Category Archives: milk

Raw milk in CT

You remember that guest post I promised from James on cheese making? Well, he added a bit too much salt to his raw milk camembert (though it is otherwise gorgeous)… Cheese is tough to make, because you learn from your mistakes 6 weeks later.  But it’s rather satisfying when things go right. I mean, seriously, how many people can say they make cheese? Aside from people who really make cheese. Or grad students who need a hobby to keep sane. But I digress…

The real issue I wanted to bring to your attention today is that he may not be able to make cheese for much longer. At least, not raw milk cheese.

CT is considering imposing new restrictions on raw milk producers.  You can read all about it here.  The bill, which proposes to enhance raw milk labeling requirements, limits sales to farms, and increases testing requirements, is a response to an e coli outbreak that was linked to a farm in Simsbury.  As I understand it, the outbreak was contained to 14 people, as the farm had stopped distributing milk as soon as their tests indicated they had a problem.   Yes, this is serious, but somehow, I’m guessing peanut butter won’t require farm sales or warning labels only anytime soon.

There are actually excellent raw milk and raw milk cheese producers in CT that  would experience a serious hardship if this proposed legislation were to pass (more details here, if you’re interested).  If you have any interest in this, and you live in CT, consider writing a letter. If you don’t have time to write one, I can send you the draft James put together. Just post a comment.

UPDATE: The proposed restrictions died at the committee level.

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Filed under local farms, milk

Camping up the coast

Big Sur

Highway 1 unwinds slowly, precariously, across the state I once called home, inviting only the most daring (or deranged) into the rocky waters of its Northern shores. It’s been decades since I’ve been along this coast, and the first time I’m the one behind the wheel, and oh, it’s so much scarier when you’re the one in charge of navigating its mountainous terrain. But it was good to be home.

Yes, I climbed half dome, cables and all.

I had forgotten how raw the coast of Northern California looks in comparison to Connecticut’s gentle shores. Traversing the whole state is like going through a series of different worlds, as elevation, natural resources, latitude, and human interference transforms the land completely within the span of a few miles. If you’ve never seen it, book a ticket and go. Rent a car and take Highway 1, as long as you’re South of San Francisco. Above SF, you’re in for a bout of car sickness that never ends, as the roads get ever more precarious as you approach its intersection with 101. At the very least, plan to camp along the route; making it to Prairie Creek State Park near Orick from Fresno via SFO in one day was utter madness. Somewhere in there, go inland and check out Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. Yosemite (and the hike / climb up Half Dome) was probably the highlight of my trip, though the redwoods in Prairie Creek State Park managed to make us laugh.

Funny

But this is a food blog. I’m not going to go on and on about the trails we took and the places we went. I’ll spare you the experience of seeing an RV, complete with satellite dish, set up in the midst of one of the most gorgeous campgrounds I’ve had the privilege of staying in. I’ll even skip our encounter with the mountain lion (on the trail! Here!) Instead, I’ll tell you how I managed to keep us fed without resorting to bags of chips and MREs, and I’ll try to give you some pointers (so you can learn from my mistakes).

campfire

Before we get started, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. You will miss your oven. Starting a fire without a pilot light or even lighter fluid is not my forte — enough so that getting the fire going gradually became James’s job. We had matches, wood, and whatever we could find around our campsite for tinder: leaves, pine needles, chocolate bar wrappers, etc. So … good luck. And take a few cans of sterno along in case of emergencies (or for morning coffee, which could be considered an emergency depending on your morning disposition).
  2. Don’t plan anything too complicated. Roasted vegetables from roadside farm stands are awesome, and we ate a lot of them. Barring that, roasted vegetables of any kind are pretty damn good. Pair them with a high protein grain (quinoa) or any other protein / carb combination I describe below.
  3. You don’t need a cooler for anything I suggest here. Cheese and butter are fine without refrigeration for a couple of days, and I stuck to mostly vegetarian meals simply out of necessity. This new one checked bag policy is a bitch, but hey, the whole point of camping is to make do with what you have, right? (Ok, tell that to the souped up RV in the campsite next to you. Especially when they turn on their @#$%@#$ generator at 11 pm).
  4. A cast iron pan is a very good thing to bring along. My friend P, who joined us for the last leg of the trip, brought hers along for the trip, and it made dinner so much easier. That said, we did fine with foil and copious amounts of vegetable oil as well.
  5. You don’t need a full pantry. A few must haves for me were salt, flour, powdered milk, yeast, oil, baking soda, honey / agave nectar, coffee (and a coffee cone), s’mores ingredients, cheap wine or red wine vinegar (for flavoring vegetables as they roast), onions, potatoes, garlic — lots and lots of garlic, lemons, quinoa, trail mix, powdered chicken broth, and masa. Everything else was based on what looked best at wherever we happened to shop. Fresh fruit and veg, a bit of cheese, and a few cans of sardines (for protein! If you’re repulsed, pick up some canned beans instead) rounded out the campground pantry. Oh, and you don’t need all of this. We were gone for 2 weeks, so pick and choose as you like.
  6. Bring measuring spoons, or cook by proportions. Baking soda is the only thing to really worry about, but your food will still taste good if your teaspoon isn’t exactly a teaspoon.
  7. Don’t forget the tongs. Seriously. I did, and my fingers regretted it.

Roasting

Ok, so here are the “recipes” and ideas for meals. I use quotes because I didn’t really measure anything on this trip. I also don’t have pictures of everything, just because it was usually late by the time dinner finished, and my camera is afraid of the dark. Oh, and the challah recipe is finally here, as promised. Scroll to the bottom if that’s all you’re interested in. Finally, I’ll have some recommendations for great places to eat (on a budget) San Francisco in my next post.

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Filed under baking, baking tips, bread, breakfast, camping, carrots, cheese, corn tortillas, lemon, main, milk, potatoes, quick bread, roasted vegetables, soup, stew, stories, vegetarian, wine

A bit of crunch

Jicama Salad

I wasn’t even going to post today. It’s been one of those weeks, yet again, where we have no bread in the house, a random assortment of groceries we’re unlikely to get to, and a few too many takeout bills. But the lure of blog-related procrastination is a bit too much for me, it seems. Especially when I have a research proposal to write (due tomorrow!) for an experiment I’m not sure I’ll have time to do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this isn’t a real post. It’s just a place to share a few thoughts, and a recipe I wasn’t really sure I was going to share (notice the lack of prep photos?).  If you only have time to read one thing, check out Nathaniel Johnson’s article on raw milk in Harper’s Magazine (which I found via Bitten). It touches upon the history of pasteurization, what kind of farmers pasteurization regulations are actually trying to protect us from, and all in all, presents a pretty scary picture of the industrial dairy industry in this country. For the record, I’ll take my grass-fed raw milk from the friendly local farmer at the farmer’s market, thanks. Luckily, I have that choice here in Connecticut.

Otherwise, today was one of those days where it rains and rains until you think it’s never going to stop, and then transforms itself into a glorious, crisp evening, with streaming sunlight, chirping birds, and all sorts of other gorgeous signs of spring. The tulips even opened up, after a two-day hiatus. So what did I do? I went for a run, in my new, very funny looking shoes. I think they’re kind of hilarious, and I’m certain I look like a bit of a circus act running in them, but normal shoes seem to cause me trouble, so I thought I’d give them a try. They’re comfortable, and kind of awesome — provided you don’t spend too much time on concrete.

All this faux-barefoot running takes me back to about 18 years ago now, when I’d run around my grandmother’s neighborhood like a hoodlum, without shoes or fear of anything but the boy down the street that I sort of had a crush on (but only because I’d kissed his cheek when we were playing house one day, and it seemed appropriate somehow).  I’d run and run, playing pirates or princesses or some other nonsense, until it was time to go home for dinner, and I had to be coaxed into the car for the trip home. If I had been cooking back then, I think this jicama salad would have been the perfect antidote to a long day of playing pretend in the burning San Joaquin valley sun.

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Filed under cilantro, limes, local farms, milk, quick meals, running, stories, vegan, vegetarian

Irish eyes are smiling

Stew and Damper

That song is perhaps the cheesiest reminder that today is St. Patrick’s Day.  Flogging Molly or the Pogues are more my style, as my Pandora station might reveal.  But according to my red hair, freckles, and relatively large percentage of Irish blood, I suppose I should be in a celebratory mood, with the requisite tolerance for funny old songs and fake Irish brogues. With enough Guinness, anything’s possible, right?
Carrots and rosemary

Except it’s a Monday, I really don’t own any green clothing that I can recall, and James doesn’t drink beer. Besides, I was kind of in the mood for a relaxing evening at home, with a bit of work and some new cookbooks to peruse. So I did what I always do in those situations: I threw this and that in a pot, brought it to a simmer, and let the delicious smells waft throughout the house.

Rosemary

This meal ended up having an Australian twist, in the end. See, Irish, British, and Australian pub food is really not so different (as you might imagine). You throw some tough meat, beer, a few basic vegetables, some homemade stock in a pot. Add a little Vegemite, disappear to the corner pub for an hour or two, and voila — you have your Australian equivalent of Irish Guinness stew.  You make a basic, scone-like quick bread of flour, baking powder, water, milk, butter, and salt, and you have damper, which is serious bush tucker, designed to be made with basic essentials and thrust into an open fire beneath the startling expanse of the Milky Way.

Damper

It’s all comfort food, really. Yes, you can turn it into something gorgeous and inviting; the smell alone will draw guests to your door in two seconds flat. But it’s basic, and somehow, a part of both of our collective memories, as different as they are. Simmering stew and fresh baked bread, with only slight variations here or there. It’s the kind of meal that makes us quiet, in mutual approval, and brings us both a little sense of home.

st patrick's day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone, from the lab leprechaun!

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Filed under Australia, baking, beef, carrots, celery, main, milk, potatoes, quick bread, rosemary, soup, stew

Sweetness, cream, and a bit of spice

Creamy butternut squashThis dish is, if anything, intriguing. It’s not plain creamy, or cheesy, or any of the other qualities that make mac and cheese oh-so-irresistible.   It’s not comforting, either, at least in my book. It makes you think, which is saying a lot for someone who thinks for a living.  But I really shouldn’t be surprised, given who this pretty little creation comes from.Butternut squash plated 

It’s brilliant.  Any idea who I’m referencing now?  I just got his cookbook in the mail, along with a very bendable mini-tripod and some hope that my photography might improve.  And immediately, I nestled into the couch and started to read.  No, he’s not a writer; his prose reminds me of a school boy’s, actually, though it’s improved immeasurably since this one came out.  But he’s hilarious, has turned his fame into a vehicle for championing quality food for everyone, and happens to be a pretty good chef.  
Squash prep
His flavor combinations are familiar, but somehow unlike anything I would have come up myself. They work somehow, in an unexpected way.  So I’m sharing this one with you, because it’s worth trying, just once. Even if you only have whole milk and cheddar in the house, and don’t feel like trekking to the store.
Squash prep 2 
I used a local pear wine in this dish, which worked pretty well, but any white wine will do.  Cream and parmesan, as the recipe originally called for, would have been better than the whole milk and parmesan I actually used, but the flavor was still quite good.  The consistency wasn’t quite what I wanted, but I made do.  If you happen to find yourself in my predicament, make a béchamel sauce with a bit of butter, milk, and cream, and add the nutmeg and cheese to the sauce.  If not, use the cream. Go on — you know you want to.

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Filed under butternut squash, cheese, cream, milk, side