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New York Dairy Review

27 Feb

Cleawater cheese

New York Dairy Review

As the third largest national producer, New York leads the country in the making of cottage cheese and Greek style yogurt, and is the third largest producer of cheese. At the top of all agricultural industry, dairy in New York employs 1.4 million dairy cattle on more than 6,000 dairy farms to produce 12 billion pounds of milk a year that is worth nearly $2 billion.

With such a large volume of dairy production, it’s not surprising that New York is home to an amazing array of great dairy products. Here are a few of the Consortium’s top picks.

Sour Cream and Creme Fraiche

If you’ve never tried Hudson Valley Fresh’s sour cream, it is well worth the indulgence. With a decadently thick, rich and creamy flavor, it is slightly tart but not overly acidic. Mixed with a little maple syrup or brown sugar it makes a perfect sauce for summer ripe fruit, as the base for panna cotta or even ice cream.

If you’re looking for creme fraiche, Ronny Brook Farm Dairy makes a rich, great tasting creme fraiche that is a little pricey but worth the expense. In the Hudson Valley look for Hudson Valley Fresh’s sour cream and Ronny Brook creme fraiche at Mother Earth’s Storehouse and Hannaford grocery stores.

Drinkable Yogurt

As an on-the-go breakfast drink, drinkable yogurt has grown in popularity over the years with several national and local offerings including Ronny Brook Farm Dairy, Coach Farm and drinkable newcomer Tonje’s Farm Dairy.

Ronny Brook Farm Dairy was one of the first local dairy farms to pioneer a line of drinkable yogurt flavors. Today there are a dozen or so varieties, including banana, honey vanilla, strawberry and mango. Stand out flavors, in our opinion, include peach and blackberry.

With a pleasant goat’s milk finish, Coach Farm’s line of Yo-Goat drinkable yogurt is a bit lighter than Ronny Brook’s. Mango and raspberry flavors are especially delicious. All of Coach’s products are available on-line by mail order but be prepared to pay a bit extra for shipping.

Both Coach and Ronny Brook’s drinkable yogurts freeze and defrost well. Ronny Brook’s will defrost within a day or two but Coach’s might take as long as three to four days with a few icy chunks remaining.

Yogurt and Quark

Ronny Brook Farm Dairy, Coach Farm, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, 3-Corner Field Farm, and the Argyle Cheese Farmer are all producing a variety of whole and reduced fat yogurts. Try The Argyle Cheese Farmer’s Greek style yogurt. It’s spreadably thick and rich with an intensely concentrated yogurt flavor. Our all time favorite whole milk yogurt is the Maple Vanilla flavor from Hawthorne Valley Farm but the Argyle Cheese Farmer’s cream top whole milk plain is a very close second. Both Hawthorne Valley Farm and the Argyle Cheese Farmer are producing quark, a soft cow’s milk cheese with a sour cream like consistency. Look for Hawthorne Valley quark at Mother Earth’s Storehouse. The Argyle Cheese Farmer sells quark at the Troy and Saratoga Farmers markets.

Ice Cream and Chocolate Milk

Ronny Brook Farm Dairy and the Battenkill Creamery both produce an exceptional line of ice cream flavors. Our favorite ice cream flavor of all time is the coconut from Ronny Brook Farm Dairy. Try the Battenkill Valley Creamery for Coffee and Chocolate flavors. Speaking of chocolate, the Battenkill Valley Creamery gets top vote for best chocolate milk. It is thick, rich and very much like melted chocolate ice cream. Meadowbrook Dairy is our second choice for chocolate milk.

Cheese

There are hundreds of great cheeses in New York State. Here are a few of our top choices and a few more that are interesting:

Nettle Meadow Triple Cream, our all time favorite New York cheese. Kunik is very much like a really thick, cheese-flavored heavy cream or fondue, that’s been wrapped up in a sexy Camembert style rind.
Coach Farm’s Grating Stick One of the closest things we have found to a really hard cheese like Parmesan
3-Corner Field Farm Feta A classic sheep’s milk feta
Palentine Valley Dairy Great cheddar. The smoked cheddar is our second all time favorite cheese.
Harpersfield Cheese Great Tilsit style cheeses. Interesting flavors include raspberry and Lapsang Souchong.

Hudson Valley Milk

14 Feb

GOATMILK

Local Milk in the Hudson Valley

As the third largest national producer, New York is home to an amazing array of great dairy products. New York leads the country in the making of cottage cheese and Greek style yogurt, and is the third largest producer of cheese. At the top of all agricultural industry, dairy in New York employs 1.4 million dairy cattle on more than 6,000 dairy farms to produce 12 billion pounds of milk a year that is worth nearly $2 billion. In 2012 New York dairy farmers produced one billion pounds of milk.

Pasteurization and Homogenization

When milk is pasteurized it is heated to a high temperature (145 – 163 degrees) for approximately half an hour to kill harmful bacteria. Most milk is pasteurized at the lowest temperature possible to minimize any negative effects that the heat process might impart on the taste of the milk. When you see unrefrigerated boxed milk on the shelf in a grocery store, it has most likely been subjected to ultra high pasteurization which involves sterilizing milk for 1 to 2 seconds at a temperature of 285 degrees.

Homogenization of milk is the process of breaking up fat molecules to achieve an extremely small particle size. This is done so that the tiny fat molecules will stay suspended evenly throughout the milk.

Raw milk is milk that has not been pastuerized and in many cases has not been homogenized. Raw milk can only be sold from the farm where it is produced and it must bear a label that warns consumers about potential health risks that are associated with nonpasteurized milk products.

Where to Find Local Milk

Look for local milk in the Albany area at the Honest Weight Food Co-op. Organic goat’s milk comes from Kortright Creek Creamery and rBGH-free cow’s milk and cream is avilable from Meadowbrook Farm.

Two popular milk brands in the Hudson Valley are Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and Hudson Valley Fresh. Hudson Valley Fresh is a cooperative of dairy farmers in Columbia and Dutchess counties that offers pasteurized and homogenized whole, 2%, and skim milk, half and half and chocolate milk – available in plastic half gallon containers. Ronnybrook offers a line of glass bottled milks that are pastuerized but not homogenized.

The products of Ronnybrook and Hudson Valley Fresh are available at Hudson Valley Hannaford locations, Adams Fair Acre Farms, Fleishers Grassfed and Organic Meats (Kingston and Brooklyn locations), and GiGi Market at Greig Farm in Red Hook.

Raw Milk

In Ghent, 45 minutes south of Albany off the Taconic Parkway, Hawthorne Valley Farm is selling their line of organic, biodynamic raw milk products at their farm market store.

Goat’s Milk

Coach Farm, maker of Coach Farms Goat Cheese, offers homogenized whole goat’s milk in half gallon containers and is available at Adams Fair Acre Farms stores in Poughkeepsie and Kingston.

Read Daniel Berman’s review of Coach Farm’s goat’s milk

CREMECrème Fraiche, recipe for the French version of sour cream

Making your own crème fraiche is surprisingly simple and delicious. Although infinitely silkier, tangier, and richer than sour cream (one exception – Hudson Valley Fresh who is churning out a really thick and outstanding version), commercially produced crème fraiche, like that from Ronny Brook Farm Dairy, can be pricey. Making your own is simple, economical, and fresher than anything available from a store.

To make crème fraiche, mix 2 tablespoons of buttermilk with two cups of heavy cream (we recommend Hawthorne Valley Farm for the buttermilk and Meadow Brook Farm for heavy cream). Let the crème fraiche sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours until it has noticeably thickened, then refrigerate it. It will continue to thicken while it cools in the refrigerator.

Making Yogurt Hudson Valley Style

14 Feb

Argyle2

Yogurt, buy or make?

Locally and regionally produced yogurt is available at mainstream grocery chains and natural food stores throughout the Hudson Valley. The Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany is a mecca for any yogurt and yogurt based product that is produced in New York State. Hannaford carries Ronnybrook and Butterworks of Vermont. Mother Earth’s and Adams Fair Acre Farms in Kingston stock an impressive selection that includes Coach, Seven Stars, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company and Maple Hill Creamery (Maple Hill is 100 percent grass-fed by the way).

While local yogurt can be pricey, cheaper commercial varieties often add preservatives and stabilizers – the most common and benign being pectin.  Large companies like Stonyfield face enormous pressure to create a consistent formula that continually satisfies consumer expectations.  Most smaller producers make yogurt the old fashioned way with a few quality ingredients, and without stabilizers, but the expense of creating a premium small batch artisanal product can make for a hefty price tag.

Making your own yogurt is easy.  All it requires is a small amount of high quality local yogurt, which serves as a “starter” for each larger batch of homemade yogurt.  Once you have perfected the yogurt making routine, try mixing things up with different flavors like honey, maple, molasses, and almond extract.

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Making your own – consistently every time

The texture of homemade yogurt is thick like pudding.  Sometimes a finished batch may be thin or will lack tanginess.  Yogurt with a flat flavor and a thin, watery texture may not have been kept warm enough, or the yogurt used to start the batch was old and didn’t have enough bacterial strength to thicken the batch. Creating a warm environment for the yogurt, 90-105 degrees, is key. Sterilizing every tool and container involved in the yogurt making process is also very important. Always use the freshest yogurt possible to start a new batch of yogurt.

Using your own yogurt to start a new batch

Using your own homemade yogurt to culture a new batch of yogurt can create some unpredictable results especially when it comes to the consistency. Using the same brand of fresh, commercially produced yogurt to start each new batch will help guarantee consistent results.

The Stewards of 3-Corner Field Farm

8 Feb
Annette2

The Stewards of 3-Corner Field Farm

by Annette Nielsen

Nestled in the bucolic hillsides of southern Washington County you’ll find the Tuscany of upstate New York. An easy drive from the Capital District, the many acres of farmland offer stellar representations of diverse agrarian pursuits — pastured poultry, bountiful vegetables, flocks of sheep, orchards filled with an amazing variety of fruits, artisanal and farmstead cheeses made from the milk of cows, goats, and sheep, maple producers , and heritage-breed cattle and pigs– and great stewards of the land like Karen Weinberg and Paul Borghard.Karen Weinberg and Paul Borghard, are full-time farmers at 3-Corner Field Farm, a dairy sheep farm in Shushan, New York. They weren’t always farmers — Paul worked extensively in the corporate sector and Karen earned a PhD in industrial organizational psychology – but they left their urban lifestyle in the late 1980s and moved to Washington County with Karen’s childhood dream of having a farm. Through Paul’s work, Karen and Paul traveled and lived in France for a few years. While there, they ate great cheeses, and became fans of the long-time European tradition of using sheep’s milk for artisinal cheeses. They also became more aware of farm production methods, caring about how their food was grown or raised, and learned more about terrior, flavor married to place.

When they returned from France to Washington County, a neighbor gave Karen and Paul a couple of lambs to help keep down the farm’s fields around a stream bed. They came to really love these animals and appreciate sheep’s versatility in that they provide fiber, meat, and milk. Karen and Paul knew they didn’t want to raise animals in a confinement system, and wanted to ensure they used as much pasture for the sheep as possible. During seven to eight months of the year when grasses are exposed, they move fences every few days, allowing these ruminants to graze as they are naturally intended. Now, Karen and Paul milk approximately 140 East Friesan-cross ewes and pasture raise close to 400 lambs each year on over 100 acres of grass, clover and alfalfa, farming in a sustainable manner.

With their daughters Emily and Zoe, Karen and Paul mark the third family to produce natural goods from the land here since the farm was originally settled. At this family farm, the stately 1840s Greek Revival farmhouse shares the stunning setting with a trio of renovated red barns housing some chickens, farm equipment, a gleaming milking parlor and a sparkling cheese room. Another barn comes to life during shearing, then lambing season each spring; in autumn, the barn stores beautiful round bales of hay for winter use. The Farmhouse’s beautiful stone foundation provides the basement’s perimeter and recent transformation into an aging cellar for their sheep’s-milk cheeses.

Farming is truly a seven-day-a-week job on 3-Corner Field Farm, requiring constant care and attention. Paul and Karen divide the various chores with after school help from daughter Zoe, and from their daughter Emily, when she’s home from college. Paul milks the sheep, maintains equipment, tracks financials and payroll for their small staff, and implements alternative energy initiatives that help maintain the farm’s sustainability. Karen tends to the sheep on pasture employing rotational grazing, makes artisinal farmstead cheeses and yogurt, and direct markets their farm’s products to regional chefs and to an appreciative audience at Manhattan’s Union Square farmers’ market. Karen has taken the farmers’ market as an opportunity to answer customer questions, describing the farm and methods used to tend the flock and sharing the story of how their popular yogurt and cheeses are produced. Karen and Paul really know the animals, the land, and the people who purchase their product and carry with them a perspective and connection minimized on a large, factory farm operation.

Karen says, “Every part of farming in a sustainable manner is so gratifying. If it were a factory farm, things might be very predictable from one day to the next. The various parts of this job are so different; keeping the sheep on pasture, making cheese in the cheese room, and marketing in New York City. It’s more of an intellectual challenge than any other professional experience I’ve had. When you walk into the pasture and see all of the healthy lambs grazing on sustainable pasture, it’s a nice feeling, and when a customer tastes the cheese and says, ‘Boy, this is really good!’ it’s really rewarding. Here, I face issues of integrity – what’s done each day has a direct impact on other people and animals.”

Having cultivated a regular customer base of people who care about where their food comes from is gratifying for both parties, particularly for chefs who use the lamb in their culinary artistry. Karen says that working with chefs like David Pedinotti plays an important role. When locally sourced food from sustainable farms appears on restaurant menus, it spotlights this issue, presenting yet another opportunity to educate consumers.

David Pedinotti, executive chef and owner of One Caroline Street Bistro and The Mouzon House in Saratoga Springs, is one of 3-Corner Field Farm’s enthusiastic customers. He grew up knowing what good food tastes like. His grandparents raised most of their own food while living in Schenectady, even making sausages and curing their own meats.

“I’m a purist when it comes to my food,” says Pedinotti, “I’m carrying on my family’s legacy of using sustainable farms, and have an affinity for the superior flavors of pasture-raised meats. I use all sustainable agriculture sources, and that’s reflected in our seasonal menu.” Pedinotti purchases four whole lambs each month from 3-Corner Field Farm, and uses a variety of their stellar cheeses and yogurt. He adds, “The food is impeccable, and so professionally produced on 3-Corner Field Farm – Karen is an excellent steward of the land. We all need to think about the way in which our food is produced. We reap so many benefits health-wise and environmentally by supporting sustainable farms.”

Karen and Paul make every effort to focus on the health and well being of the animals as well as the environment, treating both with respect. The meat and milk from the flock is produced naturally, and attention is given to the welfare of every animal, whether destined for meat or milk production. The ewes are only milked while on pasture, and members of the flock enjoy a life outdoors, instead of confined to a barn stall. The sheep provide the land with a natural fertilizer while grazing, all enhancing the quality of the soil. Karen and Paul’s increased use of solar energy and exploration of alternative energy sources means that natural resources are conserved. Using all of these low-input farming techniques ultimately results in more healthful and tasty food.

Dan Barber is the executive chef and owner of Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a Hudson Valley restaurant in Pocantico Hills. The Hudson Valley location has a working farm located within a few feet of its front door and the restaurant’s farm provides a source for many of the seasonally-inspired menu offerings. Barber purchases lamb from 3-Corner Field Farm and states, “The pasture raised animals, in tandem with local purchasing is beneficial – we get better tasting lamb than lamb which comes from conventional farming operations where the animals are raised on grain.”

In addition to having a great respect for sustainable farming operations, chef Barber enjoys the times when he is able to speak directly with Karen at the farmers’ market. “I like the fact that she’s at the market and I’m able to have a conversation with her, fostering the cooperation between farmer and chef. I can pass along this information to the waiters and staff so that they can share the farm’s story with our customers” he says.

Karen has cultivated a very loyal customer base and engages her customers on the topic of how the animals are raised, dispensing delicious samples and providing recipes for using the various cuts of meat. She states, “It’s the opinion of our customers who purchase the meat, cheese, and yogurt that we raise and produce that’s so important. People have become more concerned about the source of their food,” emphasizes Karen, “they want to know how the animals are treated, what they’re fed, and to know how the sheep live their lives.” Caring about how our food was grown or raised, and finding the shortest path between great farm and fork makes for great cuisine. The generous spirit shown in the stewards of 3-Corner Field Farm makes the food taste that much better.

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Direct from the farm

You can purchase products online, or at the farm (please call ahead to schedule a time)

1311 County Route 64, Shushan, NY 12873
518.854.9695

Where to buy

Their great cheeses and yogurt can be found at Putnam Market on Broadway in Saratoga Springs 518.587.3663 or at the Village Coop on Main Street in Cambridge, New York 518.677.5731.

Restaurants that feature Three-Corner Field Farm products

Regional restaurants include: Max London’s Restaurant & Bar 518.587.3535, One Caroline Street Bistro 518.587.2026 and The Mouzon House 518.226.0014, all in Saratoga Springs; and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Potantico Hills, 914.366.9606.