Making Hard Cheese- A Great Class

Is this not beautiful?
Is this not beautiful?

I spent Saturday at Falster Farms in Winnsboro, Texas learning how to make hard cheese.  Nancy Falster taught the class and she and her husband, Karl, own and operate Falster Farms- a sustainable family farm growing food that is “fit to eat.”  These are great people who are passionate about living in such a way that there is a better piece of land left for the ones who come behind them and in the mean time, they are raising and growing wonderful food.

I learned so much in this class about food in general.  Nancy shared so much more than just steps A-D, so to speak.  Not only did we learn the process of making hard cheese, we made several soft cheeses, learned of ways to preserve the cheese and got to sample several different kinds.  There is a whole world of cheese out there and I am so excited about getting into it!  Now, after the class, I feel that I can order the cheese making supplies with confidence knowing what each ingredient is and what it’s purpose is in the process.  Nancy also shared some tips on choosing equipment such as presses and thermometers, of course lots of experience that was gained from what didn’t go as planned.

Chef Nancy Falster at work on the cheese.
Chef Nancy Falster at work on the cheese.

One of the best parts of the class was lunch or dinner you would call it if you are from the South.  Dinner happens mid-day and super is the evening meal.  It was so good, a Shepard’s pie made from grass-fed beef raised on their farm, local sweet potatoes and other goodness.  One of her class helpers and good friend brought this heavenly homemade bread to share with us.  The bread was just as gorgeous as it was delicious and we even got the recipe.  There was a wonderful salad and of course some great cheese.  Desert was wonderful, this blueberry thing that I can’t remember the name, but it was so good.  One thing that we all tried was fermented food- onions, radishes, relishes and such, done in the whey left from the cheese making process.  I had never had this before and not only did it taste good, I learned about all the health benefits of live food.

This bread was so good!  I could have made a meal out of the bread and cheese.
This bread was so good! I could have made a meal out of the bread and cheese.

Needless to say, the class is certainly worth the money and the drive.  We started at 9:30 and the class was wrapped up about 2:30.  There were about 10 of us and we all had such a good time.  Friendships were made and knowledge shared.  We chatted about raising honeybees and learned that cows like cabbage- but only the first bite out of every head in the garden!  Chef Nancy also teaches cooking classes and she and Karl offer consulting services for those interested in sustainable farming practices.  You can learn from all they have learned in their years of farming.  So, if you are looking for a cheese class, I suggest you give Nancy Falster a call!  You can reach her at chef@SouthernGrace.Biz .

Do you make cheese?  What is your favorite cheese?  Feel free to share!

Sauce Bechamel

The only thing that will make this sauce better if fresh raw milk.  Me & my Saanen dairy goat kid.
The only thing that will make this sauce better if fresh raw milk. Me & my Saanen dairy goat kid.

A few years back, when I decided that in the way of eating my family deserved better, I found myself in a quandry.  You see, when you cut processed and boxed food out of your diet you cut out a lot of convenience- at first glance.  Because of the lack of teaching basic fundamentals in the kitchen, most of us don’t know how to cook quickly and from scratch.  The truth of the matter is that if you master a few certain sauces, you can make a gourmet meal in the amount of time it takes to cook up Hamburger Helper.

I hesitate to use the word “sauce” because I am concerned that those reading this will think of the little buckets of BBQ sauce handed out with the non-food items we eat from the drive thru windows.  But in real cooking, a sauce is the body of the dish, it brings the ingredients together.  It’s the part of the dish you can’t leave behind, why do you think the French love sauces and bread. You have to have the wonderful bread to soak up every last bit of sauce left on the platter- either that or you will find yourself using your fingers which is frowned upon in certain circles.

Anyway, as I say we were cutting box dinners out of our lives.  This may sound funny, but around my house we  really liked the Tuna Helper. I added peas and carrots to it and this made a tasty lunch for me and the kiddos.  So, I really wanted to figure out how to recreate that at home.  I knew that somewhere was a real food version of the powdered sauce that came in the box.  I stumbled upon a recipe for Bechamel Sauce, it sounded creamy and good.  Once I had made it and tasted it I knew that this was the sauce I had been wanting for our lunches.  I cooked up some pasta combined it with the sauce, tuna, and peas.  What a tasty dish and so, so simple.  I must admit that the first batch of Bechamel was a bit thick, but with a little practice it was perfect.  My daughter, Savannah, quickly picked it up and now makes a mean sauce without ever consulting a cookbook.

This sauce goes well with any sort of poultry, fish, shellfish, and most vegetables.  A great addition to the basic sauce is garlic, as a matter of fact, garlic is the basic recipe for our family.  I add garlic to just about everything given that this is an herb that has so many great health benefits.  Once you learn this sauce, quick meals made from real food are easy to assemble and are as nutritional as they are tasty.  Recipes of this type are what folks need to be able to make meals that have the convenience and speed of boxed dinners but the nutrition of whole foods.  Now some of you may take a look at the ingredients and worry about fat and calories.  However, read the ingredient labels on the ingredients- butter, milk, wheat, garlic, salt.  Now, go read the ingredients label on the boxed dinners in the pantry.  Stark contrast in the least.

Sauce Bechamel

2 Tbsp unsalted butter (real butter not margarine)

3 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk with 1/4 tsp of salt

1 clove of garlic minced (optional)

In a heavy saucepan or 9 inch cast iron skillet (which is what I use), melt the butter then stir in the flour , by the way this is what is called a Rue.  Cook together at a foam, but not hot enough to brown the flour add the garlic at this time.  After 2 minutes, stir in milk.  Stir quickly with a wire wisk or slotted metal spoon and bring to a boil, boil for approximately 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste.

All done- its that easy.

An easy recipe using this sauce would be to add 2 cups of diced cooked turkey (or chicken), 1 cup of cooked peas or carrots, and 16 oz of cooked pasta and heat through- this will feed up to 6 people.  You don’t get much easier than that!

What is your favorite easy and healthy meal?

A land that flows with milk…..

There is a lot of excitement around the farm.  Given the time of the year, you might think it has to do with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And all though the holidays to bring lots of cheer, the excitement right centers around a creamy white liquid….
We have raw milk again!
Since the summer was so hot, I stopped milking in August.  This means we have been buying store bought milk for a couple of months.  No one has been really crazy about this fact.  The kids have been making a lot of noise about the obvious deficiencies of the processed milk.  So, while my current milk does are with a buck so that they will kid in the spring and give milk again, I have been looking for a goat in milk to purchase to give us milk today!
How can you not LOVE a face like that?
Although I love my Saanen milk goats, I have been fazing them out.  You see, Saanens are an Alpine breed- as in the Swiss Alps.  So while they come with a genetic disposition to tolerate very cold winters and all that comes with it, they do not have a genetic disposition to handle a Texas summer.  It was a hard choice, Saanens have these cute ears that poke out from their heads like airplane wings, they have been a very sweet tempered breed, and their babies are CUTE!  I am a little surprised at how much I like their look given they are solid white.  Usually I am not a girl who goes for solid white.  You won’t find a white wall in my home- yellow, blue, green, – but no white.  But I love those goats.  I have kept one, Sapphire.  My birthday is in September and my kids bought me the little goat for my birthday a few years back.  I simply won’t milk her in the summer.
Happily, I found a new milk goat last weekend.  A lovely lady had her Nubian doe and her 3 doe babies up for sale.  After Third Monday McKinney, we picked her and the girls up on our way home.  I love, love, love this goat.  She milks so easy and is so sweet.  The only problem is that her name is Windy and given that my sister’s name is also Windy this could create some confusion in future blog posts.  I love roses and am leaning towards Julia Child.  The rose of this name is gorgeous and yellow and I love watching “The French Chef”, so this seems to be a good choice.
My new milker!
I am so happy to be milking again!

Got Milk?

Rylie trying her hand at milking

One of the best things about having a farm and all the animals that go along with it, is getting to share them with my nieces.  Katie & Rylie are frequent guests and are always so excited to tag along with their cousins to do morning chores.

Usually, Rylie goes with Sierra and Katie goes with Jonathan.  This is a good match up because of the different personalities.  Rylie is four and fearless.  You never really know what is coursing through her brain waves – which are very numerous.  Sierra is 12  and has a good grasp of good ideas versus bad ideas.  I like Rylie being with Sierra because I am confident that Sierra can anticipate Rylie’s thoughts enough to head her off at the pass if she is about to do something dangerous.  Jonathan, on the other hand, is a 10 year old boy who comes up with things his sisters NEVER thought of doing.  Katie, age 6, is thoughtful and cautious- so even if Jonathan had a hair-brained idea, she would probably stand back and watch to see what happened.  Jonathan would protect his younger cousins with his life if he thought they were in danger.  The problem is that what would spell danger to you and me, does not register as danger with him.  Thankfully, we have never had anything more serious than an ant bite.

Rylie had helped my 16yr old daughter, Savannah, milk before and informed her she was touching the goat’s hienny. No matter what Savannah said, Rylie was convinced that she knew better.  Today, I got to milk with Rylie.  I guess a little time was all she needed.  Rylie helped me milk and I was quite thankful that Salsa, my lamancha dairy goat, was so understanding.  I told Rylie about Salsa’s udder- which Rylie has refered to all day as her “gutter”- and showed her how to squeeze her fingers to make the milk come out.  Her little chubby fingers were so cute!  However, her little hands were just a little to small to get it to work, but that didn’t stop her from trying.  Salsa never even fussed, she just kept eating her oats.  I loved every minute of it!

 

Rylie brushing Saphire

Goin for a swing