhammara, a wonderful red pepper dip made with Aleppo pepper, garlic, and spices.

To start or continue your family dinner tradition, here’s how to make that special Easter Leg of Lamb entrée.

What you Need

  • 1 leg of lamb, bone-in (6-7 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbl fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (or 3 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Sauce

  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (combination of rosemary, chives, and parsley)
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups lamb stock (or chicken stock)
  • 1 cup red wine

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Rub lamb all over with lemon juice. Pat garlic and rosemary evenly over the surface of the lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan in oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 F and continue cooking for approximately 1 hour for medium-rare, or until thermometer registers 145-150 F (don’t touch the bone with thermometer.)
  2. Remove roast from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
  3. Position roasting pan over stove burners. Add mixed herbs and onions to pan. Stir to combine with pan drippings. Add stock and wine to deglaze the pan. Reduce over high heat until it becomes a sauce consistency (approximately 20 min).
  4. Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top.

Reduction sauce may sound complicated, but I guarantee you that if you give it a try, you will see just how easy it is to make. You’ll be off and running in a lot of other areas with that new skill.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for this week’s podcast. Hope you enjoyed learning about how cheese is made. Stay tuned for next week when I will be discussing how that process applies to what makes cheese taste this way or that.

We are always having fun here on the homestead. Look for upcoming tours.

And please come visit us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market to get your leg of lamb to make that traditional Easter dinner or drop me an email if you want to pick up at the farm. We’d love to meet you personally. We currently have lamb, beef, and goat available for purchase. No cheese for now but stay tuned and let us know what you think about owning a share of a cow so you can enjoy the benefits of raw milk products without the hassle of taking care of the animal yourself.

As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”

Thank you so much for listening and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

References

Recipe Link

Easter Leg of Lamb

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment on our Facebook Page
  • Share this show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

To help the show:

Website

www.peacefulheartfarm.com

Patreon

www.patreon.com/peacefulheartfarm

Facebook

www.facebook.com/peacefulheartfarm

Instagram

www.instagram.com/peacefulheartfarm/

Easter Leg of Lamb

Easter Leg of Lamb

Easter is fast approaching. Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market and pick up some Easter lamb. We have bone-in legs, boneless shoulder roasts, and ground lamb. Choose a free recipe card with your purchase. I have Greek Meatballs for Easter, Easter Leg of Lamb and Southwestern Shoulder Roast.

Easter Leg of Lamb

On Easter, lamb may be what's on the menu for your big family dinner. It's a tradition that goes back to ancient times. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Course: Hot Entrée
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 leg of lamb bone-in (6-7 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 Tbl fresh rosemary leaves chopped (or 3 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Sauce

  • 1 cup chopped fresh herbs combination of rosemary, chives, and parsley
  • 2 cups onions diced
  • 2 cups lamb stock or chicken stock
  • 1 cup red wine

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Rub lamb all over with lemon juice. Pat garlic and rosemary evenly over the surface of the lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan in oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 F and continue cooking for approximately 1 hour for medium-rare, or until thermometer registers 145-150 F (don't touch the bone with thermometer.) 
  • Remove roast from pan and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. 
  • Position roasting pan over stove burners. Add mixed herbs and onions to pan. Stir to combine with pan drippings. Add stock and wine to deglaze the pan. Reduce over high heat until it becomes a sauce consistency (approximately 20 min). 
  • Slice lamb and serve with sauce drizzled over the top. Reduction sauce may sound complicated, but I guarantee you that if you give it a try, you will see just how easy it is to make. You’ll be off and running in a lot of other areas with that new skill.

Notes

Reduction sauce may sound complicated, but I guarantee you that if you give it a try, you will see just how easy it is to make. You’ll be off and running in a lot of other areas with that new skill.

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm – 4/3/2019

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm – 4/3/2019

weekly newsletter banner

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm:

Hello everybody,

I hope it’s warm where you are. Here in southwestern Virginia, we got a brief glimpse of snow flurries this morning. It was very cold last night. My cabbage suffered but will likely survive. They should have been covered. Hindsight is 20/20. The temperatures dropped about 3 degrees below what was predicted. I wanted to plant onion today, but hey, it’s cold and windy out there. Think I’ll wait. Tomorrow’s high will be 70 degrees – or so they say. I’m hoping.

I’m so excited to share the Farm News from this week.

  • Where can you find us? Wytheville Farmer’s Market, April 13th from 10 am to 12 noon.
  • This week’s FarmCast is a study in the science behind the senses as they relate to the taste of food.
  • Most Recent Recipes
  • Homesteads in the News This Week

Peaceful Heart FarmCast

There is so much to say about what makes our food taste great. Each individual cook or home chef adds their own touch. However, there are three standard biological sensory functions that, when working together, form the basis of the full experience of “taste”. 

This is a peaceful and philosophical one, so LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HEREOr, if you have an Alexa device, just say: “Alexa, play podcast Peaceful Heart FarmCast.”

And don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the Peaceful Heart Farm podcast on Apple PodcastsAndroidTuneIn, Stitcher or Spotify


Recent Recipes

Cheesy Garlic Roasted AsparagusCheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus: Around here we are just waiting for the asparagus to peak its head up from the ground. Yes, it’s that time of year. From about April through June an abundance of fresh asparagus is available. Check out your local farmer’s market to find this delicious veggie for your family.

grilled cheeseGrilled Cheese Sandwich: If you’re going to enjoy cheese, I can think of no better way than melted on some toasted bread slathered with butter. A grilled cheese sandwich is simple to make but improvements can always be made. This recipe will give you the confidence to make your grilled cheese sandwich spectacular. Here are four tips for making that perfect grilled cheese sandwich even better.

Home Made Butter: There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take control of your family’s nutritional needs – not depending on your local supermarket. Making your own butter is just one way to instill that peace. 

cornbread on the hearthMary Randolph’s Cornmeal Bread: In Colonial America food was prepared with similar ingredients, but the method of cooking was vastly different. This recipe contains instructions for hearthside baking.


Cheese in the News

Virginia Cheese Fest: Farm to table dinner – June 7, 2019 – Historic Smithfield Plantation

The Goods on Gruyere: Discover the many flavors, textures and pairing options of this complex cheese.

Sheep and Artisan Cheese:Tim Young of Small Farm Nation talks with Sarah Hoffman of Green Dirt Farm in Missouri. She raises sheep on pasture, milks them and turns their milk into award-winning cheese.


What Makes Food Taste So Good?

What Makes Food Taste So Good?

what makes food taste so goodWhat Makes Food Taste So Good? is the topic of today’s show. The truth is, it is much more than taste. I’ll provide some details as to what taste is as it relates to our bodies. The sense of smell and touch also are needed to understand flavor.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • What Makes Food Taste So Good?
  • Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus

Homestead Life Updates

First, I’ll talk about all the stuff I planted in the garden this week. Two days in a row, four hours each day, sunburned arms and hands and I got about half of my spring garden in the ground. I planted lots of cabbage. Some red, some green and four kinds of Chinese cabbage. What else? Collards, Swiss chard, escarole, mustard greens and kale. And let’s not forget those peas. Lots of green shelling peas and also some snow peas.

Next week it will be strawberries and onions and I think that will finish off the spring planting. Summer planting of beans, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, and celery will begin in May.

Oh, I almost forgot, I planted Red Norland and Yukon Gold potatoes.

Lots of visitors are coming to the farm this coming week. Some family and some that found us on the internet. They are interested in the Normande breed of cows and will be taking a look at what we have to get a better idea of what to expect.

Speaking of cows, it looks like we won’t have our first calf for another couple of weeks. We will definitely making changes to the breeding schedule for next year. We should be making cheese by now.

The creamery updates are really exciting. Scott dry stacked a whole bunch of blocks a few days ago. It was so amazing to walk around inside the space he created. While only four blocks high, they clearly defined the utility room and parlor. As usual he is out there right now working on those walls. This morning while we were out with the cows going through the morning routine, I could see the definition of about a quarter of the window in the utility room wall. I don’t know how high that is and there is a long way to go, but it is still so exciting.

Another thing that is exciting is cooking good tasting food for our families. I thought today I would talk about how we humans determine our preferences.

What Makes Food Taste So Good?

It’s a lot more than taste. We choose our food as much for its pleasing sensory qualities as for health and nutrition. Sometimes that’s all we focus on, to the detriment of our waistlines.

From the earliest days we used our sensory organs to assist in survival. We have olfactory receptors in the nose. These were used to sniff out appealing smells and also to warn of rotten or contaminated food. Taste buds helped distinguish between safe foods and foods that were poisonous. Today, eating food is also a pleasurable experience where even the texture is important. Let’s get into the sensory experience of food to get a better idea of where we need to grow our understanding around cooking for our families.

The sensory properties of food

Sensory perception is the ability of the sensory organs to detect and evaluate sensory stimuli such as odors, tastes, textures, sights, and sounds, all of which are active during eating. It’s all about the smell, the taste, how it looks, is it crunchy and how does it feel in my mouth. Each sense organs have special receptors that detect stimuli. When a receptor attuned to taste on your taste bud is stimulated, it produces an electrical signal. Nerve impulses carry many the signals to the brain, where the information is processed. The brain then determines whether the taste is sweet or salty, or whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Food presents a lot of sensory stimuli, therefore a basic understanding of sensory perception is invaluable to the Homestead chef. We don’t just throw something on the table. Instead we take great care in deciding on menus, blends of tastes and textures and so on. You may not think of it that way but nonetheless it is what you are doing.

I’ll start with the sense of sight, then taste and smell. All of these and more are working in your mind every time you plan a meal for your family. After listening to this podcast, I hope you have a greater appreciation for all you do to make the best meals for your family. Not just nutritious meals, but beautiful, fragrant, tasty and lovely luscious meals.

Color and appearance of food

A foods appearance is usually the first indicator of how it will taste so we’ll start there. The brighter and more colorful the food, the more visual its appeal. Your brain processes information about flavor and texture on the basis of appearance and makes decisions about your particular likes and dislikes. This evaluation happens because of our highly developed sense of sight. I’ll bet those Facebook pictures of food that everyone is always posting already makes more sense.

Human eyesight is so perceptive that the brain sometimes even ignores competing messages from other senses. For example, you expect lemon candy to be yellow. If it were colorless, you might have difficulty identifying the flavor as lemon. If it were purple, some might mistakenly identify it as grape. That’s little extreme but you get the point.

Color and appearance are important to food evaluation. That is why we take care in how we present the food. I’ll do a whole other podcast on presentation so let’s skip on to the basics of the food itself. Factors that affect the perception of a food’s color and appearance include its chemical and physical properties, the quality of light that is illuminating it, and the other surroundings. Let’s take these one at a time.

Chemical properties

Food is made up of chemicals. Chlorophyll, for example, is the chemical that gives green vegetables their color. Varying the amount of chemicals and produce different effects. Cake made from egg whites will be whiter than cake made from whole eggs because egg whites do not contain yellow carotenoids. That’s how you get that whiter than white cake for your child’s birthday cake. Fresh spinach looks greener than old spinach because it contains more chlorophyll. The older it gets, the more of those yellow leaves you will see.

Cooking with heat also affects the chemical properties of food. The longer green vegetables are cooked, the duller and more olive green they become. The heat chemically alters the chlorophyll in the vegetables. Another example is, the longer a biscuit is baked in the oven, the darker it becomes. That change in color is the visible proof that the chemical changes have occurred when you baked the biscuit, cake or mac and cheese.

Physical properties

The physical process of food preparation also influences appearance. Take hollandaise sauce or even mayo. The more mayonnaise or hollandaise is whisked, the lighter in color it becomes. Whisking breaks the liquid oil or butter into smaller and smaller droplets and whips air into the sauce. How does that work? Small oil droplets and air bubbles scatter light more completely than large droplets do, so the sauce has a whiter appearance.

I mentioned the chemicals in greens. What happens when you apply heat? Raw spinach and other greens are composed of plant cells that contain a large amount of liquid surrounded by air pockets. When these greens are cooked, the surrounding air escapes, and the air pockets filled with liquid. Now the light is reflecting off the liquid differently than when it was air. They develop a translucent quality. Greens served a short time after air leaves the cells but before they fill with water are the brightest and most attractive to our sense of sight.

Quality of light

I want to briefly mention how the quality of light affects your perception of a dish of food. Different types of lighting can affect the perception of color. Greens viewed under candle light in your dining room can appear more yellow than when you looked at them under your bright kitchen lights. There are ways to make that work for you.

The interaction of the plate as a background with the surrounding food and garnishes can sometimes cause optical illusions. An example would be white cake served on a dark plate or vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce appearing whiter than if served on a white plate. This is because the dark plate or sauce provides a contrast that tricks the brain into thinking the cake or ice cream is whiter than it is. Contrast is a great way to make something stand out from the crowd.

Flavor of food

Why do you like or dislike a particular food. Most likely you will say the flavor, or the way the food tastes. Appearance may provide the first impression of a food, but flavor provides a lasting impression.

More so than sight, we are very familiar with the taste of food. But what are we tasting and how are we tasting? For that we use our mouth and nose.

Flavor is the blend of taste, aroma, and feeling factor sensations. These three sensations occur when food stimulates receptors in our mouth and nose. Let’s go back to the chemicals. It is because of the chemical nature of food that the senses are considered chemical sensors. Although together they constitute flavor, each sense system is distinctly different in that each one is stimulated by different chemicals and detected by different receptors. That all sounds complex and it is, but the perception of the sensations happens at once. While the food is enjoyed, the appearance, texture, and temperature are evaluated.

The three components of flavor are perceived by three separate sensory systems. Each system functions independently and each continues to function even when one or more of the other systems no longer work well or at all. For example, persons who have lost their sense of smell can still perceive the taste and feeling factors of foods.

The term taste is often used interchangeably with flavor, but taste refers specifically to only one component of flavor – the perception of dissolved substances by the taste buds.

Basic tastes

There are four basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Sugars are the most well-known stimuli that produce sweetness, but certain other chemicals do as well. For example, artificial sweeteners, like saccharin and aspartame, taste sweet although they are not sugars. The sweet taste of shrimp and other seafood is from a naturally occurring amino acid called glycine. Acids in foods, such as citric acid in lemons and acetic acid in vinegar, produce a sour taste. Salt, such as sodium chloride or table salt, produces a salty taste. A variety of other chemicals, including caffeine, quinine, and many poisonous substances, create the taste of bitter.

Taste buds are located primarily on the tongue, but there are others scattered about throughout the mouth. These clusters of taste cells have receptors for the basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Taste chemicals in the food – the acids, sweetness, salts, and bitter components – alter the chemistry of taste cells. That triggers a signal that travels through nerve fibers to the brain, where the information is processed. Yum yum.

Saliva plays an important role in taste perception. Saliva, which is composed mostly of water, transports the taste chemicals to the taste cells on the taste buds. Without saliva, we would not be able to experience the basic taste.

Aroma, the sense of smell

The perception of aroma—smell—is much more complex than the perception of the basic tastes and is not as well understood. We can identify four basic tastes, but we can sense many hundreds, even thousands, of distinct aromas.

Each aroma is highly complex. For example, there more than 800 separate chemicals that make up the aroma of fresh coffee. Exactly how do we smell? Evaporation. The chemicals in food evaporate and they bombard the aroma receptors, called olfactory cells, at the top of the nasal cavity. Smells are perceived as they evaporate to the nose or up the back of the throat as food is chewed and swallowed. From there, nerve fibers transport signals from the olfactory cells to the brain, where the information is processed. Aroma is often thought of as the most important component of flavor. Without aroma, it would be difficult to distinguish between certain foods. You are left with sight, taste and texture to determine the identity of the food.

Aroma is a large component of flavor. You’ve probably experienced your nasal passages blocked from a cold. It would not be uncommon for you to say that you can’t taste anything. In fact, you can perceive the basic tastes but you cannot smell. So you are only getting part of the sensory experience. Here’s another interesting factoid. The part of the brain in which information about aroma is received and processed is wired to the part of the brain responsible for memories and emotions. Not surprisingly, aromas often trigger memories or strong emotions. Hence, today we have aromatherapy as a treatment for various physical and emotional ailments.

Now that you know many more details about the amount of creativity you are putting into your cooking and how you might look at it differently, let’s get to today’s recipe.

Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus

Around here we are just waiting for the asparagus to peak its head up from the ground. Yes, it’s that time of year. From about April through June an abundance of fresh asparagus is available. Check out your local farmer’s market.

Speaking of the Farmer’s market, we will be at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on April 13th from 10am to 12noon. No asparagus, but we would love to compliment your fresh asparagus with our ground beef, lamb and/or goat.

I urge you to take advantage of your seasonal asparagus. This dish is easy to make and low carb and keto-friendly. Use a cast iron skillet or perhaps a baking dish handed down from your grandmother. It should be large enough for the asparagus trimmed of the woody stem to lay flat.

What You Need

  • 1 pound (500 g) asparagus spears, woody ends removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (or 4 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

What To Do

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Lightly grease your baking dish.
  2. Arrange asparagus on baking sheet. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle the oil mixture over the asparagus and toss to evenly coat.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until vibrant and just beginning to get tender.
  5. Remove from oven and top with the mozzarella cheese. Return to oven and broil (or grill) until the cheese melts and becomes golden (about 4-5 minutes).
  6. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.

Final Thoughts

Life is speeding up. We have lots and lots of stuff going on. I’ll bet you do too. There is just something about spring that brings out that “gotta get stuff done” attitude. Have you been lounging around the house sipping cocoa in front of the fire for far too long? It’s time to get out there and experience the fullness of life’s pleasures.

Perhaps one of your first activities might be a spring dinner party. It’s the perfect opportunity to try something new in the kitchen. You can use traditional methods of food prep to make it a special evening. Put into practice some new ideas about the importance of everything you do in the kitchen.

In the 70’s it became fashionable to think that women were so much better than being a simple housekeeper and mother. The women that led the charge had no real experience in what it takes to be a fantastic homemaker and mother. They had no idea the complexity of creating a well-run household with fantastically creative meals for the family and close friends.

So many young women have been taken down this primrose path of chasing a career and keeping the house up as well. It’s not like that crappy homemaker stuff went away because mom is now working. Nope. It all still needs to be done. Only it’s not getting done nearly as well as it could. Cooking for family and friends became eating out at fancy restaurants. Raising your children has become a couple of hours in the evening and weekends—unless you’re divorced and you may not have most weekends.

Giving 100% of your time to your family is a full time job that doesn’t require you to get the kids up early in the morning, rush them around the house getting dressed, fed, and into the car so you can ship them off to someone else’s care while you struggle through traffic to sit in a cube somewhere or to maybe rush around even more, serving food someone else cooked to those who are not your family. It’s absolutely crazy how we’ve demeaned the most important job in the world and substituted it with boring cubicles or serving others instead of serving our family.

I’m going on and on here. I’ll just end it for now and regain my peace. I hope you’ll try that simple cheese with roasted asparagus. Remember to stop by the website. Sign up for our newsletter so you can get links to the latest recipes I’ve published.

As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”

Thank you so much for listening and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

Recipe Link

Cheesy Garlic Roasted Asparagus

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment on our Facebook Page
  • Share this show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

To help the show:

Website

www.peacefulheartfarm.com

Patreon

www.patreon.com/peacefulheartfarm

Facebook

www.facebook.com/peacefulheartfarm

Keep Me Up To Date On The Creamery

You have Successfully Subscribed!

0

Your Cart