Showing posts with label Green City Market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Green City Market. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yogurt and butter had a baby. That baby is Creme Fraiche.

For about a week it felt like my most hated season of all: summer. To be fair, it's more love-hate than hate-hate. I hate the summer because it's ridiculously hot and humid and gross, and the cheese and I are always sweating. On the other hand, there's the produce. Spring and summer veggies and fruit make me gloriously happy. Asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, fresh peas, plums, cherries, blueberries and wild strawberries.

Every year I promise that I'm going to buy tons of strawberries and make jam. Every year I eat all the berries before they can be jammified. So far this year has been no exception. I've bought strawberries from this one stand at the Green City Market for the past 2 weeks. They are glorious. Sweet little berries just begging me to do something wicked with them.

So I did.

I opened the fridge and there it was like a beacon. A tub of creme fraiche from Bellwether Farms. I was so excited! It's hard to find their products here in Chicago. In fact I don't think I've ever found their cheese in the city. I have to wait for the ACS conference to get a taste of Carmody or San Andreas. The funny thing is that I didn't even remember buying it, or what I was going to use it for but none of that mattered. All I cared about was that it was waiting for me. For me and the berries.

You might be asking yourself what is creme fraiche, and why does this post read like a tawdry romance novel? It's not my fault. Creme fraiche is just a sexy beast. It is the brazen hussy cousin of sour cream. It's the Rizzo to sour creams' Sandy.

What makes it so scrumptious? To make creme fraiche you start with cream. Heavy, high fat, delicious cream then you add some starter culture and let it sit for a day. At the end of the day you have a thickened, luxurious, silky, buttery, melt-in-you-mouth sweetness that is just sexy and delicious. That's it. It's super easy to make. While working in a Virginia restaurant we made our own creme fraiche. Heavy cream+a smidge of buttermilk+24 hrs=creme fraiche.

If you search online you'll find articles where people describe it as being thinner than sour cream. It doesn't feel thinner to me. Saying it's thinner kind of gives it a negative connotation. Creme fraiche tastes airier and lighter than sour cream. The fatty, silky, naughty goodness melts on your tongue like butter. Sour cream just sits there. Heavy, sour, and tangy.

While there is a bit of nuttiness and some sweetness in the creme fraiche it's not a very sweet product. So I added a little bit of Savannah Bee Company honey. The rest of the "recipe" is simple:
  • wash and hull strawberries
  • cut the berries in 1/2
  • put the berries on top of the silky puddle of lactic goodness
  • crack fresh black pepper over the berries
  • drizzle on some black current balsamic vinegar-regular balsamic works nicely also but you should use a good quality balsamic with some body (thickness) to it.
In addition to being a great partner for berries, creme fraiche has one more trick up it's sleeve. It doesn't curdle. This makes it a fantastic way to finish off sauces, bisques, or soups.

Right before we had devoured everything I realize I hadn't taken a picture yet. Think of this as a miniature of the the portion size you want.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds

Going to the Green City Market here in Chicago is one of my favorite ways to spend a morning. I have my regular routine. First I go to the lamb and goat man. Perhaps get some duck eggs. I get some cheese, taste some fruit, buy some veggies, and get a treat. Usually my treat comes from the Seedling stand and is a cider and fruit smoothie. I try not to buy cheese. I usually fail.

The last time I went to the market I found three delicious cheeses. The first is Saxony from Saxon Creamery in Wisconsin. It's a raw washed rind cow milk cheese and has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor profile. Similar to a savory almond milk. Please take a minute and read the story behind this company. They love their animals, and the land and it shows in the end result. This was my first time having anything from Saxon Creamery but I know that I'll be back for more.

Up next is Roxanne. I'll give you some time to go to your itunes and search for the famous Police song. Okay, shall I continue?

Roxanne comes from one of my favorite cheesemakers, Prairie Fruits Farm here in Illinois. while I am familiar with most of Leslie's cheeses, I'd never had this one before. This is done in the style of a Brebis from the Basque region of France.

Leslie is a farmsteading goat cheese maker but for this cheese she uses sheep's milk from an Amish dairy further south. This cheese is very rich without being heavy. Because it's sheep milk, it has a rounder mouth feel. Since the milk comes from pastured animals, it has some of that green grassy, sweet clover quality to it. Not too gamy, and just a slight nuttiness to it. The rind was really interesting. It had a sort of wet stone quality to it. Mineraly.

Last up is Krotovina. One of my favorite cheeses. This cheese has goat's milk and sheeps milk separated by a line of vegetable ash. Soft bloomy rind cheese that ripens from the outside in. A slightly sweet fatty, lactic, goaty, acidic, spreadable pyramid of good.

The orange-brown rind cheese on the left is Saxony, in the middle, Roxanne and on the right, Krotovina.

This is the whole wheel of Roxanne. Isn't she pretty? Right behind her is a little pyramid of Krotovina.

So what is vegetable ash? It's just what it sounds like. Vegetables are dried, and turned into ash which a cheesemaker then buys and incorporates into their cheese. The real question is why? Why add ash to a cheese? There are a couple of reasons. I think that the primary one is because it looks awesome. Here in America Humbolt Fog is probably the most famous of the ash cheeses.

For me though, the first cheese I ever saw with the ash line was Morbier from France. Traditionally, the cow's were milked and the ash was used as a protectant for keeping the curds safe from unsavory elements, and to keep them from drying out. In the morning the cows were milked again, and the mornings curds were put on top of the ash. Nowadays most Morbier is made from one milking, but the ash line is still present.

I have been told that ash is an alkaline substance that neutralizes acidity. Acid is one of the most important factors in making a cheese. Too acidic and your cheese might not ripen. Adding vegetable ash can help balance a cheese.

One of my favorite cheeses in this category is Wabash Cannonball from Capriole in Indiana.
This is a little cheese with a lot of flavor. I really like the exterior. Looks a bit like brains. This is a good cheese for distracting zombies if you're under attack.

Beautifully white and creamy. A good balance between acid, salt and cream. Good for eating alone or one of my favorite things to do with this cheese is to toast up some hearty bread (sourdough works really well) add a bit of the Cannonball, and a small drizzle of honey. Delicious!