Premium Farmstead Cheeses, Condiments & Savories


 

Cheese at the Source — Fresh and Farmstead!


When Stonyman Gourmet Farmer welcomes new “cheese interns,” we start with a simple way to put the complex livestock/dairying/cheese-making and gastronomy worlds into perspective. We explain the 16th century view that cheese is a member of an ancient “trinity of the table.” Along with bread and wine, cheese is one of mankind’s earliest foodstuffs. All require fermentation during production, and from the taste vantage, the three beautifully complement one another.

 

Modern dairy science has made two major contributions to the tradition of cheesemaking: We now know the chemistry of the process and we have the knowledge to keep production from becoming dangerous to humans. Milk is a complex biological substance composed of water, solids in suspension (protein, fatty acids, casein, lactose, minerals) and enzymes. Cheese is made when milk’s components separate into cheese curd and whey through coagulation and fermentation. Cooking, cutting, knitting and pressing follow, depending on the type of cheese to be made.

 

French guilds have established criteria that fresh cheese must satisfy: It is unripened and made from milk coagulated by lactic fermentation; bacteria must be active; it should be eaten soon after it is made. It can be artisan or farmstead and mostly pasteurized (a must in the United States); fat content can vary. Fresh cheese can stand on its own as a savory or as a flavorful workhorse ingredient in sauces and in dessert cheese confections. It is a universal fresh ingredient in fine cooking that enhances taste exponentially and is superb with seasonal produce.

 

During the 2012 Rappahannock Farm Tour, we will pair grass-based fromage blanc with seasonal herbs and produce and demonstrate combinations using farm and farm market ingredients to achieve peak flavors and culinary variety as seasons advance. We will explore the many uses of fromage blanc, and we will “put it to the test” in savories and a dessert. Food safety is at the core of cheese-making. Fromage blanc is fresh and, if sold, federal law requires that it be pasteurized. This factor reduces the safety burden. There are fundamentals that the home cheese-maker should practice, and we will discuss these

during the Farm Tour.

 

Cheese is a world of taste and tradition with a seemingly infinite number of choices. There is never enough time to cover it all. We look forward to enjoying a conversation about all things cheese throughout the tour and always at Stonyman Gourmet Farmer!



From the 2012 Rappahannock County Farm Tour Program: Fromagere Susan James is farmer/owner of Stonyman Gourmet Farmer & Stonyman Farm, a family farm business specializing in premium farmstead cheeses, custom meats and savories.