Essex Farm Note

Week 31, 2017

David Asher is responsible for the mess in my kitchen. There is a pot of renneted milk that has been sitting unattended on the pantry counter for the last 24 hours. Its soft curd has sunk in a pool of pale yellow whey, and there is a skim of white mold growing over all of it. (Geotricum candidum!) On the other side of the kitchen, there’s a cloth bag of cottage cheese made simply from milk, taken warm from the cow and left on the counter for two days to clabber. It’s dripping whey now, into a bucket in the sink. The whey from that bucket is destined for the stovetop tomorrow, to be make into a tiny batch of seriously authentic ricotta. Finally, there is a jar of kefir bubbling away on top of the dishwasher, which I nip from every morning as soon as I wake up, and refresh every day with more milk, in a continuous ferment, like a Mongolian herdswoman.

            David is the author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, and came to the Hub a few weeks ago to teach a class. His premise-- that good fresh raw milk from pastured animals contains all the native cultures you need to make any cheese in the world – really blew my mind, because it’s so different from conventional methods, which rely on laboratory-grown cultures and microbial rennet. He points out that this is the same premise that rules the making of sourdough bread – the wheat carries yeast spores, the means of its own leavening, and of traditionally fermented vegetables, which carry all the bacteria they need, given the right conditions, to transform into sauerkraut, or kim chi. This made so much sense to me, and was so different from everything I though I knew about dairy, that I dove in hard. Now that I’ve tasted some of the products made from these traditional methods I’m a true believer. I fully recommend his book. The more I read and know about our gut microbiome, the more I believe that these wild, living, minimally processed, naturally fermented foods that are part of our human culinary tradition are key to good health.

            The farm roads and fields were all full of traffic this week. Ground work has begun on the big pole barn, which we’ll use to make compost. On the other side of the farm, the Barnes family is back to add drainage to the fields along Blockhouse Road. The beautiful loam soil in that section is so wet as to be unproductive in all but the very driest years (like last year), so we are looking forward to restoring it to healthy production. Meanwhile, the usual fieldwork continues. Isabelle Smith is here for two weeks, and she always brings a gust of fun along with her good hard work. The Amish girls have been a terrific addition to our summer crew. This week we had Elizabeth from the Shetler farm near Westport, as well as a rotation of Swartzentruber girls, so we had two buggies in the barnyard and two lean, fast-lined Standardbreds in the barn during the day.

            We got some hay in this week. Some of it was only rained on twice. The vegetables look gorgeous. The sweet corn should be ready for harvest in 2 or 3 weeks. Tomatoes are being hammered by crows but soon production will outpace even their shiny black appetites. And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this hot 31st week of 2017. Find us at essexfarm@gmail.com, on instagram at kristinxkimball and essexfarmcsa, 518-963-4613, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.  –K&M