11.8.11 Consider This
photos by george billard and gluttonforlife
This past weekend's journey upstate toward the Vermont border yielded not only a lesson in black Angus cattle, but two gallons of raw cow's milk, some irresistible cider donuts and a couple of award-winning cheeses from the very beautiful Consider Bardwell Farm. (Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember a mention
of their cheeses way back when.) The 300-acre farm was founded in 1864 by the fortuitously named Consider Stebbins Bardwell, and became the the first cheese-making co-op in Vermont. Now owned by Angela Miller, literary agent to some of our most beloved culinary writers; her British husband, architect Russell Glover; Chris Gray; and master cheesemaker Peter Dixon, Consider Bardwell Farm makes cheese with the milk from its own herd of 100 Oberhasli (Swiss Alpine) goats and from neighboring farmer Lisa Kaimen's herd of 30 Jersey cows. Rotational grazing on pesticide- and fertilizer-free pastures guarantees sweet, nutrient-rich milk that is also antibiotic- and hormone-free. The farm's 6 cheeses are made by hand in small batches and aged on the grounds. No surprise, then, that they have repeatedly won awards at important cheese competitions here and abroad. All this to say, emphatically, Consider Bardwell's cheeses are divine.
The red-brick farmhouse, seen at the top, and a few outlying buildings are from the original farm and exude New England charm, especially against the backdrop of a perfect fall day.
Oberhaslis, still relatively uncommon in this country, are a lovely russet color with upright ears. Sadly, these did not come running to the fence as do the kids at River Brook Farm
every farm needs at least one dog: this is maynard
We were lucky to find Angela herself manning the farm's little café where we ate butternut squash soup, homemade cookies and, of course, cheese from the farm. It was a cozy room with a roaring fire, a comfortable couch and a stack of books by Angela's authors, including Mark Bittman
, Eugenia Bone
and Hank Shaw
. She divides her time between Vermont and New York City, the energy of each place fueling her endeavors in the other.
Angela is herself a published author, having written a memoir
about how she came to run Consider Bardwell. I'll have to read it to see if she shares her secret for successfully managing to be in two places at once.
I brought home one goat's milk cheese and one cow's milk, both of which I had enjoyed before thanks to Lucy's Whey
, the cheese store I frequent in Chelsea Market. I love the red illustrations of the animals on the wrappers to distinguish the different types.
Equinox is an aged goat cheese that riffs on classic Italian hard cheeses like pecorino and piave. It has a sweet, herbaceous quality and is not at all chalky. I like it grated over hot pasta and it also goes very well with my spicy tomato jam
Pawlet, named for a nearby Vermont town, is a toma made from raw Jersey cow's milk and aged just 4-6 months. It is creamy, almost unctuous, and has a pleasingly bright, grassy flavor. It makes a great grilled cheese, but also pairs well with a tart apple. Pawlet has twice been named a winner by the American Cheese Society, and most recently got the nod at the World Cheese Championship in the UK. Learn more about the farm's cheeses and find out where they're sold in your area on their website
; and or go here
to purchase them online. You can also enjoy them across the country at such bastions of fine dining as The French Laundry, Daniel, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Gramercy Tavern.
my favorite kind of board game
I love cheese. If there were a religion that worshiped cheese, I might have to join. In fact, it may be no coincidence that so much great European cheese is made by nuns and monks. Truly nothing is more uplifting than the sight of a well-appointed cheese plate. (Want a slate of your own? I recommend these
.) One with a nice balance between hard and creamy, strong and subtle, cow and goat. And inspired accompaniments are essential: crisp crackers, slivers of good bread, chutneys, nuts, honey, ripe fruits and pickles are all welcome.
Which brings me to these pickled onions. Make a big batch and they can live in your fridge for months, ideal for pairing with cheese—on a board, in a sandwich—and with roasted birds and meats.
You've undoubtedly heard of cipollini, those small, flattened Italian onions that are actually the bulbs of the grape hyacinth. They’re thin-skinned and have translucent white flesh full of residual sugar. They caramelize beautifully when slowly cooked so they're wonderful roasted or braised, but they also work well in this pickle recipe, though you can use small onions of any sort, like pearl, or even the mini yellow ones I used, above.
You soak the onions overnight in salted water and then cook them briefly in a brine of sherry and malt vinegars loaded with spices. The whole lot is then jarred up and left to marinate and meld.
The key is to let them sit for at least a month before you dive in. When you can wait no longer, you will discover that they are somewhere between crisp and pliant, sweet with a pleasing tartness that beautifully complements the richness of cheese. Did I mention that already?
I put mine in one of the vintage Mason jars I collect, and I think glass is best, what with all that vinegar. That way you can easily monitor when your stash is dwindling and prepare to make some more. Oh, and the remaining brine? It's delicious mixed with club soda or gin...
Sweet & Sour Pickled Onions
— 2 cups water, divided
— 1/3 cup kosher or sea salt
— 1 pound cipollini, pearl or other small onions, peeled
— 1 cup sherry vinegar
— 1 cup malt vinegar
— 1 cup sweet sherry
— 3 tablespoons dark muscovado
— 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
— 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
— 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
— 2 whole dried chiles de árbol
— 2 bay leaves
— 1 sprig fresh rosemary, optional
Combine 1 1/2 cups water, salt, and onions in a bowl. Cover mixture and refrigerate overnight.
Combine 1/2 cup water, sherry vinegar, malt vinegar, sweet sherry, brown sugar, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns and red chiles in a heavy saucepan (not aluminum), and bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let stand 1 hour.
Drain onions. Rinse and pat them dry. Add onions to the vinegar mixture, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer mixture for 3 minutes.
WIth a slotted spoon, remove onions and place them in a clean glass jar along with bay leaves and rosemary. Cover with hot brine, seal the jar with a lid and allow to cool completely.
Refrigerate onions for at least 1 month before serving.