As a Bay Area resident, there’s nothing like taking a drive out to the coast. As you head out towards Point Reyes from Petaluma or Marin, slip down a side road to find the only farmstead, organic cow cheesemaker in California, located in the one-block town of Nicasio, population 96.
There you’ll see St. Mary’s, a sweet church built in 1871, Rancho Nicasio, a restaurant with live music (they get some pretty hot bands) and Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, a tiny creamery & retail shop filled with yummy cheese and other goodies.
The Lafranchi family, originally from Maggia, Switzerland, dairy farmers in the U.S. for 3 generations, have the ONLY farmstead, certified-organic cow dairy making cheese in California.
Farmstead means that the cheese is made on the farm with milk from the farmer’s own herd (which is right down the road from the shop).
At their creamery, you can watch them make cheese through the floor to ceiling window (best during the week), sample each and every one of their cheese, and purchase cheese and other picnic items. Tomino and Locano are their latest creations. They’re gooey and absolutely fine. I’m especially in love with the Tomino, a washed-rind (it has a lot of flavor!) and their fresh Foggy Morning. But you’ll find your own favorite, of course.
Fromage Fort(i.e. Cheese Spread)- Put ’em all in the blender and get out the toast. Grilled Cheese – It always tastes better with a combo of cheeses. A nice spreadable cheese, like a fromage blanc or cream cheese is a great addition. Flavor your Soup – Throw those Parmesan rinds in for a cheesy flavor. (take out before eating).
Or simply, slice a walnut/cranberry baguette, put out the leftover cheese, a bit of wine, and invite your friends/neighbors over.
This week we picked up some of Fiscalini Cheese’s Traditional Bandage-Wrapped Cheddar. This cheese has won more awards than you can count, including “Best Farmhouse Cheese in America.”
Cheddar cheese originated in the village of Cheddar in England. Yes, there’s a place called Cheddar Village. We can only dream of living there! While it ages, this cheese is wrapped in cheesecloth (which is how it gets its name). It’s a tad crumbly, and has a nice delicate smoky flavor to it. You can eat it with pretty much anything!
Sneak your way to into someone’s heart by sending them cheese. Each package listed below is carefully selected and perfectly paired by a California cheesemaker, so you don’t have to think about anything except pushing a button. (Note: shipping may be extra)
Send one as a gift, bring it along to a party, or, just save it for yourself.
For a full list of cheesemakers who ship, click here:
BURROUGH FAMILY FARMS
So Gouda – $34
A delicious gift basket from the Burroughs Family Farms that each member of the family will surely enjoy this holiday!
Package includes: Burroughs Grass to Gold Gouda Cheese
Rustic Bakery artisan crisps
Jar of Whipped Honey Burroughs Family Almonds
The cheesemongers at our Cowgirl Creamery Ferry Building cheese shop create a delicious and decadent truffled Mt Tam in collaboration with their neighbors at Far West Fungi and sell it during the holidays. Due to a loud demand from out-of-town visitors, it’s been decided to offer this do-it-yourself kit to our customers to prepare at home.
Package includes: Mt Tam Black Truffle Pate Cowgirl Creamery Sea Salt & Olive Oil Crackers
Holiday Shipping Schedule: For delivery before Christmas, orders must be placed to ship the week of December 17. The cut off time to place orders shipping the week of Dec 17 is Dec 19 at 8am Pacific Time. For the week of Dec 24, we will only be shipping on Dec 26. For the week of Dec 31, we will only ship on Jan 2.
The perfect gift set for the cheese-loving kid at heart. If you’re trying to get on Santa’s good list and just aren’t sure what to do, mix up the cliche “milk and cookies” with a spread chock-full of delicious cheeses, decadent butter cookies, and divinely rich drinking chocolate. Naughty to nice in ten seconds flat!
Humboldt Fog and Sweet Dreams are the perfect pairing companions for Rustic Bakery’s vanilla butter cookies and Dick Taylor Chocolate’s Drinking Chocolate, a rich and velvety European style drinking chocolate, handcrafted using ethically sourced cacao beans from the Maya Mountain Co-op in Belize. Sweet, salty, and decadent, this set makes a fabulous gift for friends, family, or yourself (trust us, you deserve it!).
Package includes: Humboldt Fog Mini
Fresh Cup, Sweet Dreams
Belize Drinking Chocolate
Box of Snowflake Cookies
This collection sparks lively debate when our family discusses which cheese is the “best.” Foggy Morning embodies the cool quiet mornings shared at the Lafranchi family ranch. Nicasio Reserve is assertive, yet refined and luxurious. The sentimental favorite, Nicasio Square features the stronger aromas and flavors achieved in washed rind cheeses.
When you’re planning a get-together and need a festive board or a special delight in seasonality, this selection of six farmstead cheeses—all handmade in small batches at the farm—will bring a unique taste of place to the table!
The Holiday Cheese Sampler includes: Laychee Laychee with Fennel Pollen & Pink Peppercorn Velvet Sister Boont Corners, Two Month Boont Corners, Vintage Boont Corners, Reserve
A Best Bite Competition where chefs and cheesemongers come up with their best ideas, pays tribute to those brave and hardworking, first responders of the recent fires.
On Saturday, industry experts instruct on pairings with charcuterie to beer and wine and how to judge cheese.
Then start your evening with a cheese and cocktail pairing.
On Sunday, you can start your morning with a cheese and bubbly brunch.
Then, besides the farm tours (which I LOVE), comes my own favorite event: the Sunday Marketplace. Here you meet 115 producers of cheese, wine, beer, ciders and other specialty foods. One ticket gets you access to tastes galore, including both current and new cheeses while meeting the cheesemakers themselves.
This year the festival has moved from Petaluma to the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. But parking comes FREE with your ticket purchase.
Theoretically, pig’s milk should make great cheese. It’s got the fat (8.5%!), lactose and water as needed.
But they only produce a gallon and a half of milk per day (as opposed to cows that give about eight). It takes a gallon of milk to make a pound of cheese. And then, pigs can’t become pregnant while they’re lactating; an economic downside.
But the real problem? Pigs have fourteen teats – yes 14! – as opposed to four for a cow and two for goats or sheep.
And milk only comes out in fifteen second blasts (as opposed to 10 minutes for a cow).
So a fancy contraption that works in fifteen second intervals with fourteen attachments would need to be designed for a very small amount of milk.
There might be other cultural or religious reasons that pig’s milk and cheese haven’t made our breakfast table, but the conclusion is clear: Let’s leave that precious milk for the little piggies.
When was the last time you searched out organic cheese and what is it? And which cheesemakers in California make organic cheese?
Organic certification of cheese comes down to the animals, the ingredients and the method of processing; all overseen by the USDA National Organic Program.
Animals must be raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones. All feed must be certified organic (organic pastures, and no pesticides or genetically engineered feeds). Animals must be allowed access to outdoors, including shade and sunlight, clean and dry bedding, and space for exercise (amount of access and pasture required is outlined and determined by region).
If an animal is sick and antibiotics are the only solution to save the animal, organic regulations require that you save the animal, but then remove it from your organic herd. If this happens, farmers then sell their milk as conventional, or more likely, sell the animal itself.
The ingredients must all be certified organic as well. That includes both the milk and the enzymes (which create the curds). Chymosin, the ingredient produced naturally in the lining of a ruminant’s stomach and solidifies the milk and creates curds, is available as a genetically engineered ingredient. This genetically engineered enzyme is the most commonly used enzyme in cheesemaking. As it is genetically engineered, it is not allowed in organic cheese. If you care about that, and you’re not sure if your cheese contains a genetically engineered ingredient, contact the company to inquire. Or, simply purchase organic cheese.
In processing, only cleaning agents that do not leave a residue are allowed to touch equipment or ingredients.
I remember coming to Marin French Cheese Company as a child and drooling over their Breakfast Cheese, a tiny round of a young cheese. It’s like they wrapped it, not quite finished (which can often be a very tasty time in a cheese’s life – depending on the cheese), and let us in on a tasty secret. At less than $4.00, it’s delicious and a great intro into the oldest continually operating creamery in the country. Over 150 years old!
Then pick up some rustic bread, a salami or jam, some drinks (or they even pre-make sandwiches for you), and have your picnic on the lake just beside their shop and creamery.
It’s a lovely lake surrounded by weeping willows. Perfect for the family, or dare I say it…romance.
Inside their shop, you can also sample and buy their cheese as well as rounds from their partner company, Laura Chenel’s.
Marin French is on the way to both Nicasio Valley Cheese Company (another creamery and cheese shop nearby) and Point Reyes. If you’re going for a hike or wanting to shop in Point Reyes, this is a good first stop along the way.
You just ate a bit of the cheese you brought home from the store. But what do you do with the rest?
First thing to know is, your cheese is ALIVE! Not like a scary monster, but essentially it does need to breathe. That’s why wrapping that leftover piece in plastic cling wrap is not such a great idea. You don’t want to suffocate it.
The best thing to do is wrap it in Formaticum paper, wax or parchment paper (wax paper is cheapest, so that’s what I use). Then you can actually put some plastic wrap over it OR put it in a plastic tub with a lid. That way it is wrapped to keep it moist but also has air to breathe. This method works for both hard and soft cheeses. Then pop it in the vegetable drawer (the veggies provide a little moisture).
If your cheese starts to seem a bit dry, wrap it in a damp cloth (a clean one!) and place in a plastic tub. And if it’s too moist, then it just needs a bit more air.
Keep stinky or blue cheeses wrapped and stored separately.
And, of course, if you have a fresh cheese like cottage cheese or cream cheese, leave it in the tub you bought it in, and re-seal it.
If it’s a fresh mozzarella, change the water in it every couple of days.
The main thing to remember is to buy only as much cheese as you can eat in a week. Once cheese is cut into, like a wedge or a slice, it’s exposed to other bacteria in your fridge or air, and begins to degrade. So buy less, and eat more!
“Can I – or should I – eat the rind of my cheese?”
Great question. And absolutely you can. Of course, it totally depends on preference.
It’s always easiest – and tastiest – to try the white fuzzy rind of a “bloomy rind” cheese like Brie or Camembert. That’s natural. And believe it or not, that white matted exterior is actually the flower of the mold that helped create your cheese. I happen to love it. But, if you don’t like it, scoop out the interior and leave the rind behind.
The brownish orange of a stinky “washed-rind” is also edible. Go for it.
When it gets to the hard cheeses, it gets a bit more difficult. They can be tough to chew and very hard. A cheese like parmesan, which has aged for a longtime, can be impossible to eat. But keep those rinds. Don’t throw them away. Toss them in a soup (or freeze them in a ziplock bag for future broths).
Some rinds are just plain tasteless. They may taste like cardboard, or be dusty. Feel free to dislike and discard.
But no rind will make you sick.
There is only one rind that you should avoid. It’s the wax rind of the Gouda and Edam, often glossy and colored red, used to protect the cheese. That’s wax, people! Do not eat it!