Last month we were all about getting you back into your kitchen, but this month we want to get you out. Out into the harvest of all that's good, local, and in season in the area where you live. Farms, markets, local producers - we want to explore what's there, and then how to put their harvest bounty to work!
We're going to spotlight one local ingredient from our own area each week this month, and explore new ways of cooking with it. First up? A lump of local treasure: goat feta.
This goat feta came to us through a friend. Our friend's sister has a herd of goats out in the country, and she recently decided to go into commercial cheese making. She produced her first batch of goat's milk feta this year, and it's incredible. Our friend delivered two big lumps of her sister's goat cheese to us, still steeping in brine, in a big yogurt container.
The cheese is raw, but aged for 60 days, which makes it permissible under Department of Agriculture regulations.
This cheese is deliciously salty and firm. It holds together better than most commercial feta; it slices into firm, squeaky wedges before it crumbles. We had to chop it repeatedly to get it to break down more. It was very tender and mellow-tasting - salty, of course, from the brine - but also very complex. Where commercial feta is just sharp, pungent, and salty, this locally-produced version has notes of sweetness, goaty savor, and nuttiness.
We love it; we can hardly stop eating it. Having this cheese in our refrigerator has also expanded our cooking options this week, and it's made us reflect again on local food artisans.
Local options are plentiful
It also made us reflect on all the good local producers of cheese and other dairy in our area. There are so many options; it just takes a little searching.
Local Harvest is one of the best ways to find local producers like the creamery that gave us this goat cheese. Here's their profile:
• Osage Lane Creamery
You can search Local Harvest for any sort of produce or farm goods in your area.
• Local Harvest
Local options can be affordable luxuries
Often these local producers can be more expensive. We received this cheese as a gift, but if we had purchased it it would have set us back a bit. We think it would be fully worth it, though, because of what it has added to our meals this past week.
We have been adding it into simple, inexpensive meals (watch for recipes over the next several days) and this one splurge of a cheese kicked each dish over the top into something worth serving as a main dish, something very satisfying.
Local artisan foods like these can be the right places to spend; just a little goes a long way. Even though this cheese is $20/pound, a half pound could make a week of meals soar.
First dish with this cheese coming up tomorrow!
More on feta:
• The Cheesemonger: All About Feta
• Don't Call Me Feta
• Recipe: Roasted Beet Salad with Barley, Feta, and Red Onion
• Recipe: Sauteed Zucchini and Squash with Thyme and Feta