the cheese stands alone...or with a little bread
The day began by meeting the cows. Jonathan and Nina White of Bobolink Farms offer cheese making workshops on Sundays, and my friend Sara and I drove to Vernon, NJ in pursuit of education and good eats.
We started in the barn, where the cows who had already calved were being milked. I'd never tasted raw milk before; it was like a subtly sweet dessert: rich and dense, with a taste and texture so memorable that all future milks will be scorned as inadequate imitations.
Leaving the milk to ferment, we walked across the farm to meet the dry herd (calves, bulls, and cows who either weren't pregnant or hadn't yet calved). On this 90 degree June day, they wisely sought refuge in the shade. Most commercially raised cattle are confined to very small spaces and fed corn; a diet of corn produces big cows fast. However, since cows don't digest corn well, corn-fed cattle often require frequent antibiotics to combat illness and infection. The cows at Bobolink are grass fed and have plenty of room to walk around.
The pigs were considerably less concerned with keeping cool. Or perhaps the lure of leftover bread and whey was simply too strong to resist.
Bobolink bakes bread in a wood fired oven that works with retained heat. Different types of bread are baked in succession as the temperature drops during the day. We made epees and baked them at about 750 degrees F.
The dough is a delicious combination of partially hulled wheat, rye, and corn flours, with a little rosemary thrown in. And so pretty.
Back to the cheese-making room, where after an hour+ of fermentation, the addition of a little rennet, and Jonathan's expert stirring and slicing, the curds and the whey began to separate. Fresh curds don't have the tang of aged cheese but it's soft, warm, and my new favorite comfort food.We ended our day with lunch on the hill in the shade of a large Maple. Delicious focaccia pizzas topped with a combination of cheeses, kalamata olives, spring onions, and duck breast; a salad of spring greens and nasturtium flowers, home made sausage, fresh strawberries (it IS that time of year!), and several very fresh loaves topped with aged cheddar and a delicious, runny Amram cheese. The cows were feeding heavily on field garlic when they made the milk for the Amram, which gave the cheese a distinctive yellow color and strong taste. The texture was soft, almost spreadable. I wish I'd bought more.
I'll check back in with Bobolink as the season progresses; they have different kinds of cheeses at different times of year. And if you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend signing up for a workshop. It would be hard to find a more delicious, informative way to spend a Sunday morning.