Category Archives: Cheese

Recipe: Potato Tobasi Gratin

POTATO TOBASI GRATIN

4 pounds red potatoes, sliced thinly in circles
2 cups Cricket Creek Farm Tobasi*, diced
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Scrub and thinly slice the potatoes. Set them aside in a bath of cold water.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut the Tobasi into small cubes and set aside.

Combine the milk and butter in a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom. Slowly heat over a mediumlow flame, stirring frequently, until the butter melts. Be careful not to scald the milk by allowing it to boil.

Add the Tobasi cubes to the sauce about ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently, until all the cheese has melted. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. If the cheese sauce seizes up, just reduce the heat and add a little more milk while stirring.

Drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom of a 9- by 12-inch casserole dish.

Arrange the thinly sliced potatoes in 1 layer, overlapping the edges like shingles. Pour a small amount of the cheese sauce over the first potato layer and repeat until you’ve made as many layers as possible and still have about a scant cup of sauce to drizzle over the top.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbling. Remove foil and bake for another 15–20 minutes, until the top is bubbly and browned. P

* Tobasi, produced exclusively by Cricket Creek Farm, is similar to Taleggio, a semisoft, washed-rind cheese from northern Italy. It is characteristically aromatic yet mild in flavor with an unusual fruity tang. Tobasi is available in: Great Barrington at Berkshire Co-op, and Guido’s; in Lenox at Spirited and Nejaime’s; in Pittsfield at Berkshire Organics; and in Williamstown at Wild Oats and at the Cricket Creek Farm Store

Behind the Scenes with the Maggies Round

For all you lovers of Maggies Round, here is a peek into our work in the aging rooms.  All of our cheeses require significant care and attention during the aging process.  The day we make the cheese is only the first step, but much of the work comes afterwards….

The day after the cheese is made it is placed in a saturated brine.  The primary functions of the brine are to stop the process of fermentation, help create a rind, and add salt to the cheese.  The brine is made of salt, water, citric acid, and calcium chloride.  We like to keep our brine tanks at about 20% salinity, which is high enough that no pathogens will grow in it.  We have to add citric acid to the brine so that it is about the same pH as the cheese going into it (the pH of the cheese is generally between 5.2 and 4.9).  Similarly, we have to add the calcium chloride to create an equilibrium so that calcium does not leach out of the cheese into the water.

Maggies Round is brined for roughly 1.5 hours per pound of cheese (depending slightly on the shape and size of the cheese).  When we take it out of the brine, the cheese is placed on temporary draining racks on the floor. We leave it there for a day or two, so that any residual water drips off of it directly onto the floor, and not onto any other cheese.

Once we place the cheese on the aging racks, we let it sit and develop a nice coating of mold on the rind.  The first mold that grows is Geotricum, an environmental white mold.  It creates a thin white powdery coating on the cheese.  After that comes blue molds.  These are similar blue mold strains that you would find in a blue cheese, except these came from the environment instead of being added to the milk.  Following the blue mold we sometimes find Mucor, which is a black mold.  Between the establishment of the blue and black molds is the time for the first brushing.  Maggies Round requires regular brushing to help the rind develop properly, with the texture, flavor and color that we like best.

Today Nicole and I brushed mold off the Maggies Round together for about four hours.  Each cheese requires careful attention since every one is unique.  Placing each wheel of cheese back on the shelf also takes care since we need to maximize space without ever letting two wheels touch each other.  Nevertheless, we try to work quickly (even listen to upbeat music to help us move along)!  Brushing cheese actually heats up your body quite well – even though it is only 48 degrees in that room, I stripped down to a thin cotton t-shirt since I was so warm.  It is good, steady work.  It is always surprising to see how much mold comes off of the cheese when it is brushed.  It comes off as a powder, and much of it goes up into the air.  However, we try to catch as much as possible in our bowls.  Throughout the course of the afternoon my pile of mold grew – you can see some in my hand here.

Nicole is the apprentice primarily responsible for the Maggies Round.  She does an excellent job making sure that we stay on top of any issues in the aging room, and that all the cheese is properly cared for.  Nicole has to keep very careful records of what happens with each batch of cheese.  She records in a binder when each batch is brushed, and if there is anything unusual about that batch.

Every batch of cheese we make has a number, and that number follows that batch of cheese throughout it’s life cycle (yes, it is alive!) here at the farm.   When each piece of cheese leaves the farm (whether it is a cut piece or a whole wheel going to a chef), that batch number goes with it, either tagged onto the cut piece, or recorded on the invoice.  This way we can track where all our cheese is going.  We keep the batch numbers on clothes pins so we can easily move them around the room as the cheese moves.  It is important to move the cheese around the room often, and flip each wheel over when they move, so they can be exposed to the differences in air flow and microclimates.

The care of each cheese we make is incredibly different.  The process of taking care of cheese as it ages is called affinage.  Much of the flavor and texture of the final cheese comes from the affinage.  The person who does this work is called the affineur.  In many traditional European agrarian societies, the affineur is a different person than the cheese maker.  After the cheese is made, it will go to the affineur for the special care it needs.  A New York Times article from last year describes the process like this, “For those who believe the affinage gospel, it is about a series of tedious, ritualized procedures (washing, flipping, brushing, patting, spritzing) that are meant to inch each wheel and wedge toward an apex of delectability.”  Even in the United States, there are cheese makers who send their cheese elsewhere to be aged, whether that be a cheese shop (such as Murrays in NYC) or a special aging facility such as the Cellars at Jasper Hill.  At Cricket Creek, we age all our cheese ourselves here on the farm so we can do it just as we like it.  Hope you all enjoy the finished product!

 

“the floc just felt right”

Last week, Jenni was describing to me the cheese she had just made.  She was pleased with how the production went, and said to me, “the floc just felt right”.   I don’t think she said this to necessarily make my day, she was just sharing her experience.  Needless to say, it made my day.

Flocculation is chemistry jargon for the beginning stages of curd formation in cheese making.  The flocculation time is used to determine how long the curds will set before cutting them.  Our cheeses will flocculate (or “floc”) in 10-20 minutes.  Each cheese has a different floc multiplier – the number we multiply the flocculation time that will give the total set time.  A small floc multiplier will yield a harder cheese since the curd has less time to form and more whey will be expelled during cutting and pressing.  A larger floc multipler will give a softer cheese – we use a multiplier of 6 for the Berkshire Bloom, 3 for the Maggies Round, and 2.5 for the Gouda.

The moment of flocculation is subtle.  It takes practice and a keen eye to catch that first moment that flocculation occurs.  For a long time I was unsure about it, and knew that only with experience would I come to have confidence in knowing when it was just right.

Jenni, like all the interns working with us this year, is a careful observer and incredibly in tune with the subtleties of the cheese.  She is meticulous and thorough, and aware of any abnormalities in the cheese (it takes a real cheese lover for this – luckily, we are all supreme cheese lovers here).  Jenni often comments on how the cheese is doing that day – what the moisture, temperature, smells, etc. are telling her.  When she said that the “floc just felt right”, it meant that she was beyond the stage of needing to think about it too much, because she could feel it.  She could just sense it.  She had an intuition about it, and she was confident about that.  I feel funny saying this – but it made me feel like a proud teacher.  It made me feel that even though the days can be long and progress can be slow (especially with cheese), that she had learned something incredibly valuable here.  She had learned to know the cheese – this is what being a cheese maker is.

Anyone can read a recipe.  Most people can read instructions and make something great.  It takes a true cheese maker – someone with experience and passion – to be able to say the floc just felt right.  

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cricket Creek Farm wins blue ribbon from American Cheese Society

Small farmstead creamery receives national recognition 

Williamstown, MA – August 6, 2012 – Cricket Creek Farm, a diversified grass-based dairy, received a first place award in the Farmstead Cheeses category for hard cow’s milk cheeses at the American Cheese Society’s 28th annual competition last week.  The honor was given for the cheese Maggie’s Reserve – an extra-aged version of the popular Maggie’s Round – a raw milk cheese with a natural rustic rind, inspired by the toma cheeses of the Italian Alps.   This is one of the highest honors a farmstead creamery can receive.  This announcement brings national recognition to Massachusetts, and the Berkshires – a region with many exceptional artisanal food producers.

Suzy Konecky, creamery manager at Cricket Creek, expresses her thanks, “This farm is unique in that we have a steady flow of fresh creativity and passion from our dedicated and diverse group of apprentices who come work with us.  We are grateful to each one of them, and everyone who has left their mark on our farm and creamery.  Like so many small dairies, we are trying to grow the business through the sale of our value-added products.  It has been a winding road, but we have been time and again propelled by our local and regional customers – including chefs, cheesemongers, community members, and CSA – who have all made an outstanding commitment to this farm.  We look forward to continuing to produce cheeses that nourish and sustain both our customers and our small farm.”

ABOUT AMERICAN CHEESE SOCIETY

Founded in 1983, the American Cheese Society is a not-for-profit organization that supports and promotes North American cheeses.  ACS is a leader in cheese advocacy and education – specifically related to technical practices, safety, and sustainability.  They work to raise the quality and availability of American cheeses.  Their annual competition is one of the world’s most prestigious in the cheese industry; it is like the Olympics for North American cheeses.  The 2012 competition was the largest in their history with 1,711 product entries.

ABOUT CRICKET CREEK FARM

Cricket Creek Farm is a small, diversified, grass-based dairy nestled in the Berkshire hills of Williamstown, MA.  The farm consists of our herd of Brown Swiss and Jersey cows, mixed heritage breed pigs, a small flock of laying hens, and an on-site bakery.  Cricket Creek Farm says, “Our mission is to produce nourishing food that honors our animals, respects the land, and feeds our community, and to exemplify a sustainable model for small-farm viability.”

Cricket Creek Farm products are sold on site at their farm store and weekly farmers markets in Williamstown, North Adams, Lenox, Lanesborough, Great Barrington, Northampton, Troy NY, New Lebanon NY, Bennington VT, and Manchester VT.  Cricket Creek cheese is also available at many specialty food stores and cheese shops including Wild Oats Market, Guidos, Berkshire Co-op, Nejaimes, Rubiners, Formaggio Kitchen, and Central Bottle Wine and Provisions.

To learn more about Cricket Creek Farm, please visit: www.cricketcreekfarm.com, or find them on facebook.  An online version of this press release is available on their farm blog: www.cricketcreekfarm.com/wp/.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Contact Person: Suzy Konecky, Creamery Manager

Email: info@cricketcreekfarm.com

Phone: (413) 458-5888

Website: www.cricketcreekfarm.com

Mailing Address: 1255 Oblong Road, Williamstown, MA 01267

###

faces of Cricket Creek

Hi all – Suzy here.  I wanted to take this blogging opportunity to share the various (gorgeous) faces of the farm.  I am grateful to work with some pretty spectacular people here at Cricket Creek.  Every day I feel lucky that I am surrounded by creative, hard-working, driven, and FUN folks.  What great people to spend my time with, to learn from and with.  Here’s a bit about each one of them.  If you stop by the farm, please say hi to them – I promise they are nice and will say “hi” back!

Mike – handy, adaptable, practical, kind, resourceful. pumps up flat tires in the parking lot without being asked, and doesn’t expect acknowledgement – he’s just that giving.  likes to problem solve.  is a paint expert, and what he doesn’t know, he definitely will find out.  drives a 25 year old station wagon with feathers, bark, and origami cranes on the dashboard.  before farming, he worked as a design drafter where he worked on steam turbine detail drawings.  last name is fox.

Casey – light-hearted, poised, imaginative, dynamic, positive.  has a boxer named Cudi who loves her dearly and yearns for her while she works.  she is from oklahoma and has lived in all sorts of states that I know little about.  has worked as a baker and concentrated on naturally leavened breads and specialty pastries.  carries a comfortable, upbeat demeanor with her.  knows the lyrics to any song that just happens to be playing.  has a readiness to learn and a lovely ease about her.

Paul – spirited, bold, devoted, earnest, giddy. studied art, and then realized his true love of cheese.  is a master cheese taster and describer.  dives in and takes initiative.  values education and taking on complex issues.  bonds with the tobasi late into the evening through wild molds, telepathy, and a roaring boom box.  sports a beard-net in the creamery.  it is amazing to dance with him – especially if there is a hula hoop involved.  has been described as part hobbit.  he knows more than he lets on.

Jamie – dedicated, ambitious, consistent, meticulous, attentive. she is famous ’round these parts – famous, and very well respected.  known for her lip-smacking baked goods and her kind eyes.  she can tell chickens apart with more accuracy than anyone I know.  has a vast apron collection.  likes to plan ahead.  she gives every question or issue her full consideration.  is the loving caregiver of a mule, a horse, a large dog, and a royal flock of fowl, including some very sexy roosters.

Nicole –  conscientious, driven, earnest, methodical, passionate.  spent some formative years in the pacific northwest, where she worked with the whole gamut of livestock.  was an exceptional mother to some weak little piglets here.  has an impressive commitment to health and wellness.  smiles very fully when discussing good food.  has a critical mind and a notable idealism.  has an openness to the world – absorbing theories, histories, practices.  you can tell she is on a quest – in a beautiful way. 

 

Matthew – deliberate, steady, industrious, sharp, humble.  has an amazing laugh – hearty and gentle.  inspires me to work harder.  has a strong ethical conscience.  doesn’t let on his critical artistic judgement.  likes to hang out with the dairy cows at night, and sleep outside when it’s cool.  primary form of communication with the dairy cows is whistling, which they respond to exceptionally well.  hates clichés and historical inaccuracies.  has an extensive knowledge of political, agricultural, and geographical history – but never flaunts.  when he isn’t feeding, moving, or milking animals, he is likely oiling his leather boots, cooking up something delectable, sharpening knives, reading, or drinking his daily gallon of milk.  

Jenni – thorough, dependable, cultured, diligent, mature.  worked in the event planning industry for a decade before diving into cheese.  seems to have lots of connections to important people.  finds creative solutions to even the smallest issues.  goes to see all the stars at tanglewood, where she recently overcame her fear of E.T. she exudes mental clarity, sincerity, and sophistication.  doesn’t judge, is very accepting.  she has an admirable focus while working, and sees tasks through to completion.  has a calming presence.
 
Topher – perceptive, patient, eloquent, thoughtful, charismatic.  will go out of his way for you.  looks you in the eyes.  incredibly analytical.  has a special affinity for spreadsheets, meaningful calculations, and googledocs.  his playfulness is infectious and subtle humor brings a lightness to the farm.  empowers others.  is a phenomenal listener – won’t ever cut you off.  apparently has a record-breaking collection of costumes, but doesn’t wear them as much as he probably should.  you can tell his whereabouts by his dented orange water bottle.

Jude – worldly, maternal, sophisticated, sociable, generous.  is unbelievably giving.
has lived on multiple continents, and has so many stories to tell – all of which she tells with affection and immense inner light.  she truly comes alive to music.  if you start singin’, you can count on her to sing along.  probably never imagined her life would take this turn, and she would become the proud owner of a place as successful, dynamic, and important as Cricket Creek Farm.  Thank you Jude!

FAT

written by Nicole Warren 

At the farmer’s market every week, I get customers that ask me about FAT, and want to know the fat content of our cheese. Fat is a word that, in this society,  has received a bad reputation. It is a misunderstood building block to life, in which all living things are made up of and rely on for nourishment.

In the creamery, we pull over the milk after the morning milking and start heating it in our vat. There is nothing done to it between that process. The pure raw whole milk from cows that are grazed on rapidly growing grass contains every essential vitamin and mineral in an easily absorbable form. The milk of grass-fed animals are rich in good fats, notably, omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to reduce blood pressure, improve heart health, support a health mind for both function and a balanced mental state, and helps improve the body’s defense against fight cancer, balance hormones, and improve energy and stamina (Enig, 1999). These fats are absorbed into the body and utilized for energy, support adrenals and hormone production, and fat is utilized in almost every organ function in the body.  The good fats found in grass-fed meat and dairy are not stored, but instead utilized. Consuming a lot of these animal fats prevents cancer, arthritis, supports the immune system response, heals the gut, and prevents mineral deficiencies, which are the root cause to degenerative diseases and mental imbalances.

Fats are essential for the proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and all minerals. When we consume fat with minerals, the absorption is slow and steady, which also keeps you full longer. In our raw milk, cheese, and butter from our pasture-raised cows, there are high amounts of Vitamin A, D, E and K as well as varying amounts of all essential minerals.  In traditional societies that consumed dairy, butter, cheese, and seasonal milk was prized so highly for its nutrient content that is was given primarily to expecting mothers, nursing mothers, and children. 

We make full-fat cheese, by which I mean we use whole milk fresh from the cow to make Maggie’s round, Tobasi, Cricket Creek Fresh and Berkshire Bloom. We allow our cheeses to age out and form a natural rind that we take care of in the aging rooms. Our cheese are made by hand and we are making them with the intention of nourishing our community. If you are ever in the area, we make cheese in the mornings on Monday, Tuesday, and Fridays and Wednesday we make butter. Stop by and take a look in the cheese room! We welcome you to watch our process.

As far as fat goes, I eat as much animal fats from our farm as possible – cream, butter, lard, tallow, egg yolks, cheese, and yoghurt. It sustains me all day long. I trust what the cow has to offer over what the industrial food system is producing. It has only been within a few generations that this mindset has changed, but the traditions of food are alive and well here on the farm. 

For More Resources on good information on fats, check out these two websites: 

Weston A Price Foundation, Real Milk

 Or these great books:

Nourishing Traditions by Fallon & Enig, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient by McLagan, The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Hayes, Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats by Enig, Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia by Campbell-McBride

Faces at the Vermont Cheese Makers Festival

One of the best parts of the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival is watching the faces of the people who try our cheese.  And of course, hearing them talk about cheese.  If I had a polaroid camera, I would have tried to snap a shot of each unsuspecting person as they tried a sample.  I say unsuspecting because it is true – the looks on these faces indicated that they did not know what was coming.

There is the disbelief face.  This is the face of the person who doesn’t trust their taste buds.  They go back for another piece to make sure what they are experiencing is real.  Then they say, “did you make this cheese”.  “You’re too young to make this cheese.”  They ask, “This is really good….?”  We reply, “yes it’s really good…”

There is the contemplative face.  Now, I need to think about that cheese for a while.  I will just stare at it in silence while I contemplate it.  No, no, don’t try talking to me.  I need to focus.  Focus on this cheese – figure it out.

There is the O-face.   Yes, by O-face, I mean Orgasm-face.  Their eyes get wide.  Pupils dilate.  Head tilts slightly backward.  Eyes roll back slightly.  Cheeks blush.  “Oh – oh my god.”  “Wow….wow…this….this is amazing.”  Yes, I know.

There is the ravenous face.  Okay, that was good, now I need another piece.  And another.  And another.  Can’t stop.  Mmmmm.

There is the strange face.  This person is a stranger in a strange land.  They look at the cheese.  Hmmm….never had anything like that before.  Very unique….

Unfortunately, there was no polaroid camera, but you can see some photos of our booth at the festival, and some silly images of us.  For more photos, check out our facebook page.