Local, continued

Finally, our supplier has found domestic garlic for us! Not local, not yet, but at least it’s not from China. How crazy is that, imported garlic from China?
This season, we have learned how to make rennet! Most people won’t really want to hear where it comes from: a kid’s stomach. Of course it makes a lot of sense that the very enzymes needed to separate curd from whey are found in the stomach. It also makes sense to use surplus kids (mostly the males who will NEVER be milkers on the farm) to harvest the stomachs to make rennet, and then roast the meat in celebration. Our friends John and Mary at Little Falls Farm, who taught the workshop where we learned this new skill, report that they are able to harvest exactly the amount of rennet they need for the year from the surplus kids they process from their herd. It just makes sense.
Meanwhile, we continue to experiment with vegetable-derived rennets. Unfortunately for us in Maine, the plants most used for rennet can’t grow here, but we can try. We’ve got some cardoon growing in the garden, and we will report back on how it works. All our experiments last summer with nettles were grand failures. Fig plants are also used, but also don’t grow here.
We are also experimenting with the most local of cheese packaging: beeswax. How cool is that? Renewable, recyclable, reusable, all natural, smells really good, and very subtlely flavors the cheese. And beautiful!
Now, we’re going to experiment with using kefir as a culture, so we would truly have a locally produced cheese from start to finish.
In love with local.

The Search for Local


We just got word that our olive oil is in. To back up a little in the story, we’ve been peeling back the layers of our cheese production, and attempting to source everything locally. The two especially difficult products to source have been olive oil (no olives in Maine, and not a lot of domestic olive oil) and interestingly, peeled garlic.
A happy meeting at a cheese class last year resulted in the discovery that one of our local caterers, a long-time friend and supporter of AC, Swan’s Way, imports her olive oil from friends in Italy. A couple of emails later, and we were in business! This year we doubled our order, and are eagerly anticipating our delivery of olive oil with a Story!
Stacey writes: “Lily Zanetti has been a friend of my family for 45 years. She began bottling her own olive oil about 17 years ago, made from the olives of 100 year-old trees on her property. Originally, she had the oil, which is processed in Lucignano, made for the enjoyment of her family and friends. But as she started getting more requests for the extra virgin olive oil, her oldest son Alex began to increase production and bottle the oil under the Villa la Piertraia label (Zanetti’s family villa in Lucignano). The villas and olive groves are situated on Zanetti’s family estate, just outside the 12th century town of Lucignano. Best known for its churches, art and Thursday food market, Lucignano is home to just 2,000 people. Located in Valdichiana region of Tuscany, Lucignano is nestled in rolling hills and is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Less than a half hour from the better-known towns of Siena, Arezzo and Montepulciano,  Lucignano is a  medieval walled city laid out in concentric rings radiating from the town square — the only town in Italy laid out in such a way.
I get a shipment once a year. I use the cans, with a milder but still fruity flavor, for all our basic cooking and some of our dressings. I use her bottled oil , which has a stronger flavor, for the oil I serve on the tables and certain other dressings that like having the olive oil have a dominant presence. And I use the oil  pressed directly from the olives in her front yard for the final finish on certain dishes. It has an intense fruit flavor with a strong bitter olive finish.
I have been in Lucignano and watched the olive harvest and the pressing. The bottled oils are still pressed under blankets and not with machines. After the pressing we went back to the contadina’s house (their resident farmer) and had homemade bread toasted in the fire, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with the just-pressed olive oil.”

Garlic remains another challenge. Apparently all the food service peeled garlic in this country is from China! How odd is that? Even the bulk garlic at the grocery store (if I had time to peel it) is from China. It comes with quaint brand names, like Hometown Garlic, but still…! This time of year, we go through probably 10 pounds of peeled garlic a week — not sure what that translates into for unpeeled garlic, but it’s a boatload. Sure would like to find local garlic. Hate the idea of lead in my cheese..