Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sasha Diaries Entry #1: Sasha Davies, Murray's Affineur, Heads to Sprout Creek Farm

Honey, let’s get a kid.

This is what I said to my husband when I got home from Sprout Creek Farm. Not the human, the goat kind. At Sprout Creek Farm there must be about 15 of them, all less than three weeks old. I don’t know how the people there are still getting work done. I’m telling you that there is no cure for the when-will-spring-finally-come-to-new york-kind of blues like sitting down in a pen with 15 baby goats. You can see from the photo below that I was unable to keep up my cool exterior- I just look stupid happy, exactly like I was.

Although the baby goats were an unexpected highlight they were not the main purpose for my trip to the farm. I went for the cheese. More specifically, the cheese making and to spend the day making cheese with Brent the cheese maker.

Sprout Creek is an incredible place. It is on a beautiful stretch of 200 acres in Poughkeepsie New York and belongs to the nuns of the Order of the Sacred Heart. The farm is dedicated to education- they see 5,000 plus kids come through each year. Not only does this mean that the staff are all patient and generous in answering question after question but also that the majority of the animals are accustomed to high levels of human interaction.

So my old colleague from Artisanal, Tyler Hawes, and I kicked off Saturday morning by helping out in the barn. We milked some cows, pushed them out of the barn to graze on pasture, scratched under the chins of a few barn cats, and then shoveled poop. It had to be at least noon right? No way- just shy of 9:30am. After a quick clean up and clothes change we headed over to the cheese making room to work with Brent and his team of assistants.

The crazy thing at Sprout Creek is that they use one recipe to make three different cheeses: Toussaint, Ouray, and Barat. We were there at a very interesting time because the farm is considering changing from pasteurized to raw milk to use resources more efficiently. The pasteurizer accounts for 60% of the well water that they use on the farm. Switching from pasteurized to raw milk is an enormous change for a cheesemaker- the milk can act differently for all kinds of reasons including bacteria being present that are normally not there, and also things that may have been masked by heat in pasteurization (butterfat separation for example) can show up in the vat.

Brent was a terrific person to go through these changes with- he talked us through everything he was doing- from acidity testing to curd cutting. Of course we also did a fair amount of tasting- including some nibbles of the experiments they have going with goats milk- a new addition to the farm. Sprout Creek’s cheeses illustrate one of the more miraculous aspects of cheesemaking: the impact that size and shape has on the development of texture and flavor within a cheese. The Toussaint, Ouray and Barat all have distinct flavors and different textures- I encourage you to join me at Cheese Day on Saturday, June 11th to sample all of these cheeses and see the magic of milk happening on this farm for yourself!


Get Cheese Day details here: http://www.murrayscheese.com/partners.php?#cheeseday