A Note from Eliza

Hello!

With the start of the new year came new ideas, new jobs, a lot of changes, and most importantly excitement. Our AWA partner dairies started supplying the Cheese Kitchen with oodles of fresh sheep’s milk, our wonderful Border Collie pups are getting older and going to their new homes, and breeding season has begun. The Cheese Kitchen has lots of exciting new products they are working on, but I’ll leave talking about that to them. This note is about what’s been happening with our animals.

On the farm these days we have been very busy! At the end of January, we spent a day taking a close look at all our sheep. We checked the condition of the ladies, especially our 10 oldest girls (one of whom is healthy and thriving at age 11, a very advanced age for a sheep). At the same time we separated the girls into our breeding groups. 35 special ladies were chosen to be part of the first Breeding Group, and at the end of the day we introduced our ram, Herbert, to this carefully selected flock. The rest of our ewes and the remaining lambs from last year, all went to a new paddock with the llamas to watch over them!

Herbert, the ram, has been a very busy boy for the past two weeks. Nearly all of the ewes in with him have been bred. You might be wondering “why this matters?”…well, it matters because we are going to have LAMBS at the end of JUNE! This year, we are hoping to introduce a new lambing-volunteer program so if you are interested, please stay tuned!

 

Grass in December…

It’s December and we still have grass! This simple fact may seem like an odd one to celebrate but we delight in the chance to keep our ladies out on grass a bit longer. Keeping our girls on grass for as long as possible during the winter months ensures that they get the best nutrition, and right now they are plump, woolly, and munching on brome, orchard grass, timothy, fescue, and a smattering of other grasses that fill our fields.

Why do we practice grass-based dairying? The nutrition present in grass keeps our ladies in peak condition year-round, particularly for our older girls who find it difficult to chew and digest hay. The milk from animals fed a grass-based diet has flavors and nutrition that directly affects our cheeses. We love that our cheeses change with the seasons and much of that is due to the grasses our sheep are eating.

In addition to the comfort and health of our animals and the flavors in their milk, grass-based dairying is more environmentally sustainable. Our grazing practices protect our soil ecosystem preventing soil erosion, protecting our water shed and trapping carbon in the soil. (For more about how carefully managed grazing can help with climate change go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxqBzrx9yIE). Our pastures nourish our sheep, add flavor to our milk and cheese and help sustain our community in many ways. And this is why we call our farm Green Dirt!

Hanukkah Latkes with Fresh Cheese

Hanukkah has begun! The time of year when candles are lit for 8 days, chocolate gelt is won with the spin of a dreidel, and Latkes are made. Latkes are the fried potato pancakes that are a Hanukkah staple. This year we did a little experiment in the kitchen, adding in some Green Dirt Farm Fresh cheese to our Latke recipe. The result was traditional Latkes with a little kick of extra flavor. Any flavor of Fresh cheese will work for this recipe, but we chose Garlic and Peppercorn.

Latkes made with Garlic & Peppercorn Fresh cheese.

This recipe has been adapted from Martha Stewart. To see the original, click here.

Ingredients:
4 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 small white onion, finely grated
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup beer
4 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 Tbsp coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. (1 tub) Green Dirt Farm Fresh Cheese
Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grate potatoes in long strips, using smooth strokes to run potatoes across grater into a large bowl of ice water. Using a strainer or slotted spoon, transfer potatoes, reserving liquid, to another large bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth; gently squeeze dry.

2. Set reserved liquid aside for 10 minutes to allow starch to sink to the bottom; carefully pour liquid from the bowl, reserving milky residue (potato starch) and discard. Transfer potatoes back to bowl with potato starch.

3. Add grated onion to bowl; stir in eggs, beer, 3 Tbsp of flour, salt, and pepper. Mix together using your fingers to mix in the ingredients. Add the Fresh cheese, thoroughly mix into the potatoes. Slowly add 1 Tbsp of flour a little bit at a time as you mix in the cheese.

4. Line a baking sheet with paper towels; set aside. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 1/4-inch of oil. Spoon 1 or 2 tbsp of potato mixture per pancake into a skillet. Make a few at a time, being careful they don’t run into each other.

5. Fry on both sides until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to prepared baking sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven while preparing the others.

If you do not keep kosher, we highly recommend frying your Latkes in goose or bacon fat (particularly if you have some leftover from Thanksgiving). Serve hot with applesauce, crème fraîche, or sour cream. Enjoy! Happy Hanukkah!