Monday, October 31, 2011

Robiola with Simona Carini

Simona Carini
Her cheese just gets better and better!

We first featured Simona as one of our guest bloggers last June (English Style Coulommiers).  Then, later that summer, she attended one of our advanced classes in French Cheese Making (Notes From One of Jim Wallace's Workshops).  Note:  Jim will be teaching this same workshop again November 19-20th.

Simona teaches how to make cheese and how to speak Italian at her beautiful website, Briciole - An idiosyncratic and opinionated dictionary of Italian words related to food, with audio accompaniment - and recipes.  You can hear her pronounce the words that appear in italics in her posts by pressing a button at the end of the article.  (It's very cool!)

I asked her how her cheese making had changed since she took the workshop:

A very good question: I am using the pH meter (not always, to be honest, but I understand now how important it is) and in general I am more confident.

You see, I started making cheese on my own and before taking Jim's workshop, I sometimes wondered whether I was missing something important or making some systematic mistake.

At the workshop, I realized I am doing ok, and since I got some burning questions answered, I now feel more confident in my experiments.

formaggio fatto in casa: robiola

By Simona Carini at Briciole

on the cutting board, with salt-and-pepper cookies

Remember the photo I published recently for Black and White Wednesday where I held in my hand a nice piece of fresh cheese? I wrote then that I would talk a bit more about the cheese portrayed and that is what I will do in this post. I will actually talk very little, since everything you need to know about making the cheese is on the robiola recipe page of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company website.

The page is authored by Jim Wallace. Having attended a workshop led by him earlier this year means that now, when I read the articles he writes, I can hear his voice providing instructions and guidance. As Jim explains in the introductory notes, there are various types of robiola. If you do a google image search after specifying robiola in the search field, you can get some idea of what those cheeses look like.

Since everything you need to know to make the cheese is on the relevant page, here I am sharing a few photos from my experience making it. I made it three times. The first time, I misjudged my mold needs, so I ended up with good-tasting cheese of weird shapes. I then got a ricotta basket and used that and the one I already had to mold the curds. Basically, I followed Jim's instructions (which, of course, I should have done to begin with).

The photo above shows one of the baskets with the curds, resting on a grate that rests on a raised metal support, all placed inside a plastic container: this is so that the whey (siero di latte) can drain freely. I set aside the first two cups or so of whey and used it to make bread. I used the rest to water one of my rhododendrons. As mentioned previously, I have recently started to use cheese netting instead of cloth. There are some drawbacks, but the advantage is easy cleaning and handling.

The time from addition of rennet (caglio) to cutting the curd (cagliata) was 5.5 hours. The amount of calcium chloride I used is 1/8 teaspoon.

Up close and personal with robiola draining in a ricotta mold

robiola spending some time in brine...

then drying well before being put in the cheese fridge for a brief aging

The top photo shows what was left of one robiola after I cut some for dinner with my friend Christine of Christine Cooks and her husband and packed some for them to bring home. We enjoyed the lovely, fresh-tasting cheese, which I served with slices of pears.

A variation on the theme of formaggio con le pere (cheese with pears) is shown above, where the fruit is an Asian pear. There is a bit more to this, so I will leave you kind of hanging until I have time to reveal more.

The robiola we have eaten so far has been aged for a short period of time, in the order of 4-7 days. However, the very last small wheel has just spent two weeks in the fridge, due to our travels. Though slowly, due to the low temperature, the cheese has matured further and we are enjoying it on bread or pears.

I recommend this recipe to both the beginner and the experienced cheese-maker: it is pretty straightforward, the result can be tasted within a few days of making it, and the resulting cheese is very nice.

More from Simona at Briciole

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Supporting Local Cheese Competitions

Winners in the Big E Gold Cheese Competition on display.
The judges are your best teachers!

There are many ways to learn about making great cheese and one of them is by entering competitions.  The feedback you get from the judges may be the best you have ever received.

There is usually a requirement that you are licensed to sell cheese.

If you make cheese, but you are not licensed to sell it, competitions are a good place to sample and analyze the winners.  Almost all competitions provide some way for you to taste the award-winning entrys. 

Festival at the American Cheese Society Convention in Seattle, 2010

The biggest competition in this country is the one held at the Annual American Cheese Society Convention every year-always in a different location.   (2012 will be in Raleigh, NC, August 1-4.)

As a home cheese maker, looking to taste the best cheeses in every category, you can attend the Festival of Cheeses at the end of every conference.

All the cheeses are brought out, labelled and ready to sample.  It's always a fabulous celebration and well worth the cost of admission.

Place to sample and buy the competition cheeses at The Big E
Other competitions are smaller, but nevertheless worth supporting.  Our regional fair (the Eastern States Exposition, known as The Big E) had their second annual cheese competition this year.  The entry fee was $25.

Cheese makers from all around New England participated.  Some were well known companies like Cabot Creamery and Vermont Butter & Cheese.  Others were small farms, licensed to sell but not yet well-known.

The winners of the competition were posted in the "Cheese Shoppe" and any of the participants were invited to sell their cheeses there.  A few samples were available at all times.  It was a good opportunity for the new and smaller cheese makers to get exposure to the public.

The dairy pavillion at The Big E

If you have a cheese competition in your area, let us know so we can list it in the Upcoming Events section of our Moosletter.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Raw Milk Freedom Riders Caravan & Rally

Photo from
Making a Difference Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

We are big supporters of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition (FFFC).  We believe in our right to choose what we eat.  (We also choose to drink raw milk which we can legally buy at our local farms and to make our own cheese with it.)

Unfortunately, there are still 11 states where raw milk is illegal and Maryland is one of them.  This has resulted in many mothers driving to nearby Pennsylvania and illegally transporting their raw milk back to Maryland. - thus committing a crime to feed their children healthy milk.

Liz Reitzig (
As a way of calling attention to this injustice, Liz Reitzig, co-founder of the FFFC has organized a two part event at the FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland (10903 New Hampshire Ave.):

Part 1 - The Freedom Ride

 A group of mothers calling themselves the Raw Milk Freedom Riders will be meeting at a farm in Pennsylvania, buying raw milk and taking it in a caravan  to the FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, MD.  Once there, they will be drinking it and serving it to their children.

The caravan will start on US Rt 1 in Rising Sun, Maryland at 10:30am.  (Travel route at the end of this article.)  If you go, be sure to put something in your car windows identifying yourself as a raw milk freedom rider. If you need a place to stay or have questions contact: 

Part 2 - The Rally at the FDA

When they arrive at the FDA at noon, there will be speakers from across the country- some of the most important and famous proponents of raw milk.  The list of speakers is like a Who's Who in the raw milk movement:
(Note:  We weren't able to take pictures for this article and there wasn't time to get permission to use others, so the only option was to use YouTube videos.  They were chosen to give you a sense of who these speakers are.)

Joel Salatin is the author of You Can Farm and Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. He just released a new book - Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.  You may have seen him in the documentary Food Inc.  He and his family run the Polyface Farm in Riverheads, Virginia.

Mark McAfee is founder and CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy in California.  He has travelled to 15 states and 3 countries, advocating for raw milk.  In 2000, Organic Pastures, located near Fresno, became California's first raw milk dairy with certified organic pasture land.

David Gumphert wrote The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, which includes a preface by Joel Salatin.  At his blog ( he documents up-to-date developments in the movement and at his website, The Complete Patient he covers a wide range of health freedom issues.

Max Kane is a filmmaker and he just released the trailer for his new movie, Milk Men about his experiences defending food freedom on a cross country bike ride (below).   

Michael Schmidt is a Canadian farmer whose farm near Toronto (Glencolton) was raided by officials from the health department several times.  He fought back and finally triumphed but the story is frightening.  Sally Fallon tells it at her real milk website.

If you can't attend this event, Natural News Radio will have live coverage at  There will also be live streaming at

For more info contact Liz Reitzig at

By the way, if you have a high tolerance for frustration, check out the video below of Max Kane trying to report this upcoming illegal demonstration to the FDA.  It is apparently virtually impossible to report a violation to the FDA.

Travel Route:

Begin (A): US-1 S/Conowingo Rd.

    Head southwest on US-1 S/Conowingo Rd toward N Greenmont Rd (3.0 mi)
    Turn left onto MD-276/Jacob Tome Hwy Continue to follow MD-276 (0.5 mi)
    At the traffic circle, continue straight onto MD-276/Rising Sun Rd Continue to follow MD-276 (5.1 mi)
    Turn left onto MD-275 S/Perrylawn Dr Continue to follow Perrylawn Dr (2.5 mi)
    Turn left to merge onto I-95 S Partial toll road( 66.2 mi)
    Take exit 27 for I-495 W toward Silver Spring (0.9 mi)
    Merge onto I-495 (0.7 mi)
    Take exit 28A to merge onto MD-650 N/New Hampshire Ave toward White Oak N (1.4 mi)

End (B): 10903 New Hampshire Ave.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Tour of SideHill Farm in Ashfield, MA

Yogurt anyone?

Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippenstein have managed to build a successful yogurt business with 15 cows, 23 acres of leased grazing land and their own ingenuity.  They make and sell over 800 gallons of yogurt per week!  (

SideHill was one of the farms I toured as part of Raw Milk Dairy Days, sponsored by NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association).  It's tucked away in the woods of Ashfield, and you're only really sure you're there when you see the cute little white milk bottle sign:

This farm is very well known in our area because they sell their yogurt at all the local grocers and it's gooood!!!  There are 4 flavors- whole milk plain, lowfat plain, lowfat vanilla and whole milk maple (to die for).  At the farm stand, (open from March-December) they sell raw milk and cream, raw milk butter (sometimes), paneer, yogurt, and grass-fed beef.  

On the day of the tour, there were quite a few folks gathered to learn about the dairy and how it's run.

Amy greeted us and answered questions while we waited for the "stragglers."  She told us Paul was at the farmer's market, but he would join us later.

Some of the tour participants were thinking about starting their own farms.  Others brought their children to show them where dairy products come from.  Others were just curious to see how a dairy farm works.  It's always a treat when farmers open their dairies for tours.

Before we started, we couldn't help but notice their incredibly cool straw-bale house which they built themselves 10 years ago.  (Paul was in the straw bale construction business before he and Amy became farmers.)   To me, it looks like a fairy tale house (where the fairies are dairy farmers who work very hard!).

We walked down the road to a field where the calves were being kept.  This is just one of many fields they lease.  (All their land is leased.)  They are currently looking to buy a farm in the area where they can own their own land and have room to grow.

Then, we walked even further down the road to their unique make room.  That 18 wheeler trailer is a fully equipped, certified dairy!  When Paul floated the idea past the dairy inspector, she thought he had totally lost his mind.  But, now, if they move to a new location, they're all set.

The little trailer holds the bulk tank.  The milk is piped from the barn where the cows are milked.  Amy prepared the foot wash so we could go in and look around.

While we were filing in, Paul arrived and joined the tour.

The large trailer where the yogurt is made was closed and there was no way we could all safely tromp through it.  However, I asked Paul if I could take a few pictures so you could see the layout.  I took my shoes off and quickly snapped a few pictures:

The farm itself used to be a dairy farm.  Now, Paul and Amy rent space there for their trailers and their cows.  There was already a milking room in the barn when they first arrived.  Grain was poured into the large bins through the ceiling.  These days, that would not meet the regulations, so Paul and Amy patched up the ceiling and painted the walls.

From there, we trekked out to the field where the cows were grazing.  Most are Normandes with a few Jersey mixes.  They were very friendly and seemingly happy with their way of life.  (I'm sure they appreciate their gorgeous view of the hills around them.) 

That was the end, so we hiked back to the dairy and enjoyed some samples of their raw milk and fabulous yogurt.

I was struck by Paul and Amy's pioneering spirit - the way they started all this with nothing and have built a thriving business with 5 employees.  It's hard work, but they've persevered and now they're ready to buy a farm.  I think that's called "The American Whey." 

SideHill Farm
137 Beldingville Rd.
Ashfield, MA  01330