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The Midlife Foodie

The Midlife Foodie

I love real, whole food, the stories about it, the people who produce it, the places it comes from and the way it brings people together. I am a food writer and educator (I also do copywriting on the side), I mother three millennials, I practice yoga and meditation, and, yes, cook a lot.
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Most recent posting below. See other blog postings in the column to the right.

A Cheesemaker's Guide for A Cheese Plate

Bobolink cheeses - yum

 

Holiday gathering season seems to get longer every year, now spilling over to January.

But Holiday food doesn't always carry over so well. Post-Holiday gatherings are best accompanied by upscale nibbles, such good cheese, and good wine.

Assembling an artisanal cheese plate is more complicated than slapping together some nameless cheeses from the grocery store.  Think Manolo Blahniks as opposed to Payless Shoes. But with one notable difference - artisanal cheeses are affordable and edible.

Follow these steps:

First, find cheeses that have a story. A real cheese is the convergence of tradition, history, landscape, and a human story. So buy your cheeses from sellers who care. In our area, that entails artisanal food stores like Olsson's Fine Foods in Palmer Square, or Brick Farm Market in Hopewell. Or local dairy farms like Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse.

Once you got to the right place, there are some rules to follow.

1. Go for variety with some unified principle. Get cheeses with different flavor profiles and textures for variety. Then find something that unifies them. Be it the country of origin, kind of milk, an individual farm. The latter is optional but creates a more harmonious cheese experience.

 

2. Tell the story. Chat with your cheesemonger (or with Google), get to know where your cheeses are coming from and how they are made. You will often find cool stories to go with (maybe the most famous of all is that of the Roquefort. Google it!) Make little signs for each cheese that describe the cheeses provenance, type of milk, age, and little tidbits you've found.

 

3. Now it is time to set up the cheese plate, and there are many ways to do this. I asked Nina and Jonathan White of Bobolink, who make incredible cheeses for tips. Being cheesemakers who also grow the cows, they started from the very beginning. But you can jump to step four ;)

4. Tips from Nina and John White at their farm, Bobolink Dairy.

 

  • - Create a natural setting for old-breed animals to graze and live their lives without stress.

 

  • - Milk them once a day, allowing the natural beneficial microbes to ferment the milk to make the cheese.

 

  • - Age the cheese gracefully, without adding enzymes, seasoning, etc. Let the soil express itself through grass, cows and fermentation!

 

  • - A cheese plate should include good butter, simple rustic bread, and three or more cheeses of different ages and profiles.

 

  • - Accompany with dried figs, dates, dark apricots (not the bright orange "embalmed" ones!), and any fruit IN SEASON.  In winter in the Northeast, this means winter pears, apples, or pomegranate.

 

  • - We love serving a dark honey with aged cheeses. Either an Italian chestnut honey, NY State buckwheat honey, or Tasmanian Leatherwood honey. These are Nina's faves!

 

  • - Enjoy and Happy New Year!

 

  • - For more information about Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse cheeses, bread, and where to buy them, please visit their website. For more food stories, please visit my website.

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