Archive for the ‘Cheese Chicks’ Category

Cheese Chicks: On Choosing Milk

Monday, February 21st, 2011

19milk-inline-articleinline.jpgA friend mentioned that she’d just tasted cheese curds for the first time, so I decided to try making them. I intended to use one of our local milks but bought the wrong one by mistake; it may have been organic but as a national brand it was also ultra-pasturized. I was disappointed and, as most home cheesemakers can predict, the cheese was destined to fail. I went ahead with it but the milk never set and refused to form into curds. It reminded me of how fortunate we are to have a range of local milk to choose from, milk that doesn’t need to travel far and doesn’t need to be ultra-pasteurized.


Several articles about local milk have appeared recently — from MOOMilk:


New York Times Business Section Features report on MOOMilk: Story and video tell the story of how some of our farmers are doing


A couple of weeks ago a reporter and photographer from the New York Times visited some of our MOOMilk farms to learn about how our farms and the company are doing during these tight financial times. The reporter, Katie Zezima, also talked to some of the other people who are involved with MOOMilk’s efforts to help these small farms survive and succeed. The story was published on Feb. 18, 2011. You can read her story on line at:


There was also a video on the New Times web page, with footage shot by Pull Start Pictures. Pull Start Pictures is the Maine company that produced the “Know Your Farmer” DVD that Maine Farmland Trust has shown around the state. Here’s the link to the New York Times video. (Be advised that a small part of the dialogue is a bit salty, as one farmer expresses his frustration over his financial situation. There’s also a short advertisement at the start of the video.)


You can help our farmers by circulating the story to your contacts. And, of course, you can help even more by asking for and buying MOOMilk at your local store.


And for cheesemakers who use raw milk, the possibility of tightened food safety rules: “Raw Milk Cheesemakers Fret Over Possible New Rules

Happy Birthday MOOMilk!

Friday, February 4th, 2011

161939_59995146009_1303346_n.jpgMaine’s Own Organic Milk Company has made it to the the one-year mark! Formed to keep organic Maine dairy farmers in business, 90% of their profits are returned to the farms that produce their milk and share ownership in the company. They recovered from a setback in September, and went on and partnered with Wayside Food Programs in Portland to provide better access to organic milk to who couldn’t otherwise affort it. Congratulations, MOOMilk!


MOOMilk is one year old — Thank you to everyone who helped get us this far!


January 26th marked MOOMilk’s first anniversary.


In a year’s time we have gone from selling no milk to selling more than 3,000 cartons of local organic milk every week. We’ve done this with the help of our business partners — all Maine family businesses — who produce, truck, process and distribute our milk, as well as our investors who put their money into our company because they believe in the importance of local agriculture and supporting the local economy.


Most importantly, we’ve done this with the help of our loyal customers who continue to purchase MOOMilk. For a year now you have helped keep our family farms in business by purchasing Maine’s Own Organic Milk at your local store. Today, MOOMilk can be found in Hannaford, IGA and natural food stores all over Maine, as well as in Whole Foods Stores in Maine and Massachusetts and the Harvest Coop chain in metro Boston.


We also have partnered with Wayside Food Programs in Portland, a wonderful non-profit that runs soup kitchens and supplies food pantries throughout southern Maine. Any food group will tell you that milk is the most expensive part of their program, so we are especially proud that the donation program we set up with Wayside has helped provide wholesome organic milk to those who otherwise could not afford it.


While we are pleased to have met the milestone of one year in business, we know that we need to grow our business in order to sustain it. As is the case with most small businesses, we operated our first year with the help of startup funds provided by investors and a credit line. Our goal for this coming year is to double our sales, so that by the time we get to 2012 we are a sustainable business and earning a profit — 90 percent of which will be returned to our farmers. Along the way, we hope to be able to offer some of the additional products that many of you have asked for — butter in one-pound packages, cream and half & half in consumer packaging, and perhaps some flavored milk products as well.


The guiding principle of our company is to provide a stable market for our family farms. The best way you can help us help our farmers is to buy their milk, and urge your friends and family to do the same. If you don’t see our milk in your store, stop at the customer service desk and ask for it. Remind the store that MOOMilk can be purchased through the Oakhurst and the Crown of Maine distribution systems, as well as NEFoodEx in Massachusetts.


Also, please consider participating in our Wayside donation program. Under this program, you purchase milk directly from MOOMilk, at below retail prices, and we see that your milk is made available to Wayside as needed. This not only provides additional sales to help our farmers, but because Wayside is a non-profit organization, your donation can be tax deductible. When you purchase milk under this program, MOOMilk will send you a receipt for the purchase and Wayside will send you an acknowledgement of your donation. You can learn more about this program, and the other work that Wayside does, by visiting our MOOMilk website.


As we look back over our first year, we thank outgoing Commissioner of Agriculture Seth Bradstreet III, who remains a good friend and strong supporter of our project. We look forward to continuing to work with the Department under the leadership of incoming Commissioner Walter Whitcomb.


Thank you, also, to our partners in this venture, Schoppee Milk Transport, Smiling Hill Dairy, Oakhurst Dairy, Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative, MOFGA and Maine Farm Bureau.


And most of all, thank you to our wonderful base of customers, without whose support we would not be celebrating our first anniversary.


For more information about MOOMilk and their program with Wayside, please visit

Cheese Chicks: Teaching Kids How Cheese is Made

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011


Cooking with kids is a great activity when there’s a snow day and cabin fever threatens. Ricki Carroll, better known as the Cheese Queen, ran a post on teaching preschoolers how cheese is made. They made a batch of Mozzarella together, then peeled it apart to make string cheese — lots of opportunity for hands-on fun!


The post includes many photos detailing the cheesemaking set up and process. Just make sure the milk you use is raw or pasteurized, not ultra-pasteurized. To read Ricki’s post on making cheese with kids >


For more information and cheesemaking kits, please visit New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. at We also have cheesemaking kits available as part of our fundraising table at the Winter Farmers’ Markets in Exeter and Rollinsford.

Cheese Chicks: Pumpkin Fondue!

Monday, November 29th, 2010

 This time of year brings with it one of my most loved vegetables:  winter squash.  It’s versatile, attractive, and quite delicious!  The variety I think is most versatile is the pumpkin.  I love most anything to do with pumpkins, be they in pie form, carving Jack O’Lanterns, used as decoration… they are beautiful and comforting and essentially usher in the last quarter of the year in one perfect package.

Last month, I headed out to Pickpocket Farm’s Harvest Potluck, bringing with me two Pumpkin Fondues.  Fondue is the perfect social food — everyone gathering around the pot (this pot is actually a baked pumpkin) dipping their fondue forks speared with pieces of baguette into a creamy, melty mess of comforting, warm cheese.  What could be better?  The pumpkins were met with rave reviews, and both were demolished fairly quickly.  One of the pumpkins was on center stage outside on that very cold day, and it stayed hot enough to keep the cheese melted until all of it was gone.  Perfect!

I made the fondue again for a group of friends helping us with our fall chores.  Once again, the pumpkin was hailed as “crazy good,” even by someone who hated fondue.  Enough said.

And now, some notes on the recipe before you actually make it.

The pumpkin you need for this recipe will be any edible variety, and small — we’re talking 4-5 lbs.  I prefer a nice round pumpkin rather than a tall, narrow one because it lets more people get into all that melty goodness at the same time, rather than making people politely wait their turn.  Fondue to me says “DIG IN!”

Garlic is an important part of this recipe.  I grow my own, and the past two years have produced an amazingly pungent garlic.  I am usually forced to reduce the amount called for in dishes that aren’t really cooking the garlic much, but for the fondue I went full strength.  It is much better to go overboard here than not use enough.  If you are using small-cloved supermarket garlic, I would even double the amount. 

fannymason_2041_182779.jpg    And now the cheese.  I typically use Boggy Meadow Farm’s Baby Swiss, which is nutty and melts beautifully.  Sometimes you can only find the smoked variety, so when that happens I use any type of Gruyere, or maybe a mix of Gruyere and Fontina.  You could also try Jarlsberg, if that’s all you have hanging out in your fridge.  The recipe also calls for mozzarella.  If you can make your own like I do, do it!  Fresh, homemade cheese makes an incredible fondue.  Even if your mozzarella comes out drier than you’d like, it’s still perfect for shredding and melting.

Finally, you should make your own bread crumbs.  The canned or bagged supermarket variety will not produce the consistency you need.  Slice up some homemade bread (the recipe calls for white, but I’ve used varieties of wheat with no problem), toast it and process it and within seconds you have exquisite bread crumbs.


1 pumpkin (4-5 lbs), washed and dried

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced (double if using a supermarket variety)

6 oz. Baby Swiss cheese, shredded

2 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

4 slices white (or wheat) bread, toasted and crumbled

1 pint half-and-half

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (Have you ever grated nutmeg yourself?  Heavenly!)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a 2-inch slice from top of pumpkin (make sure you’re not cutting straight up and down — you want the top to rest on the pumpkin, shelf-like, as it bakes) and reserve.  Remove seeds and fibers.  Blend oil and garlic and rub into interior of pumpkin.  Place pumpkin in a large roasting pan.

Gently combine the shredded cheeses.  Alternate layers of toast crumbs and cheese inside the pumpkin.  Combine half-and-half, salt, pepper and nutmeg and pour over the layers.  Replace top, making sure stem will fit into your oven.  If not, slice it off.  Bake pumpkin 2 hours, gently stirring contents after 1 1/2 hours.

sel-blog-photo-of-fondue-11-21-2010-6-01-31-pm.jpg    If you can, make your own baguettes to dip into your pumpkin pot.  If not, try to make whatever homemade bread you can, but keep it simple.  You will want to savor every bite of delectable cheese!  The surprise ending to this dish is to make sure your fork scrapes the side of the cooked pumpkin.  Filling your mouth with this mixture of bread, cheese and pumpkin makes for a truly perfect meal — because you will eat so much of it, you will not have room for anything else.  Happy melting!

Cheese Chicks: MOOMilk running out of time

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Via our friends at Slow Food Seacoast, the latest news on the current financial state of Maine Organic Milk, also known as MOOMilk:


A grand agricultural experiment — a Maine farmer-owned milk company — is close to folding and will suspend milk production this week as its principles scramble to find investment funding.


MOOMilk, which stands for Maine’s Own Organic Milk, processed milk Wednesday but will suspend production on Sunday, as a variety of reasons have combined to force the business toward closure. Only skim and one percent milk are still being processed since the company’s cash flow is so low that it cannot purchase two percent and whole milk car-tons.


“We are out of money,” David Bright, MOOMilk’s secretary and one of its founders, said this week.


Although the company began with 10 member farmers from Washington, Aroostook and Kennebec counties, that number has fallen to six, threatening the company’s ability to produce enough milk to remain sustainable.


Two farmers retired; another sold his herd; and a fourth opted to switch to conventional milk from organic.


Distributed reached more than 49 stores in Maine and New Hampshire. Currently, the company is seeking additional investment funding. Maybe some Slow Money to the rescue?  To read entire article >

Cheese Chicks: 101 Ways to Drain Cheese

Monday, August 16th, 2010


One of the things we go over in our cheesemaking class is suggestions for draining cheese. Kitchen faucets are conveniently located but, after breaking more than one, I don’t recommend it. Now I rig up a wooden spoon and drain my cheese over a deep pot.


A recent post at shows some of the creative ways people have come up with to solve this problem — it seems my fellow Cheese Chick is not the only one draining her cheese in the bathtub!




Cheese Chicks: M.O.O. Milk needs you!

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

27517_59995146009_1703_n.jpgMaine’s Own Organic Milk or M.O.O. Milk is the result of an unusual partnership — the milk is produced on Maine farms, and trucked, processed and distributed through a strong network of family-owned businesses, all in Maine. And integral to this partnership is you, the consumer. From Marada Cook of Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative:

I usually like to start off easy, but we need to have a hard talk.  M.O.O. Milk needs your help.


MOO Milk is the one milk company in the state that stands a chance of offering farmers an independent outlet for organic milk, at a price that makes organic dairy farming commercially viable in Maine.


That means, the visitors that love green fields need to drink M.O.O. Milk.

The residents who like their cows to eat hay in the winter instead of a heavy grain diet need to drink M.O.O. Milk.

The moms who care what their kids will look like in 5 or 10 years (never mind themselves) need to drink M.O.O. Milk.

The folks that want farms to thrive in Maine and think that agricultural subsidies are ruining this country need to drink M.O.O. Milk.

The economists who wring their hands over the collapse of the medium scale ag infrastructure in this state need to drink M.O.O. Milk.

Anyone who thinks M.O.O. Milk is too expensive needs to drink M.O.O. Milk.


The only way to bring the price of M.O.O. Milk into line with people’s milk expectations is to convey to them that the state minimum pricing for milk is a smokescreen hiding farm decay and false economics. M.O.O. Milk (and any small raw dairy, for that matter) are offering milk at the only price that is ‘affordable’ to our industry. The difference between a small raw dairy and M.O.O. is that M.O.O. Milk works for organic dairy farmers across the state, not just one individual farm. It is the Crown O’Maine of Milk.


Without high price benchmarks, we cannot keep farm bankruptcy at bay. Without a company that works for farmers, such as M.O.O. Milk, there is no one to wave a flag when the pricing of milk no longer reflects the costs to produce it.


We need M.O.O. Milk to survive so it can grow as a model for other commodity products in Maine.   The state minimum is not enough to help local agriculture thrive. And now is the time for you to take a stand.


Six weeks. That is how much time M.O.O. Milk Company has to grow its customer base by 3000 gallons a week.


That’s how long I want you to put M.O.O. into every cup of coffee at your store or restaurant. Every scoop of gelato. Every glass your toddler downs. Every Vichyssoise. Every cat dish. I mean that.


You don’t even have to buy it from me, but if you want this company to succeed, you have to buy it now.




PS: Did I mention it tastes great?

For more information on M.O.O. Milk and where it can be purchased locally > 

Cheese Chicks: Organic Valley Bans Farmers Selling Raw Milk

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Using milk in its unpasteurized state is one of the joys of learning to make cheese at home. With a just a little coaxing, raw milk readily transforms itself, unlike the myriad fixes that go into working with over-processed milk. As we often tell our students, it simply wants to become cheese.


Thus it is with great concern that we’re following Organic Valley’s recent decision to ban farmers that also sell raw milk directly to consumers. The reasons are unclear — other processors, such as Horizon Organic, do not prohibit their producers from selling raw milk — but the ruling is certain to affect local producers. In essence, members of the cooperative will now have to chose between selling raw milk to Organic Valley or to local consumers. Following are several links to help you find out more about this controversy:


• “Organic Valley Lays Down the Law on Raw Milk” by David Gumpert, reposted by the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association:


Last week, the board voted four to three to prohibit its member dairies from selling raw milk. “It’s not a fun issue here,” says George Siemon, the CEO. “Everyone on the board drinks raw milk.” It’s been the most bitter dispute in the enterprise’s 22-year history, he says.

The decision threatens to tear Organic Valley apart, or at least hamper its business effectiveness, by raising two major risks.

First, Organic Valley could lose a significant number of its dairy members. No one knows how many of its dairies sell raw milk, but 10% seems a conservative estimate, according to co-op insiders. That means 150 or 200 dairies, minimum, are selling raw milk…. A second concern is that Organic Valley’s anti-raw-milk stance could alienate significant numbers of consumers. Organic Valley has many loyal customers among the raw milk crowd, some of whom buy the co-op’s yogurt or cheeses in addition to drinking raw milk.

• With 36 dairy farmers in the coop, “Maine Organic Diary Farmers Question Raw Milk Ban” at Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN):


“If Organic Valley really wants to get picky, there are an awful lot farmers who withdraw a can or two from their tank and either make cheese with it themselves or have another cheesemaker do something for them,” [Spencer] Aitel says. “I don’t think many of them are notifying Organic Valley that that’s happening, and if they wanted to get really nasty about it, they could drop every one of them, and that would probably be better than half.”

•  The Journal of Natural Food and Healing has posted the statement issued by Organic Valley on their raw milk decision:


“At the request of the membership at the co-op’s most recent annual meeting, the board wanted to end this drawn out raw milk debate, and they took the more conservative route, to prohibit the farmer-owners from being in the raw milk business. This decision will require all our farmer-owners who sell raw milk to choose one business or the other. This may end up being a boon for the raw milk movement in the states where it is legal. The Cooperative cannot condone the sale of raw milk in the states where it is illegal.

CROPP Cooperative is not against raw milk. We have let our farmers sell raw milk on the side for two decades. We have gone through a well vetted, inclusive process. It is now time for us to stand by our board’s decision.”

It has not gone without notice that Organic Valley, which was established 22 years ago to help save small family dairies, itself features raw milk in some of their own products such as raw milk cheese.

Cheese Chicks: Home Cheesemaking!

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

winterbrochure2010pdf-secured.tiffIf learning to make cheese is one of your New Year’s resolutions, two cheesemaking workshops have been scheduled for this Spring. Lenore and I will again be teaching at Traip Academy as part of the Kittery Adult Education Program, while new Cheese Chick friend Marjorie Rogers will be teaching at Marshwood in South Berwick. Both courses will get you started with making two fresh cheeses, ricotta and mozzarella, and introduce you to the joys of home cheesemaking!

Home Cheesemaking

Marshwood Adult & Community Education

Place: 260 Route 236, South Berwick, ME

Date: Saturday, April 10, 2010

For more information:  or (207) 384-5703


Home Cheesemaking: Ricotta & Mozzarella

Kittery Adult Education

Place: Traip Academy, 12 WIlliams Ave, Kittery, ME

Date: Thursday, May 6, 2010

Time: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Registration available online

For more information: or (207) 439-5896


While you’re checking out the cheesemaking classes, the one on Sausage Making at Kittery Adult Ed on March 8th also promises to be fun! Additional cooking courses can always be found through the Seacoast Eat Local wiki site.

Cheese Chicks: Ushering in the New Year with Yogurt Pie

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

This Cheese Chick enjoyed quite a few excesses this holiday season — there were pies to bake and eat, cookies to bake, decorate and eat, all those pounds of local ham leftovers to finish, to name just a few.  It seems fitting that we welcome the New Year with something simple:  Yogurt Pie.  I’m talking about the Yogurt Pie of Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook fame.  It’s a gloriously simple recipe which develops into a sinfully rich dessert, reminiscent of cheesecake but not quite as frightening to your heart and thighs.  If you own one of the original editions of Moosewood Cookbook, you will find that this recipe was then called “Yogurt-Cream Cheese Pie.”  I have a revised edition, copyright 1992, for which this recipe is now named “Yogurt Pie.”  The original pie version needed a large amount of cream cheese to keep the pie thick and together.  Katzen now uses yogurt cheese in place of the cream cheese, which lightens things up considerably!

Yogurt cheese might be the easiest cheese to make, which makes it a great first cheese for anyone to try.  You may use grocery store yogurt or homemade yogurt (we will blog about how to do this later on) — I have used both.  When I first made this back in the early ’90s, my favorite brand for yogurt cheese was Dannon’s nonfat plain yogurt.  Stonyfield Farm made a good pie as well, though the results were slightly more tangy and less sweet than a pie made with Dannon.  The texture with Dannon was a bit silkier as well, which is always pleasing on your tongue.

The pie I made recently used Brookford Farm’s lowfat yogurt, which is now available in both quart and gallon sizes.  It’s been quite a while since I made yogurt cheese and I’ve never made it with Brookford’s yogurt, so there was some experimentation going on.  Surprisingly, I ended up using almost the entire gallon of yogurt instead of the 2 1/2 quarts nonfat yogurt the recipe calls for. I’m here to share some tips as the result of these experiments which should make your own yogurt cheese experience as positive as possible.

How to make Yogurt Cheese for Yogurt Pie (or any other recipe you can dream up!):

  1. Choose your brand of yogurt, or make your own.  You will need a minimum of 2 1/2 quarts of whatever yogurt you choose.

  2. Next, get yourself some cheesecloth.  The size of your colander will determine how long to cut your cloth, if at all.  Katzen calls for 16″ of cheesecloth for a 12″ colander.  I’ll clarify that you will need enough to line your colander using 6 layers of cloth.  Using less will make you lose too much yogurt through uncovered seams, instead of just liquid.  Using more will allow you to have enough to fold over on top of the yogurt once it’s in your colander, and then a little more to tie it off.

  3. Next, find a place to put your cheesecloth-lined colander.  This is where the liquid will drain out, so you can use your sink, or put it in a large bowl on your counter if you need to use your sink while your yogurt drains.  Personally, I am a big fan of using the bathtub for hanging and draining cheese, so don’t be afraid to use yours!

  4. Place your yogurt on the cheesecloth then fold it over the top and tie the cloth.  You can use the corners of the cheesecloth and tie them together, or you can twist the cheesecloth around and secure it with a clothespin or baggie tie.  Whatever you do, you’ll need to make sure that the yogurt is securely encased within the cheesecloth, with no gaping seams for the yogurt to leach out from.

  5. Next, choose an item that will act as a weight to be placed on top of the yogurt, allowing its weight to press liquid out of the yogurt.  You can throw beans into a Ziplock bag, use frozen vegetables, or do what I do: put enough water in a Tupperware container roughly the size of your colander and seal it.  I think it allows the cheese to drain more evenly.  Whatever method you use, you’re looking for a 3 or 4 pound weight.

  6. Let the yogurt drain for roughly 6-8 hours.  The brand of yogurt you use, and its fat content will determine the exact amount of time.  With Brookford’s yogurt, I drained it overnight since I was short on time, which was roughly 10 hours.  The end result looked good, but the texture was a little too dry, so next time I will back off to 8 hours and see what I get.  This extra time is also what probably led me to have to use more yogurt than was called for, though I believe that 3 quarts is still closer to the amount I would use for Brookford’s yogurt.

  7. Don’t be afraid to check on the status of your yogurt cheese during the process.  Open up your tie and poke a finger in to see just how thick it’s getting.  The more liquid that drains out, the thicker (and drier) your pie will be.  The goal is to achieve a perfect balance of thickness while still maintaining a creamy, moist texture.  You can stop the process whenever you feel your yogurt cheese is “done.”  Ultimately, you should end up with about 5 cups of thick and creamy yogurt cheese!

The rest of Katzen’s “Yogurt Pie” recipe goes like this:


  • One 9-inch, baked and cooled, graham cracker crust
  • 5 cups of yogurt cheese (this is approximate)
  • 5 Tablespoons of sugar (or more, to taste)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Katzen includes optional toppings like fresh berries (something juicy, like raspberries, on this pie are my favorite!), her Berry Pudding, and Berry Sauce.

Place the yogurt cheese in a medium-sized bowl with the sugar and vanilla, and beat lightly with a whisk until completely blended.

Spoon mixture into the prepared crust. Katzen offers the option of using any leftover crust mixture to sprinkle on top of the yogurt if you have made your own graham-cracker crust.  Cover lightly and chill.  Serve plain or with a topping.  

Enjoy — and if this was your first attempt at making any type of cheese, I hope you are hooked!