Akin Farm is an “pick yourself” organic vegetable farm in Terrell, TX (near Dallas). This year, they expect to plant a lot of vegetables: artichokes, basil, green beans, lima beans,wax beans, broccoli, cantaloupes and other melons, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, squash of all types, sweet potatoes, tomatoes of all types and colors and watermelons.
Wendy Akin and her husband, Michie, run the farm, and once a week Wendy puts out a newsletter for anyone who signs up to receive it. It includes recipes, tips for cooking (such as the one below- “How to Cook an Artichoke”*), and news from her farm and other organic farms she keeps in contact with. If you wish to receive the newsletter, e-mail her at email@example.com.
Wendy has access to organic raw milk, so she is able to make cheese. Most of the time she makes a fresh, white cheese (similar to Panir) and she sent us her recipe. Along with the recipe, she sent this note:
Thanks for being there to help us all with our dairy endeavors.
FRESH WHITE CHEESE
Here is the easiest cheese to make, requiring no culture beyond buttermilk and no special equipment. Note the buttermilk is the kind you buy at the store, not what you have when you make butter at home.
(In a later e-mail, she wrote, “I just finished making a batch of the Fresh White Cheese and I will say that it makes much better using the buttermilk made with your culture than using store bought. Everything I have bought and my friends have bought from you has been perfect.” Really-she said that!)
Equipment: a very heavy good saucepan at least 3 quart, opt: flame-tamer, a clip-on thermometer, a colander, cheesecloth to double-line the colander (available in many groceries and in fabric stores as well as New England Cheesemaking), a large bowl and a small bowl.
You will need:
2 quarts whole milk as fresh as possible. Raw milk is best of course, but do not use long-date ultra pasteurized.
2 cups very fresh cultured buttermilk
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice – probably 2 medium lemons
extra cream if desired
Measure the milk into the saucepan. Stir the lemon juice into the buttermilk thoroughly, then stir that into the milk.
Set the pan over very low heat with the flame tamer. (You can also double the grid on a gas stove) Clip on the thermometer and begin to heat the milk.
You want to heat the milk very slowly to 175 degrees. Using a pancake turner or similar wide, flat tool, stir the milk very slowly once or twice after it begins to thicken, just 2 or 3 strokes. Watch the temp carefully.
Once it reaches 175, take the pot off the burner and let the milk stand for 10 minutes undisturbed. There will be masses of white curd suspended in yellowish liquid (the whey).
Line the colander with 2 layers of the cheese cloth and set it over a large bowl. Carefully ladle the curds and whey gently into the colander and let the curds drain until the drip slows, a few minutes. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a loose bag and hang it over a cupboard knob so it hangs above the bowl. Let the cheese drain for up to an hour or until it is as firm as you like.
It can be frozen until you need it.
For a soft, light cheese to serve as is, perhaps with fruit or preserves for dessert, turn the cheese into a bowl, stir in a pinch of sea salt and/or a little cream if you wish. Cover the cheese and refrigerate; it will keep fresh several days. If you’d like it smoother, you can beat it briefly with some added cream with an electric mixer.
You can wash the cheesecloth thoroughly in hot soapy water to use next time.
RESTAURANT STYLE CHEESE DESSERT
Spread a small puddle of local organic honey on a dessert plate. Center a small scoop of fresh cheese then garnish with either an edible flower or a couple of berries or fruit slices. Serve with a flourish!
FOR ALL YOUR CHEESE MAKING SUPPLIES: www.cheesemaking.com
MARINATED FRESH CHEESE TO SERVE AS AN APPETIZER OR SALAD
Fresh white cheese made from 2 quarts of milk
½ teaspoon sea salt – or more to taste
2 medium cloves fresh garlic
4 tablespoons Herbs de Provence (or Italian Seasoning herbs)
2 to 4 small dried hot red peppers or a couple shakes of red pepper flakes to taste
12 to 15 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Approximately 1½ cups olive oil (If you have oil left over from marinating either olives or dried tomatoes, you can use this for extra flavor. And then the oil from the cheese can be used again for salad or to do more cheese. Don’t waste all this flavor.)
Make your cheese as in the recipe above, mixing in about ½ teaspoon of sea salt. Let the cheese drain hanging from the cupboard for about 3 hours so it’s quite firm. Put the cheese on a plate and form it into an oval patty. Wrap it with the cheesecloth, then put another plate on top. Weight the top with 1 pound – a can of food, whatever, but 1 pound. Put it in the fridge and leave overnight.
Unwrap the pressed cheese and cut it into 1 inch cubes; with the fingers, form them into balls. Don’t fuss, it’s better if they look a bit rustic. As you form them, place the cheese balls into a wide-mouth quart jar. Drop in the spices and garlic and then pour in enough olive oil to cover the cheeses completely, then the wine vinegar on top. Cover the jar tightly and invert it gently a couple times to distribute the seasonings.
Marinate the cheese at cool room temperature for at least 2 days before serving them. After 2 or 3 days, you may refrigerate and they will keep for at least a month. Let the jar come to room temp so you can gently shake it before serving.
These little cheese balls keep for several weeks in their bath of olive oil and herbs, gradually becoming a little stronger in flavor. They make a nice addition to a cheese plate, garnishing a green salad or served with fresh or toasted French bread as an appetizer with an olive or two.
9820 County Road 353, Terrell, TX 75161
Call for directions and availability.
WASH the artichokes by holding right side up under running cold water, gently spreading the outer leaves a bit so the water can run down in. You can leave them to soak in the cooking pot for 15 minutes or so if you wish.
TRIM the artichokes: cut off the stem even with the bottom. I like to toss this in the pot, sometimes peeled, sometimes not. Pull off any small bottom leaves that look withered. Then you can trim as you like. Most often, I lay the artichoke on its side on a cutting board and simply slice off the tip to remove the sharp points. You’ll want a sharp knife for this. If you like, you can then use scissors to clip the points one by one from the lower leaves. Don’t cut away the delicious, tender parts! Put the artichokes upright in a pot. Try for a pot that will hold all that you are cooking firmly enough that they won’t float or tip over and deep enough so you can use a tight fitting cover.
COOK: fill the pot about halfway with cold water and sprinkle on a teaspoon of sea salt. If the artichokes must wait awhile before cooking, squeeze a lemon into the water. Cover the pot and bring to a full boil. Turn down the heat to a low boil and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the ‘chokes. They are done when a large leaf pulls loose easily.
EAT an artichoke leaf by leaf. You pull a leaf, starting at the bottom and working around, turn the leaf upside down and scrape off the succulent flesh with your teeth. When you get to the small white leaves, these are usually pulled loose all together. Thus the choke is revealed. With a tableknife, pull the choke loose, scraping just a little. Don’t waste! But don’t leave any choke. The solid bottom is called the HEART and this is the piece de resistance. Most connoisseurs cut this morsel into even wedges to savor.
BUTTER LOVING HEDONISTS will have a small ramekin of melted butter, this anointed with a judicious grinding of pepper. Each leaf is lightly touched to the butter and then the heart is put into the ramekin of butter to be cut and eaten.
CAUTIOUS AND FRUGAL diners might eat the leaves tonight and save the hearts for another meal tomorrow.