Why it pays to listen.

Part of the fun of marrying into the family business is the variety of jobs that I have had over the years.  In the last twenty or so years I have done pretty much every job imaginable.  I have packed boxes, baled Quark, made deliveries, done the bookkeeping and payroll, plus marketing and sales.  One of my jobs back in the late 90’s, was to manage our booth at the farmer’s market in Bellingham.

The farmer’s market in Bellingham opened in 1993 and I shared the task of manning our booth.  It was tiring work but I loved the camaraderie of the farmers. I loved the hot summer air rising from the blacktop parking lot.  I loved the sounds of laughter and smells of food around me.  The best thing that I got out of those days at the farmer’s market was from simply listening.  I listened to the customers, what they wanted, what they needed, and what we could do for them.  Those conversations and many more like it helped to shape our business and how we serve our customers today.

Jerry
Jerry is one of our wonderful customers who help to shape our business.

Feta was pretty exotic to most of the people I met at the Farmer’s Market back then.  That seems so surprising with how mainstream it is now.  Some shoppers had heard of it but most had never tried it.  At that time, “cheese” meant orange cheddar, even white cheddar was a tough sell.  Shoppers were hesitant to try new cheeses, and they weren’t sure how to react to feta’s rich, briny flavor and crumbly texture. Introducing people to a new cheese back then was pretty challenging but so much fun!

Feta
Feta

The latest trend in feta around here is matching it with fruit.  Feta and watermelon is fabulous!  Here is a favorite summer salad that pairs feta with strawberries.  Strawberry season here is coming to an end, but lots of places have ever-bearing varieties.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 16 ounces strawberries, washed, hulled and slices
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1 cup nuts, chopped and toasted (I used walnuts here. Pecans also work well, but my favorite is slivered almonds)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette

I would feel really silly telling you how to make a salad, so I will leave that part to your imagination.

Making salad at The Cheese Shop
This is what happens when put my daughter in charge of the photos.

My earliest memories of Pake include him teaching me how to perfectly peel an orange, the new pink (!) barn boots he would bring me when mine where about to give way, and the way he would sing, all day everyday. My Grandfather loved to farm, it was his lifelong dream and he achieved it!

As Dutch immigrants, my dad’s parents often had challenges to deal with, Pakabut you would never know from the way they would talk about their lives. The first thing they would tell you is how absolutely blessed they have been, and nothing happens without the will of God. Now I want you to imagine this. Walking out to the milking parlor as the early morning light washes over Mt. Baker. Pausing as you hear a baritone voice joyfully singing hymns to the Lord. This was not someone singing to themselves quietly, but a clear, booming voice you could hear from across the yard! Seriously! My Aunt Ruth will tell you she used to open her windows in the morning so she could listen! Can you tell this is someone who loves his life and his Lord with all his heart? To this day, Pake is remembered for his gentle, but strong, personality, ready smile, and his beautiful voice. However, if you ask someone who knew him, they will tell you about his incredible faith and the impact his wisdom had in their lives. A real legacy.

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I’ve always been a “daddy’s little girl”, but as I grew older, married, and moved out, I’ve started to recognize the similarities between my Dad and Uncle and their father. They love to farm! These brothers will happily talk about cows, land, and future projects for hours. They would love nothing better than to sit on a tractor all day. They both have beautiful voices and sing as often as they breathe! But more importantly is how seriously they take their relationships with the Lord. These are a couple farming brothers who are daily living examples of grace, humility, and honesty to those around them. To me, they have become invaluable sources of wisdom as I contemplate the future and the choices it holds.

These are the foundations we have built our farm, cheese plant, and now the store around. A legacy set in place before my generation was even born. We are truly stewards of everything God has given us! Everything from our families, to the land, and the cows, are blessings and we are going to take the best possible care of them we can. It’s our responsibility!

Katherine

Barn Boots and Ice Cream

There are different types of women. There are put-on-a-skirt-and-go-to-work women and there are put-on-jeans-and-work-at-home women.  On the farm there is a third option, the put-on-barn-boots-and-jump-on-a-tractor women.  Then there are women like me who play childish pranks on her husband, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Judy Velthuizen is the barn boots type.  She would feed the cows in the morning then slip out of her boots, tie on an apron, and lay out an impressive buffet for her hungry family who have been out working with her. It was also common to feed a crew of workers and neighbors who came to help with putting up hay. Hay harvest days are sweaty, dusty, back-straining days that built hearty appetites. Judy took it in stride. I was young and single when I met Judy and I can’t tell you how impressed I was with how she could juggle home and farm work with ease and humor. I had no idea at the time that I too would be a farm wife someday, I hope I am living up to her standard.

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Judy first introduced me to the wonders of ice cream pie at a potluck in the late 1980’s.  I thought it was genius! Two great desserts in one!  That pie was made with a rice cereal and corn syrup crust and lots of chocolate syrup drizzled on top. My pie is a little different and uses my favorite of our new ice cream flavors: Salted Caramel.  I hope it serves as an homage to Judy’s creation.

Caramel Apple Ice Cream Pie

  • 1 graham cracker crust
  • 2 cups finely chopped peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 quart Appel Farms Salted Caramel Ice Cream
  • Candied Pecans (optional)

Melt butter in a small skillet.  Add sugars, cinnamon, and salt, then stir in the apples and pecans.  Saute until apples are tender, about ten minutes depending on the apple variety. Cool completely.
Soften the ice cream enough to make it easy to work with.  Layer one pint of ice cream in the pie crust.  Spread with the apple filling, then top with the rest of the ice cream.  Freeze until solid.
Thaw slightly to serve. Top with candied pecans if desired.

Candied Pecans

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Add the sugar and salt and heat until the sugar melts.  Add the pecans and saute for five minutes.  Spread on a parchment covered sheet pan to cool.

Caramel Apple Ice Cream Pie

8 Reasons Why Summer is Better on a Farm

Summer time is always better on a farm. Even a girly girl can go tromping through the woods sometimes!

  1. Bare feet! Shoes out, calluses in! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE shoes, but this is a freedom that can’t be beat. A regular washing of the feet was required before we were able to come back into the house, but it was worth it.
  2. “Down below”. This is how everyone refers to the area past the barns.
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    Fields, a forest, creeks, sand pit, the river- if any fun was to be had it was here. Running around building tree forts, swimming in the natural ponds along the creek, summertime was spent wild a free with out a worry in the world. This was also the best way to guarantee we wouldn’t wake my dad up from his afternoon nap. Four rowdy kids and their neighborhood friends do not mix well with a daily 3am wake up call.
  3. The “Boom”. With summer comes irrigation. With the irrigation comes a massive sprinkler we fondly called “The Boom”. Nothing beats a hot day better than running through a grass field getting soaked by a huge stream of water being shot over your head!
  4. A creek! Once in a while I would be really brave and join my brothers exploring. Something that was always sure to be a day of adventure was following the stream from the farm to the river. We would come home with scrapes from blackberry bushes, stinging nettle bumps, smelling of skunk cabbage, covered in muck, but with the biggest smiles on our faces and stories to tell. *Side note, shoes are typically not a good idea when attempting this. I can’t tell you how many shoes/boots were sucked off our feet never to be seen again!*
  5. A river bar. Now we weren’t allowed to go down here by ourselves until we were older, but the private “beach” next to a beautiful (icy cold) river quickly became the older kids hangout. HayI can’t tell you how many summer nights were spent gathered around a bonfire. Country life at it’s best.
  6. A haymow. Did you know you can make the absolute coolest forts ever in a haymow? Some of the bales were too big for us to maneuver, but the smaller, lighter, straw bales made great tunnels, rooms, and walls! I can’t tell you how many things I would smuggle up there to outfit my “house”.
  7. Other Farm Kids! We were blessed to grow up with multiple cousins around at all times. However, our family was much larger than biological. BoysOur farm in next door to the Smit Family farm, and like us, the family had moved into the area to farm and would pass their livelihood from one generation to the next. Therefore, not only did these kids have one farm to run around on, but two! Multiple generations of these families grew up (playing and working) together on the combined biggest playground ever! 
  8. These. icecreamsandwich-15 I’m going to cheat a little bit for this one! We didn’t have these growing up (with the exceptions of some church fundraisers), but we have them now!! Nothing says “summer on the farm” like one of these babies. And yes, I am addicted already.

If you asked my parents how it was raising kids on a farm they may tell you about the constant dirt and random animals we would bring into the house. But they would also tell you how it was the best possible thing for their kids to grow up in an area where their imaginations could run as wild as their feet. Some may think farmers don’t appreciate the land as much as they should, but I can tell you this. My family loves the land they have been entrusted with. Generations have grown up here learning respect for nature and the way it works. It was the best childhood you could ask for. Honestly, if we didn’t respect the land enough to take care of it in the best way possible, it would never last long enough for future generations to explore. We wholeheartedly believe God has blessed us beyond what we deserve, and because of that we have an even bigger responsibility to manage those blessings properly.

Relay for Life Fundraiser!

Come visit our booth and support a great cause next weekend! It’s no secret cheese and wine make a great pairing, so this event is bound to be a smashing success. Not to mention all the yummy appetizers to fill up on, check out the vendor list in the flyer! All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society! If you would like to visit the website to learn more about this awesome organization click here.

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I think we all know someone who has been touched by cancer. While it is indeed a horrible thing, I can honestly say it is amazing to see so many individuals, families, and businesses come together to raise funds and awareness through such a fun event! We live in a great community and Appel Farms Cheese is proud to participate!

Why you should get your local strawberries right now!

The beginning of summer for me is heralded by Boxx Berry Farm opening their doors.  When I was growing up, the only time I ever set foot on a farm was our annual trip to Yelm to pick strawberries for mom’s freezer jam.  I have fond memories of grimy knees, stained fingers, and the heady smell of berries warm from the summer sun.  I may have met the farmer that owned those fields, but I don’t remember him/her. I did hear stories of farmers: their hardworking life, patience, and general steady character.  Being constantly around farmers now, I have come to take these traits for granted, but it was brought home to me again as I visited Boxx Berry Farm the other day.  I parked out front and wandered through the patchwork quilt of fruit and vegetable fields, with dust from the road swirling around my ankles.

Alyssa working at the upick stand
The yield this year is small, but the berries are large, juicy, and sweet.

The u-pick stand was manned by Alyssa, the daughter of Roger and Vonda Boxx.  It’s been a delight to see her grow from the skinny little thing running around the farm to the beautiful woman she is now.  Roger paused in his own labors to greet me and we gazed down the rows of strawberry plants.  I asked him how it was going and he confessed that it’s a disappointing year.  They are expecting less than half their usual yield of strawberries.  The winter, though mild, was harsh on the strawberry plants.  But farmers are a stoic breed, he brushed the worry aside like brushing the dust from his shoes and shrugged, “there’s always next year.”

Because the harvest will be small this year, I am relishing each and every berry.  There’s nothing like the imminent danger of paucity to make you cherish what you can get, don’t you think?  I made freezer jam on Monday, just like mom’s, and today we are having Panna Cotta.  My son describes Panna Cotta as offspring from the marriage of gelatin dessert and ice cream.  Panna Cotta is light, creamy, and easy to make but looks absolutely elegant.

Panna Cotta

Strawberry Quark Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Blend quark, strawberries, seeds from the vanilla bean, and sugar in a food processor until smooth.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the strawberry/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses, the number of glasses depends on their size and if you are doing layers or all one flavor.  For two layers, I like to tilt the glasses in a muffin tin (use crumpled paper towel to keep the glasses from sliding around) for the first layer then set the glasses straight for the second layer.  Allow to set for 4-6 hours before adding second layer.

Elizabeth cutting strawberries

Vanilla Quark Panna Cotta

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Stir together the quark and seeds from the vanilla bean, set aside.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the vanilla/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses or carefully pour on top of the first layer.  Chill 4-6 hours before serving.

One thing that is tricky when cooking with yogurt is sauces.  Yogurt adds a rich, luscious tang but can be frustrating if not added properly.  Yogurt will separate if heated too quickly or at too high a temperature so proper tempering is essential.  My favorite sauce is a yogurt gravy that I serve with roast chicken and mashed potatoes.

Creamy Yogurt Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons pan drippings
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 cup Appel Farms yogurt at room temperature (or substitute plain greek yogurt)

Put 2 tablespoons drippings in a small saucepan. Stir in the flour. cook, stirring until golden.  Add water and bouillon cube.  Cook until thickened.  Remove from heat.  Spoon 1/3 of the roux into the yogurt and whisk.  Pour the mixture into the pan and heat to serving temperature.

Lemon Roast Chicken

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 roasting chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 1 small lemon wedge
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a small bowl, beat oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Brush entire chicken including cavety with the lemon marinade.  Place celery and lemon wedge in cavity.  Place chicken in a shallow baking pan.  Pour water into pan.  Roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, baste chicken occasionally with pan drippings.  Chicken will be done when the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 165 degrees F.  Serve with Creamy Gravy.
Recipe from Yogurt Cookery (another favorite book) published 1978 by Sophie Kay

One of my Cheese Shop customers gave me this recipe a few years ago.  It’s a quick and simple recipe that is always a hit at parties.

Easy Feta Dip

Ingredients
(The amounts vary depending on the size of your serving plate)

olive oil
approximately 1 pound of Appel Farms Feta
2-3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch of green onions, sliced thin
Cavender’s Greek Seasoning*

Cover the serving platter with a thin layer of olive oil.  Spread the tomatoes, onions, and feta over the oil and sprinkle the Greek seasoning on top (I used about 2 teaspoons).  Gently mix and serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

*or substitute your favorite blend of herbs

Fruit and cheese are a perfect pairing.  This is a tried and true recipe to bring those lovely flavors together.  This pie is wonderful served at holidays or for a family treat, they will be begging for more!

Cheddar Cheese Crust

12 ounces (approximately 2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoon sugar
4 ounces Appel Farms sharp cheddar, grated
4 ounces shortening (frozen in one ounce pieces)
4 ounces butter (frozen in one ounce pieces)
4 ounces cold water

Mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, cheddar, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the frozen shortening and toss them with the flour mixture.  Use your fingers to rub the shortening into the flour mixture.  Cut in the butter until you have created a mixture of almond and pea size pieces.  Drizzle the water over the flour mixture.  Mix with a fork.

Dump the mixture on the counter. Gather the crumbs into a mass of dough.  If the mixture is still dry, add more water a tablespoonful at a time, sprinkling it over the dough.

Gently knead the dough two or three times, just to combine.

Gather the dough into a circle and cut in half with a bench scraper. Form each half into a disk.  Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Filling

6 medium apples* peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse sugar crystals **optional**

Mix the sugars, flour, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a small bowl.

Place the apples in a large bowl with the sugar mixture and orange juice and toss gently.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Assembly

Preheat oven to 450.  Roll out one of the dough disks to make a bottom crust and place it in a 9 inch pie pan.  Pile the filling into the crust and arrange the apple slices so there are no large gaps.  Roll out the second disk for the top crust.  Lay it over the filling and cut off the excess crust around the edges.  Fold the crust over and crimp the edges.  Cut vent holes in the top crust to allow steam to escape.  Brush the crust with cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.

Place the pie pan on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for approximately 45 minutes.  Tent the pie with foil to prevent the crust from overbrowning and bake until the filling is bubbly, about 45 more minutes.  Allow to cool for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

*I like to change up the filling with different local varieties.  Apples are not in season right now so we used 3 Golden Delicious and 3 Braeburn.