Monday, April 4, 2011

Cheese Please and Do you Fondue?

Cheese Please!
Did you know that small dairies in New York State producing value-added products such as cheese increased 38% in the past two years? Let’s hope that these new cheese makers are getting the education, financial and labor support they need to succeed. We are lucky to have two cheese makers in our neighborhood. Linda Smith of Sherman Hill Farmstead in Franklin, NY makes incredible goat milk cheese and last year applied her talents (quite successfully) to making cow cheese. She built an aging room and is producing incredible hard, soft and fresh cheese. On the other side of us in Jefferson, NY, Ron and Corinne Brovetto of Harpersfield Cheese are wizards of cheese production whipping up amazing tilsit with hops, lavender, basil and tomato. New flavors are added each season. I am looking forward to sampling their new flavors although the raw cheese remains my favorite. So with all this great cheese at our fingertips, we are inspired to eat beyond the cheese plate and cook with cheese.

Do you Fondue?
My parents threw fondue parties in the 1960’s. I have fond memories of dipping chewy breads and al dente vegetables into thick bubbling cheese. For dessert, we dunked chunks of pound cake, whole strawberries, and slices of apples and bananas in simmering chocolate. Meat fondue was only served at adult parties because my mother was epileptic about hot oil spitting and splattering within arms' reach. As my parents happily sipped their martinis (from which we would steal the gin-soaked olives in the morning) we spent the evening sword fighting with our fondue forks. En Garde! At Fable’s February Second Saturday Supper we resurrected the fondue and enjoyed dipping chunks of sizzling beef, smoked ham bites, bacon and sausage in bubbling pots of local cheese. In deference to mom, we used broth not oil to cook the meats. For the cheese fondue, Sherman Hill Farmstead’s Heathen Hill cow cheese is a must.

Ready to fondue? So what do you need to fondue? We use the traditional fondue pots with tea candles to keep the pot warm but fondue pots are commonly fueled by electric or sterno. Fondue pots are easy to find at flea markets and yard sales and fondue forks can usually be found in boxes of odds and ends. Here’s a simple cheese fondue recipe for bread. Watch the pot so the cheese does not burn and don’t substitute the wine or kirsh!

Cheese Fondue
Serves 4

1 garlic clove, halved
8 oz Sherman Hill Farmstead Heathen Hill or Gruyere, grated
8 oz Emmenthaler or other Swiss cheese, grated
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
10 oz dry white wine (not vermouth)
3 oz kirsch
1 teaspoon nutmeg

One day-old baguette or other crusty bread, cut into inch cubes. If you only have fresh bread, cut it into cubes, spread the cubes on a cookie sheet and put it in a 200-degree oven to dry out.

Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the garlic halves and leave the garlic in the pot. Grate the cheese; put it all in a gallon-sized zipper bag along with the cornstarch. Shake it up so the cornstarch is evenly distributed amongst the cheese. Heat the wine in the fondue pot on the stovetop; add the cheese just before the wine boils. Lower the heat to medium and add the cheese a bit at a time, stirring in a zig-zag motion, not in a circular motion (this apparently keeps the cheese from balling up, a very big fondue faux pas). Once all the cheese is in the pot, keep stirring; the cheese should be bubbling happily along but don't let it get too happy or it will start to burn. Add the kirsch and stir it for another five minutes or so, until it's thick and creamy. Stir in nutmeg.

Light the fondue burner and move the pot from the stove to the fondue stand. Spear a piece of bread with the fondue fork, stick it in the cheese, stir it around, pull it out, eat it. Repeat repeatedly

Ready to graduate to Meat Fondue?
Because of my mother’s fear of splattering hot oil, I most often use this fondue recipe for meat which uses chicken or meat broth, not hot oil.

Meat Fondue
3 cups chicken stock or beef broth (homemade is best)
3/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp garlic (chopped)
2 tsp rosemary (dry or fresh)
2 tsp oregano (dry or fresh)

Saute the garlic in a splash of the stock for about a minute, just to bring out the flavor. Add the white wine and deglaze any garlic on the pan, and let evaporate for about two minutes. Finally, add stock and herbs and bring to a slow boil. The broth is ready to cook your meat! Use these time estimates for your raw meat and veggies:

Beef (steak) 2-3 minutes (Depends how rare you like it).
Chicken 3-5 minutes (Make sure there is no pink in the meat).
Seafood 1-3 minutes
Veggies: Broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms 2-3 minutes, potatoes 5-8 minutes (just dump them in and scoop them out with a slotted spoon).

Fondue Etiquette and Trivia
Fondue comes from Switzerland but it is not an old, traditional Swiss dish. Fondue was invented in the 1950's when the Swiss cheese industry was sluggish. As a marketing ploy to get people to eat more cheese, the cheese industry launched a Fondue campaign. Marketers discovered that a person ate ½ lb cheese or more when they fondued.

Fondue etiquette: Always stir the cheese when you put your forked bread in the pot; it helps keep the mixture smooth. Never eat your cheese directly from your fondue fork then stick it back into the cheese. Double dipping is not nice for the other eaters (unless you're all family or friendly enough that no one cares, or if everyone has had enough wine not to care).
A traditional fondue custom straight from the Swiss Alps: Men who drop their dippers into the fondue must buy the host a bottle of wine or give the next fondue party, while women who make the fondue faux pas must kiss all the men present.

Cheese Trivia
Tune into WIOX 91.3 radio for Watershed Wednesday’s Farm Chatter for the answers!

1. What is the difference between chevre and chevon and chevron?

2. Why was cheese popular in ancient Greece and Rome but butter and fresh milk was not?

3. Americans eat how much per person per week of cheese? ½ lb; 1 lb; ¼ lb?

4. How much of the U.S.’s yearly supply of milk is turned into cheese? ¾, ¼ or ½ ?

5. A law for local? From 1935 to 1937 state law in Wisconsin required restaurants to serve 2/3 ounce of Wisconsin butter and 2/3 ounce of Wisconsin cheese with every meal served. True or False?

6. Why is blue cheese called blue cheese? Eating the cheese cures the blues; mold spores produce blue green veins in the cheese; Monsieur Bleu invented blue cheese.

7. Which nation eats the most cheese? Italy, France or Greece?

8. What is turophilia? Fear of tourists, the habit of shouting “turo” after consuming a lot of wine or the love of cheese?

9. Why is some cheese more yellow than others? Cheese makers add marigold petals to imitate the yellow imparted by beta carotene found in the cow or goat’s pasture diet; the cow or goat’s main diet is pasture; yellow dye is added to the cheese.

10. What is the difference between cheese, processed cheese and cheese food? If you have ever accidentally grabbed American cheese slices with cheese food in very small letters on the label, you know the difference by taste.

Last Saturday Supper of the Season at Fable
The last Saturday Supper of the season at Fable is April 9th. We are celebrating the arrival of the Easter bunny by eating his cousins. Join us for maple sausage stuffed apple; rabbit pot pie with horseradish whipped potatoes, spring greens and baked apple shortbread with pepper cream. Wine suggestions available at Fable by the glass or bottle are Brotherhood 2004 Merlot or Heron Hill Game Bird Red. Fable is open for the season for Saturday weekly dining May 28th. We are going to have some fun this year with guest chefs, innovative cooking methods and unique eating styles. More to come.

New York State Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Makers Guild Annual Meeting
For current, new and interested cheese makers. Hobnob with New York State cheese makers and learn about the regulatory, production and sales challenges. Get the skinny on how fast cheese makers are growing in NYS!

Wednesday April 20th 10 am to 4 pm at Kortright Creek Creamery at Stone & Thistle Farm 1211 Kelso Road East Meredith 13757 607-278-5800. Enjoy pot luck lunch and cheese sampling and presentation by Dave Barbano from Northeast Dairy Research Center at Cornell University on potential legislative changes involving raw milk cheeses and on milk chemistry research. Please bring: Lunch to share and samples of your cheese; questions, ideas and comments for Guild membership and the upcoming year’s calendar; photos or announcements about your farm and products.

For information contact:
Nancy Taber Richards
Finger Lakes Farmstead Cheese Company
5491 Bergen Road
Trumansburg, NY 14886
607-387-3108  or the guild’s website: