Have you considered flavored cheese in your home cheesemaking operation? Likely most of you are not making your own cheese. You’ll want to seek out some flavored cheeses from your local markets for a real treat. There are so many possibilities here that I couldn’t possibly cover them all in this short podcast. Today, I’ll give you just a brief overview of what you might consider in tasting and in creating with your cheeses.
Welcome new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m going to start off with what’s going on at the homestead and then I’ll get right into talking about some tasty flavored cheese.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
I want to start off with talking about our herd share program. We are opening up our raw milk cheese herd shares to more people. One full share will provide you and your family with about two pounds of our hand-made, aged, raw milk cheese per month. A half share will provide about one pound of cheese per month. We have four varieties from which to choose.
Our Peaceful Heart Gold is a danish Havarti-style cheese. It is a washed curd cheese that is soft, buttery and the sweetest cheese we make. Moving from the mildest to the sharpest, the next in line is our Ararat Legend. This is also a washed rind cheese made in the Dutch gouda tradition. It is a firmer cheese than the Gold with nearly as much butter flavor. This cheese ages well and the flavor deepens with each passing month. The next two kind of tie for sharpest, depending on how long they have aged. We have a wonderful aged cheddar and an alpine-style cheese we call Pinnacle. The flavor complexities of these two cheeses are amazing as neither is even ready to taste until 9 months or more of aging. Well, we do offer the milder cheddar at three and six months, but you will definitely want to wait for the good stuff.
Details and costs can be found on our website at Peaceful Heart Farm dot com. Product pickup is available at the Wytheville Farmer’s market, the Independence Farmer’s market and from our homestead. Support us or some other local farm. Keep good food alive. Give us a call and we can get you set up.
We are on calf watch with Rosie. This event is happening far ahead of our expectations. Her udder is developing and filling with milk. It may be only a matter of days. You never really know, any more than you know for humans, when the exact date will be for the event. She is looking good and Scott and I are feeling pretty good about Rosie and her calf. We are still cautious and watching her very closely, but again, she looks really good right now. Buttercup is doing a good job of keeping Rosie company. She is our only cow that is not going to have a calf this year.
After Rosie, next up for giving birth is Cloud followed closely by Claire. Butter and Violet are much further down the line, due in May and June respectively. And as I said, Buttercup is not having a calf this year. If all goes well, we will end up with five calves this year. Praying for some heifers.
Goats and Sheep
The sheep are doing well. Their expected delivery date is the 27th of March, so about a month more for them. We are likely to have six to eight lambs this year.
The goats have been reduced to five. Yes, finally I got moving on reducing our goat population. We are moving more rapidly toward changing over to meat goats. If you are new, we currently have cashmere goats. I had this grandiose idea that I was going to have time to gather their cashmere, have it made into yarn, and knit up some wonderful cashmere items. It took a few years for me to realize that I was not going to have time to include yet another enterprise into our business model. By that time, we had well over twenty goats.
Now these wonderful animals are great at keeping the pastures cleared of brush, briars and small pine trees. So, we definitely want to keep a few of them around. However, it makes much more sense for our homestead to have meat goats. That way they can keep the pastures pristine and also provide more nourishment for our family. Later this fall we will process the final five goats. At that point we will be in the market for a small herd of meat goats. Right now, I am focused on Kiko goats but would probably consider Spanish goats.
A few days ago, Scott and I went over the costs of raising these great birds. It’s pretty expensive according to my year-end profit and loss statement. My first, knee-jerk reaction was to just stop raising quail. However, after waiting a couple of days, I decided to break down the actual cost and how much we are benefiting from the eggs and meat.
Back in 2006, Scott raised just short of 150 chickens in the Joel Salatin-type chicken tractors. He calculated that it cost a little over $1 per pound to raise those chickens. Our cost to raise quail is somewhere between $5.50 and $6.50 per pound of bird. However, there are also the eggs to consider. Scott and I sat down and tried to come up with a better comparison. If we had to buy eggs, what would be our cost? Subtract that from the total costs, based on four quail eggs per one chicken egg, and the rest of the cost divided by the approximate weight of the birds raised for meat. The bottom line is that we decided to give the quail one more season to prove their worth. I also decided to feed them a little bit less. They did seem to be putting on quite a bit of unnecessary fat so this seemed the first place to cut a little cost. We shall see what happens this year. I’m going to keep better records.
I’m still anticipating when we will be able to build our chicken facilities. It won’t be this year. The quail get a well-deserved reprieve.
I just received a couple of rolls of woven fabric ground cloth. Yes, we are about to get started on the garden. The biggest change this year will be the strawberry bed. I’ve order 500 bare-root strawberry plants. Yes, you heard that right. I ordered 500 plants. We are pretty much starting from scratch with our strawberries. I’m excited about this new opportunity.
I’m also going to start some plants for sale at the farmer’s market. If you are in my neighborhood, I should have some herbs, tomatoes and perhaps some green pepper starts ready for your garden. I’m not going to grow very many tomatoes or peppers this year but I really love growing plants. Growing for you guys seemed to be the best way to fulfil that desire to grow stuff. And I chose to grow some culinary herbs, because they are sometimes harder to find. I’ll keep you posted on which herbs I was successful in sprouting.
Today want to talk a little bit about flavored cheese. If you’re making your own cheese at home, this could be a great adventure for you. On the other hand, if you’re just a real cheese head and love to try new cheeses, you might take a look at some of the cheeses available that have had either spices and seeds added or maybe they have herbs added, and some have been created using ale wine and/or spirits. You may even be able to find a cheese wrapped in leaves. These are just a few of the methods used to add various flavors to cheese. In this short podcast, I’ll be briefly touching on those flavorings that I just mentioned. There are others, but I’ll stick with these for today.
Seeds and Spices
The first flavoring I want to mention is seeds and spices. Your first thought when considering what seeds and spices to add should be the quality. You don’t want to use three-year-old dried herbs from your cabinet. Next, think of what you like. Now temper that with the thought that sometimes there’s a good reason that you haven’t seen that kind of cheese made. However, don’t let that thought stop you from experimenting. Sometimes it could be as simple as it not being economical to produce such a cheese on a commercial basis. If you’re making it in your own kitchen, the costs are much less of a factor. If you’re concerned at all, simply start with a combination that you’ve seen or tasted.
There are two things that you want to consider when preparing your experiment. Getting the right distribution and the size of the seed. I’ve seen lots of cheeses use whole peppercorns. Those are pretty big seeds so you would use less. On the other hand, if you have a small seed such as Caraway, you don’t want to put so many in there that you ruin the texture of the cheese. For a cheese maybe 2 gallons of milk, you are likely going to choose one to 3 teaspoons of your chosen seed or spice.
When you’re preparing your seeds and spices for addition to the cheese curd, you might consider boiling them for 5 to 10 minutes. There are couple reasons you might want to try that. If you suspect any kind of contamination or you want to soften a seed so that the flavors are more readily incorporated into the cheese.
Adding your seeds or spices can happen in a couple of different ways. Almost universally, the whey needs to have been drained. You don’t want to lose your spice with the whey. One of the easiest methods is to simply stir your seeds and/or spices into the drained cards. Another fun way would be to layer it in the mold. Put little curd in, add your spices, put more curd, add spices again and so on. You want to be careful with that method. There is always a chance that you will bunch your spices up too closely together and over spice one area while another would be under served. You may even have trouble getting the cheese to get together properly. The trade-off is the visual effect of layers.
Here are some of the most popular seeds and spices used in this method flavoring your cheese. I’ve already mentioned caraway seed and peppercorns. Other seeds might be mustard, fennel, fenugreek, or cumin. Some useful spices include cloves and red pepper flakes. Generally, you want to stay away from using herbs for aged varieties of flavored cheese. They will be prone to breakdown and change the color of your cheese. That’s not a good look. Herbs are most often used either mixed into a soft cheese or spread. Or lots of times you’ll see them used as a coating on the outside of a fresh, soft cheese.
Ale, Wine, and Spirits
This is a great way to create a flavored cheese. And ale or beer can be incorporated directly into the cheese curd in the same way that the seeds and spices were added. Wine and spirits on the other hand, work better on the outside. This is most commonly done in washed rind cheeses. I briefly mentioned wrapping a cheese in leaves. Using alcohol to macerate the leaves, that is to soak them for a period of time, prior to wrapping the cheese is a favored practice.
Adding beer or ale, similar to adding seeds, happens after the whey has been drained. When making cheddar, it can be added after the cheddaring process has been completed and the curds have been milled. Otherwise, simply stir into the curds after they have been drained. You don’t need much. I also think it would be hard to use too much. Whether you pour the whole bottle into the curds made from your 2 gallons of milk, or you use only a half cup for your cheese and save the rest for yourself, that’s up to you. I’ll use a whole bottle for 15 or 20 gallons of milk. But again, I don’t think you can use too much.
There are several things to consider when deciding to use wine or spirits on your washed rind cheese. Because you’re adding wetness to the outside of your cheese, you can be prepared for softening. Sometimes, for a softer cheese, you might let your cheese dry for 2 to 3 days. Then begin the wash. Or, for a harder, drier cheese such as an alpine style, you can begin the wash right away. Something else to consider would be experimenting with the frequency of washing and the humidity in your aging room. The hardness of the rind and the texture of the cheese will also influence what your final results are going to be with the washing. Obviously, the softer rind is going to absorb more of the flavors.
Wrapping Your Cheese with Leaves
Many flavored cheeses utilize some type of leaf wrapping. Sometimes the leaves are dry, but more often they have been macerated in a strong alcohol, such as brandy or bourbon. This is a wide-open field. Choose your favorite spirit, and parent with your favorite leaf. Some leaves to consider are chestnut, maple, or grape.
Not all leaf-wrapped cheeses use spirits. Nettle, sycamore, or walnut are good choices here. Like with the herbs, you don’t want them to break down and become mush.
I hope you enjoy your experiments whether in making the cheese or trying out a new cheese from your local market.
I hope you’ll give some thought to becoming part of our herd share program. We’d love to be of service to you. Come on out to the homestead and see where it all happens. Say hello to Claire and the rest of the girls. Pet the donkeys. Be sure to wear rugged shoes and/or boots. Animals are messy creatures and if it has rained, omg, the mud.
I hope I’ve titillated your senses a little and you’re on your way to trying some new flavored cheese. Whether you’re making it from scratch or buying from your local market, your enjoyment is sure to be mooua, superb.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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