Moldy Goodness

Doesn’t mold sound yummy? I mean you can’t have a tasty treat without a healthy covering of mold am I right? Believe it or not, many cheese lovers would absolutely agree with the above statement! While it is usually a solid sign to throw out its host, there are many types of cheese where just the right type of mold is coaxed and encouraged to grow. In some cheeses (blue cheese anyone?) this ingredient is actually injected into the cheese to produce that unique and strong flavor. Pair-Blue

But first! A definition of what makes this mold different.

“The molds and micro flora used in cheese making are actually microscopic organisms that are safe to eat. They produce distinct aromas and flavors on their own, as well as through integration with the cheese. It is not unusual for multiple strains to be used in a single cheese. This is often done when a secondary organism creates or improves the environment for the primary organism.”
-James R. Leverentz, The Complete Idiots Guide to Cheese making

All cheese will grow mold if left alone long enough. The key is knowing if it is meant to be there or not! Soft cheeses like cream cheese, sour cream, or even our Paneer should be thrown away if you see any colorful spots. However, harder cheeses like cheddar or Gouda can be cleaned up and enjoyed. Simply cut away the outer quarter to half an inch, and use the remaining cheese within a week.

One popular type of cheese with a deliberate moldy rind is Camembert. The only cheese in our store we do not make in house is a Cirrus Camembert we bring in from Mt. Townsend Creamery. Come in and try it for yourself! As this cheese is aging, it is sprayed with a specific type of mold called Penicillium candidum. As it grows, the fuzzy white stuff is patted down periodically to create an edible rind covering the entire surface. The result is a cheese with a soft, mild center with a flavorful coating!

Camembert

Blue cheese is another popular cheese which uses mold as a key ingredient. This one is called Penicillium roqueforti. It is layered in with the curd as it’s being pressed into shape. Then, it’s activated by “spiking” (injecting) the cheese with air to expose the bacteria. This is what causes the little blue-green, flavor packed ribbons this type of cheese is named for!

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Chances are, if you just adore cheese, you will end up liking these types of cheeses eventually. In my younger years I didn’t care for anything with a strong flavor, especially anything with an older age. Now, I love older cheeses, especially over milder flavors.  If you are just beginning your cheese journey however, I would start with something a little milder before jumping into a full on aged blue. But hey, if you are a bold person, then go for it!

7 things you should know about our Squeaky Cheese!

If you are new to the land of cheese or are looking to get a loved one hooked,  you need to come in and try our Squeaky Cheese! Now, there is a chance you may not know what this noisy cheese is exactly, so I have compiled a list of a few things you really should know!

  1. Squeaky Cheese is a super fresh cheddar curd. When we make cheddar we separate a portion of it for squeaky cheese while the rest is pressed into rounds and aged for cheddar. 
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  2. Because of its freshness, it squeaks against your teeth when you eat it. This is how you can tell if your curd is truly fresh or not! 
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  3. We make it in two different flavors, plain, and garlic & dill!
  4. There are a few ways to enjoy your squeaky cheese, the most popular way (and easiest) is straight out of the cup! No slicing makes it the perfect low key, kid friendly, snack cheese.
  5. Personally, I think the best way to have squeaky cheese is battered and deep fried. Like a mozzarella stick, but SO much better! 
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  6. You can find this cheese in our store (of course!), all the Edaleen Dairy locations, as well as the Seattle Farmers Markets!
  7. For a few of the slower winter months we are on a bimonthly schedule, but for most of the year (including currently) we produce this treat every Thursday! If you really want to have squeaky cheese in its prime, pop into our store Thursdays after 4:00!

Once you know what it is and have tried it, you will not be able to live without it. I know because when you tell people the squeaky cheese is sold out, they melt into a puddle of misery. Okay, not quite, but it is pretty addicting! 😉

Rennet 101

In the process of my short-ish (10 years) cheese making career, I learned much from my excellent teachers. Unfortunately, I also learned a few lessons the hard way. I try to blame it on my hair color, but that doesn’t really fly. One of these difficult lessons was, if you mess up adding the coagulant (or forget it entirely…opps.) you don’t get cheese. You just get this unusable milky stuff that has to be dumped down the drain. I thank the Lord even now, for such a gracious and understanding Uncle/Boss who never gave me a harsh word and reassured me of the lessons I could learn in that situation. And so, welcome to Rennet 101! Class is officially in session!

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We use a microbial rennet for our Gouda, but some cheeses (such as our Paneer) use other kinds of coagulants. Basically something acidic to cause the milk to react and form little curds. Citric acid (lemon juice is common), vinegar (which is what we use for our Paneer), and tartaric acid are other options used in cheese making.

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When I made cheese in our plant, rennet was this syrupy brown substance (think a true maple syrup “that-came-out-way-too-fast” consistency, not so much Mrs. Butterworths slow-as-tar thickness) responsible for turning milk into curd. Exact down to the millimeter, we stir it into a squeaky clean, ultra sanitized bucket of water to dilute it into more of a light amber color. Then, with the paddles spinning furiously, we pour the rennet into the huge vat of milk. The rennet stirs for exactly 2 minutes and 20 seconds before we halt the paddles, and let the milk rest for half an hour. This is when it does its magic and everything from there on out is decently simple…as long as you got the rennet correct.

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This is my cousin Marlies, holding a Feta curd. She’s a good sport allowing me to plaster her beautiful face all over. 😉

This magic cheese making ingredient has four different types.

  1. Calf Rennet. Made from the (chymosin) enzymes found in a calf’s stomach lining, this is the original and most traditional type of rennet.
  2. Plant Rennet. This is where plants are soaked in water to extract a thickening enzyme similar to the one found in calves.
  3. Genetically Engineered Rennet. Since this one is a little more technical, here is a real definition of the process.

    “Chymosin chromosomes are extracted from an animal’s stomach cells then implanted into yeast cultures that act as a host. The host culture encourages the growth of new chymosin enzymes. The new chymosin enzymes are separated out and purified.”
    www.cheese.about.com

    Sounds pretty scientific doesn’t it?

  4. Microbial Rennet. Enzymes similar to chymosin (the one found in the stomach lining of a calf), can be found and extracted from some molds to produce this type of rennet. This is the rennet we use to create our fabulous cheeses!

*Side note, if you read “mold” and thought “ew.”, mold is actually a good thing and very common in the cheese world! Cheese making strictly uses molds which are safe to eat, and are used often to produce unique flavors and aromas.

Various rennets produce different results in cheeses, so you have to know how to work with them. They tend to be a little touchy, hence the rennet being the most exact bit of cheese making. In my mind at least!

Feta Dip

Feta Dip

Our neighbor Shyla has a secret garden at her house.  It’s a wondrous thing.  The entrance is by the driveway between massive rhododendron bushes.  You wouldn’t see it if you didn’t know it was there and when she invited me to it, there was a gargantuan spider guarding the entrance.  The spider sits just above eye level for me so I almost didn’t see it.  At the last moment, I performed an awkward and embarrassing dodging movement, but I successfully made it into the secret garden.  I have no doubt that my moves would have looked hilarious to anyone watching.

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Shyla grows vegetables in her secret garden, more than they can eat, so she shared her bounty with me.  She and her whole family are some of the most generous people I have ever met.  Living next to a dairy farm is not always pleasant.  We are noisy, we are messy, and we are smelly, but they shrug it off and bring over pounds of rhubarb and tomatoes.

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tomatoes

I served some of Shyla’s tomatoes with a Feta Dip and it was very popular.  I also picked up some carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, and kohlrabi from Small’s garden.  Vegetables fresh from the garden have wonderful flavor and the mellow dip compliments the flavors without overpowering them.

Feta Dip

Feta Dip

  • 1 cup Appel Farms Yogurt
  • 3 ounces Appel Farms Basil Tomato Feta (or flavor of your choice)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced

Combine and chill 1-2 hours before serving.  Can be made a day ahead.

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing

Buffalo Chicken Wings

I don’t know about you, but the cold crisp mornings here are so delightful to me.  I love the soft blanket of fog that covers the fields in the early morning.  I love the sun breaking through the fog in glorious rays.  I love the dew sparkling in the early morning sunshine.  I especially love the rain and I eagerly look forward to more.  I know I’m not alone:

It’s not simply the arrival of rain, but the transition to a different environment and way of life. The drear has a certain dark beauty; a low-contrast softness. There’s no need to squint or close the blinds. Even the sound of the rain on our house is music to my ears, a lullaby.  Excerpt from Ready for Rain: Why Seattleites Crave the End of Summer

Fall also makes me yearn for comfort foods and at our house, Buffalo Chicken Wings is in that category.  We pair them with a salad and homemade bread to make a meal.  I’ve been making them for some time now, but recently discovered Alton Brown’s recipe and I will never go back to the old way!  Alton Brown steams them before oven roasting and that keeps them moist and not as greasy.  This is why he is my hero!

For the dressing, I mixed my favorite blue cheese, Rogue River Caveman Blue, with our own yogurt.  I have been in love with Rogue River cheeses ever since we visited them a few years ago.

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Elizabeth roasting chicken wings

A tower of chicken wings

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Ingredients

  • 12 whole chicken wings
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place a 6-quart saucepan with a steamer basket and 1-inch of water in the bottom, over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

Remove the tips of the wings and discard or save for making stock. Using kitchen shears, or a knife, separate the wings at the joint. Place the wings into the steamer basket, cover, reduce the heat to medium and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings from the basket and carefully pat dry. Lay the wings out on a cooling rack set in a half sheet pan lined with paper towels and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Replace the paper towels with parchment paper. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the wings over and cook another 20 minutes or until meat is cooked through and the skin is golden brown.

While the chicken is roasting, melt the butter in a small bowl along with the garlic. Pour this along with hot sauce and salt into a bowl large enough to hold all of the chicken and stir to combine.

Remove the wings from the oven and transfer to the bowl and toss with the sauce. Serve warm.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, 2007

Blue Cheese Dressing

Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Appel Farms Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (I like Rogue River Smoky Blue)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne in a bowl until smooth. Gently stir in the blue cheese. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors develop.

Recipe adapted from Food Network

Raising a Farm Family.

My siblings and I learned to love farming at an early age. From riding on the tractor with our Dad to exploring the wooded areas and streams running through our farmland. Our world was full of bare feet, scraped knees, and coming home soaked to the bone (much to our mother’s dismay) because we were drawn to any type of water like magnets. In my opinion, a childhood like that is hard to beat. However, anyone who knows me even a little bit is already privilege to that information. I thought we could let my dad do a little bit of the talking, starting with what it was like to raise a “Farm Family”. 

Young Family
  My parents were married at a fairly young age, and had my brother Chris about a year after they were married. In this photo they’re probably in their early and mid twenties. My age! I can’t imagine raising a family being so young while also owning a farm!

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What was it like raising a family on a farm?

“It was awesome, because I was always home! When we (John and Rich) were younger we did all our own milking, so I would get up early and go out to the barn. By 8:00 we had been up for 4 hours working, so I’d coming in about then for breakfast. My family would just be getting rolling, so lots of times I would just make breakfast for everybody and kind of get everyone together. We would have breakfast together and I could go back out to work before coming in for lunch. Later in the afternoon I would work until after the evening milking (about 7:00), and then we could have supper together. It was a busy life, but it was pretty structured, and we were able to be around all the time. A lot of the time after breakfast in the morning, I’d take at least one or two of the kids with me. We would ride in the pickup or they could just hang around with me. We did a lot of that, and it was nice to be able to give mom a break with four little kids.”

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“One of the beautiful things about growing up on a farm is being able to go out and play in the barn, build hay forts, jump off things, and just be able to run around. Then seeing my kids enjoy the same things. The same little creeks that I thought were so big and wonderful to explore. When I got older they were not nearly as big, but then they were to my kids. They were the same mystery to each generation, to each little kid, to explore. It was all brand new, all over again! I would hear the kids talk about certain spots on the creek that were really cool and I remember when we discovered those spots as kids.”

                                                                                               -Rich Appel, 2015

 As soon as Dad mentioned us finding cool spots along the creek, I smiled. I knew exactly the spots he was referring too. Even though plants grow and the creek beds have shifted, that massive tree (you could have a picnic up there) is still there.

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An extra mucky part of the creek bed (now home to several lost boots) is probably still there…though I’m not going to risk making sure! While exploring will always be a treasured memory, if we’re being honest, being able to hang out with our parents regularly was vital in shaping who we are as individual adults. Our family is no where near perfect, but our roots run deep. For some reason, we always come back to the farm and the farmers who make it home. Plus, the “family discount” on our cheese is hard to beat.

Rainy Days

Watching the rain come down brings joy to my heart. I think we all can agree it’s been a little toasty this summer and many of us Washingtonians are really missing our famous rains. The rain signals summertime coming to an end and promises the return of the crisp air and foggy mornings of fall.

I absolutely love being curled up with a fuzzy blanket on the couch, hot drink in hand, just watching the rain come down. The more the better!

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Better-Mug-Handle

Every once in a while it can be fun to go outside when the rain is especially intense, just to be in awe of the power of creation. For a little fun, puddle jumping is the best. Even as adults! All this rain also makes one especially glad they have a warm home to run into when the chill starts to set in. More often than not rain is better enjoyed when inside, where it’s warm and dry!

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Now, I may have a different story if I actually worked in the rain on a regular basis. I have memories of my dad coming in for breakfast after finishing the early morning chores in the freezing down pour of our winter rains. It’s not unusual to see those working on the farm rock a fashionable green or yellow plastic poncho along with their daily grey rubber boots. Even after peeling off this ensemble, my dad would have to change into fully dry clothes before having breakfast and then heading back out.

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Guaranteed, they have envied the warm, dry workplaces during the rainy season, but that doesn’t stop them from going out and doing what they love.

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Rain means extra care is taken to ensure everything in our barns is in tip top shape to keep the cows comfortable. No cow is allowed to get wet, muddy, or cold. Even if the farmers are consistently all of these things.

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This is one of the many reasons our farm simply cannot become certified organic. To become a “Certified Organic” farm, our cows would have to have year round access to a pasture. If our cows were in the pasture during the rainy season (which to be honest, is a good chunk of our months), they would be up to their knees in mud. In other (higher, dryer) areas, pastures are lovely! Unfortunately the rain that keeps our state so beautifully green makes it a tad difficult, for us personally, to keep the cows in pasture all year long. With our specific piece of land, it’s just too wet!

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Next time you run through a rainy parking lot into the grocery store to grab a gallon of milk for your weekend cereal, remember the farmers who are working in that same downpour. Rest assured, they make sure our herds are tucked safely away. Cozy as can be with their favorite snacks, watching the rain come down from their warm, dry, and clean stalls.

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Blackberry Pickin’

When I moved out of the old farmhouse to start a new life as a newlywed, I knew I would miss my family a little, but I had no idea how much I would miss the farm itself. Even though I still work for the farm, with the store on the end of the road I don’t often make the time to go past it. Too busy running from one place to the next! No longer is it a daily occurrence to see the old grey barn or bunkers filled with silage. When I do make it back to the farm it’s to spend some time by myself walking the dirt roads that weave around cornfields all the way down to the riverside.

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These walks never fail to show me just how fast everything changes on a farm. The corn this summer has shot up so fast! Though time continues to evolve the farm into a place where details begin to blur, every step of the land is full of memories.

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Rounding the corner of the bunkers at the edge of the barns is where you can overlook the land almost to the river. I can almost hear the laughter of my siblings as we run through the fields, the irrigation soaking our blonde heads. Over there is the little pond where the blue herons like to hang out. The creek flowing from that little pond is the best to play in, it even has a deep area where only the big kids could swim. Sometimes you could even catch a crawdad near the rocks!

All the way down to the river at the edge of the farm, stories come back to me. Different stories every day, triggered by a certain tree or a type of plant. Yesterday as I was nearing the river bar, I noticed the air was permeated with the scent of blackberries! Even something as simple as a scent brings back memories of summer days.

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Though most of them need a little more time, I managed to find a few to sample among the giant bushes growing wild. Though a little smaller this year due to the heat, they are still filled with the same sweet juice that tends to stain your hands instantly.

Berries

If anyone has picked blackberries before, they know the bushes these sweet little bundles grow on are absolutely loathe to give them up! The berries are a favorite summer time treat, but if you’re not cautious (and even if you are!), you may end up with some scratches and thorns stuck in you! Even though I was very careful about reaching around the thorns yesterday, I wasn’t watching my legs closely enough and ended up drawing blood! Violent little bushes.Bush

Thornes

When we were kids, blackberry season was always a highlight of the summer. My memories are so full of riding in loader buckets and competitions to find the biggest berry, I don’t even remember ever getting pricked by the thorns. I don’t remember being stung by the stinging needles that tended to intertwine themselves in the underbrush where our dirt covered feet would land. Farms are more than lots of fields and cows, they are the keepers of childhoods and the birthplace of amazing memories. A very important part of our heritage as Americans we should treasure deeply. Plus, you know, farms feed us and all that good stuff 😉

The Marlies Method of Cheesemaking: Feta Edition.

Since I (Elizabeth) will be camping at the time this posts, I have invited my cousin Marlies to write a guest post! She is much like her mother in being a passionate foodie with a whole lotta sass, but in her father’s environment of the cheese room!

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From left to right, my cousin Marlies Appel, myself, and my little sister Katherine Appel. I had to run back to the plant to help out for a little bit, it’s not very often all three of us get to work together anymore!

The Marlies Method of Cheesemaking: Feta Edition.

Step 1: Wash those grubby hands. I know you probably licked your fingers after you ate that cookie for breakfast, you animal. Or was that just me?

Step 2: Sanitize your arms up past your elbows, even though you are only really going to use your hands. It never hurts to be prepared for a cheese emergency. You never know when you are gonna have to go all in.

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Step 3: ALL THE MILK. LOTS AND LOTS OF MILK WOW. And take a moment to appreciate all the work it takes to get that beautiful delicious milk. Cheesemaking doesn’t start with the cheesemakers. Cheesemaking starts with all the farmers, nutritionists and milkers that work so hard to have happy, healthy dairy cows. You’ve got a few minutes to think about it because it takes a while to fill up that vat- WOW SO MUCH MILK.

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Step 4: Resist temptation to jump into vat of milk. That part is hard.

Step 5: Add the stuffs that turns it into goopy goop. Let it do its thing. Don’t hover. Give it some space.

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Step 6: Have some coffee, and admire your goop. That is some nice goop. #coagulationadmiration

Step 7: Turn on the scary rotating knives, and then KEEP FAR AWAY. THESE BLADES STOP FOR NOTHING AND NO ONE. Particularly when checking temperatures with your handy dandy cheese thermometer, you must be vigilant. The last thing you want is to get your hand slammed and jammed in between the knife and the side of the vat.

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Step 8: Drain off some of the whey. Whey away. You don’t want so much whey in your squish squish.

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Step 9: Scoop the goop into the forms. These dope little forms have holes and are fitted with some nifty little cloths that allow the whey to just flow out. It’s literally magic. Feta curd is more jelloish, and it uses its own weight against itself to squish the whey out. Seems like it makes the process easier right? GUESS AGAIN. This basically means you fill the form, and then you have to top it off with extra curd approximately 3,209,183 more times while it settles and drains and drains and settles. It takes its own sweet time too, so I hope you aren’t in a rush.

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Step 10: Have some more coffee. All that draining and scooping can be tiring, so you earned it.

Step 11: Flip the cheese in the forms at some extremely inconvenient time, probably at night. Preferably sometime before Fresh Prince of Bel Air comes on though.

Step 12: (Next day.) Now that the feta is solid, you can pull those awkwardly large blocks out of their forms and put it in the illogically small brine tank. Stack stuff on top of them so they don’t float. It’s like Dead Sea salt content times infinity in there. You could put a cement truck in it and it would probably float. You want the feta submerged so it gets evenly salty salty. No one likes bland spots in their feta, you don’t want that kind of pressure on you.

Step 13: Take it out, bag it up. Seal it, and wheel it out. Let it hang out in the cooler for a while to make sure all that happy salt incorporates in to the center.

That’s all folks. See? Totally simple.11749589_10205436175437578_17631799_n

There is a corner in my heart labeled “Gouda”.

Gouda has become a central part of my life over the years. I grew up nibbling wedges and when I was older, made it daily. We make a variety of flavors of Gouda. From traditional Mild to spicy Jalapeno, from the bold Black Pepper to subtle Sweet Red Pepper. Our wide variety of this creamy cheese makes it easy for us to find a good fit for almost anyone… after some sampling of course! This cheese has been in our family for years, and though we have a wide variety now, it had a much simpler beginning.

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My Pake’s absolute dream while growing up was to be a farmer. I doubt the thought of being a cheese maker even entered his mind! Born in 1927, Jack Appel was the eldest son of the local milk man. However, it was hard to pursue his farming dreams during the occupation of Holland in WWII.  Civilians were commonly drafted into forced labor so my Grandfather spent much of his teen years staying out of sight from any German soldiers. Hardly the time to find a farming job!

After the liberation of the Netherlands, Paka found a job with a local farmer where he worked and learned the basics of farming. A few years later, at age 19, he moved to France to assist another farmer. It was this farmer who also made cheese 6 days a week, so part of my Grandfather’s job was to assist with this process as well. It was here he first developed the cheese making skills he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

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Jack immigrated to America in 1950 where he knew he would have a better chance of being a farmer than in Holland. In 1958, after marrying his wife Audrey in 1957, the new couple made the big move to Washington State. Eventually he realized his dream by purchasing a farm here in Ferndale, in March of 1967. This is the same farm he and his wife raised their five children on, three of whom are still involved in the daily running of it!

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This is Jessie cutting the pressed Gouda curd into blocks which will in turn be pressed into wheels. Yes, Gouda rounds start out as squares!

Although farming had always been his dream job, Jack continued to make cheese as gifts for his friends and family. It wasn’t until he had sold the farm to his sons and was very much encouraged by those who had tried his cheese that he started to develop his hobby into a business. I suspect he had too much time on his hands… it’s hard to tell a farmer to stop working! Eventually his sons bought this part of the farm as well and have continued to build upon the foundation laid by their father.

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This is one of our brine tank racks full of yummy cheese ready to be submerged! At the end of the day, our Gouda goes directly from the presses to these racks and into the brine tank. After a few days, they are then transferred to the aging room.

If you ask me which Gouda’s are my favorite I would point out the Aged and the Cumin. Many of my cousins would probably say the same. Why? Because they are the ones that remind me the most of my Pake. The Aged is traditionally drier with a bite only known to lovers of aged cheeses. It’s also the only cheese we still seal with a traditional rind coating. The Cumin has a little more of a nutty flavor from the tiny seeds speckling the finish. These two are my favorites due to growing up on the excellent flavors, but also because they were first handcrafted by a man whom I will always remember with great love and respect.

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Someone asked me about a cheese with little “thingies” in it. Turns out they were referring to the Cumin Gouda!