Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

The Sow’s Ear Farm and Pottery invites you to join us for a

Winter Cheese Workshop

January 19, 2019

(limit 6 attendees per workshop)

Raw Milk Cheese Craft

Raw milk — from Grass to Gouda

Spend a full day with Beth and Shawn, farmers and natural cheese makers of twenty years experience, on the farm and in the kitchen at the Sow’s Ear — where cows and milk are the foundation of the farm diet. Enjoy ten hours of small-group instruction, conversation, and hands-on experience making fresh and fermented milk foods from raw, all-grass derived Jersey milk.  Ours are simple, home-farm methods — no special tools, no finicking instructions, no purchased cultures — just fresh, raw milk, rennet, salt, and a thermometer.  Learn to preserve your own milk harvest, and take home dairy ferments to share with your family!


  • making and aging raw milk cheeses in the home dairy
  • milk production and handling
  • home dairy management
  • intensive grazing and bovine nutrition for the small farmer

Schedule (5:30am – 3:30pm)

  • meet and greet the cows – join us for the morning milking at 5:30am(-can’t face the early morning milking? Arrange to spend Friday night in our beautiful guest house and you can come along for the Friday late afternoon milking – 4:00pm. Then sleep in on Saturday and join us at breakfast time for a full day of cheese making!)
  • make natural-culture gouda, mozzarella, and cream cheeses; churn butter, and set yogurt
  • ten hours of instruction, hands-on, and conversation
  • two delicious farm-raised meals

Attendance: $125/person; $200/couple

(limit 6 attendees, for lots of hands-on and one-on-one)

guest house overnight stay (optional): $35/person, $50/couple

email us at shawnandbeth@att.net or call 740-537-5178 to reserve your place with a $50 deposit

Got Raw Milk? This workshop is designed to make you comfortable turning delicious, nutritious raw milk into food for today, tomorrow, and the whole year. No special tools or cultures – raw milk is the safest, most versatile food on the farm. Probiotic, rich in proteins and fats, milk gives us yesterday’s sunshine in today’s food — learn to store it and you feed the farm and the family year-round. When you eat all-grass dairy, yesterday’s sunlight is today’s dinner!


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Cheese making has many permutations.  There are enough curds in a ten-gallon cheese that we can steal some for the chickens’ daily protein ration and never miss them.  Whey goes to the pigs, except the quart we’ve reserved to backslop the next cheese.  Now the cheese cabinet is nearly full, it’s time to buy in a couple of extra calves and take the burden of milk processing off the cheese makers.

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Sunday, June 29, 2014 (nighttime):
The past three weeks have been very warm, up near ninety during the day, and the south wall of the dry cellar, unprotected as yet by ivy or overhang, is soaking up lots of solar energy. This is fine for the day lilies planted along the wall, but not so good for the cheese cave built into the back of the dry cellar. The thermometer in the cave has been creeping up from the forties (in April), to the fifties (May and early June), and a week ago it had gotten up into the low sixties – time to move the cheeses into the dairy cooler. This is okay as far as aging the cheeses goes – they are meant to be eaten young – but not so good for the cooler, which easily gets crowded. Eight five-pound cheeses take up a lot of room.
This afternoon we cut into the oldest cheese, to fill the gap between Sunday breakfast – always a big meal – and Sunday dinner, a late meal beside the fishpond. It was a three-month-old Appalachia, a thermophilic hard cheese, which we had wrapped, for purposes of experiment, with muslin and coated with lard. It was an interesting mottled orange on the outside, with spots of olive green and chartreuse, not all of which peeled off with the muslin. We tried the first bit with the rind and decided this cheese needed to be pared (just a little earthy, it was); but the inner cheese is outstanding. And the pigs will love the rinds.
We love cheese. And pigs. They go together.

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Saturday, August 18:

What we are here – here on this website – to do is to catalogue, for the benefit of the similarly-inclined, just how attainable is a family-scale farm, that few acres which, tended by those who live on them, will produce almost unbelievable amounts of food, enough to feed all the people, and all the animals, whose efforts make that farm happen.  Summer is the most astonishing evidence of that attainability.

This is most certainly the time of year when we do the most and can say the least about it; there is no time.

Most of the corn has been eaten or frozen.  Every few days means another ten or fifteen gallons of tomatoes to sauce and can.  The apples at the monastery must be picked this week, or they will begin falling and bruising.  Green beans are on the menu every night, and we can only be glad to see the last cucumber vines succumbing to wilt, as we have eaten and pickled about all we can stand.

Seasonal eating means delighting in it, depending upon it, and getting tired of it, in quick succession.

Everyone is presently at home, and, the sky being open and dry, the men took the second cutting of hay from the meadows today.  There were three of them in the field from breakfast until dinner, and afterward, while some were doing the milking, others went back to the field to cut the last swathes.  If the weather holds we will be baling on Monday or Tuesday.

The freezer and the shelves in the basement must attest to the persistence of our efforts, they and the growing number of cheeses waxed and aging in the dairy refrigerator until we can build a rodent-proof cool box for the cave, as we call the dirt-floored cellar under the new part of the house.   In the best of all possible worlds we would not presently be making cheeses during this so-busy gardening season, but when the last pig went into the freezer we had to choose between making cheese with the extra four of five gallons of milk a day, or pouring it on the compost heaps.  The decision did not require much thought.  There are two young parmesans in the refrigerator, two colbys drying, and a third colby in the press.

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Saturday, June 30:

Two-tenths of an inch of rain last night laid the dust temporarily and cancelled our church league softball game.  We sat on the edge of the porch and let the drizzle damp our hair, watching the air currents, never straightforward in our little hollow, tie the treetops in knots.

Belatedly we remembered that we had not given the corn its second hilling; the late planting, in fact, hadn’t been hilled at all.  We hoped the wind wouldn’t knock it over and lodge it; just such a storm last summer had laid out all but the youngest corn in an almost totally supine position.  Not people to know when we are beat, we actually – we blush to admit it – spent all of a very hot morning crawling around in the dirt raising the corn up again and tying it – yes, tying it, every last stalk in about three hundred row-feet of corn – to temporary wire fence we stretched between the rows.  Good heavens, what an expenditure of energy on a very long shot.   Yes, we got corn out of that patch that we probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, but it was a lot of work for only a very little gain; half the stalks bore little or nothing.  We could instead have fed the lodged corn to the pigs and cows and replanted with something else.  It was only July; fall came late that year and some short-season hybrid corn would have had time to make before frost.

We made two five-pound Paysanos last week, but we will not be making more until the hot weather breaks.  A cheese fresh out of the press has to dry at room temperature, usually for several days, and at the present room temperature a new cheese doesn’t dry; it weeps like a mother-of-the-bride.  If allowed to welter in its own whey it will rapidly develop a case of mold spot-measles.  We turn it often and keep a fan on it, but experience tells us that when a biological operation of this sort gets too complicated it is probably best to suspend operations until conditions are more favorable.

We paid the price last week of not having perimeter fence at the monastery in a hot calf-hunt through the high grass and into the steep wooded coulees.  Something, deer probably, had charged through the polywire fence around the steers’ paddock, leaving them at sweet liberty, and by the time we discovered the damage they had disappeared without a trace.  Almost an hour’s searching high and low finally turned them out barely a hundred yards from their starting point, dodging and grazing among the cane brakes behind the big garden.  We are making their paddocks smaller now, to give the deer a smaller target; the price is that we have to move the paddocks more often.

Our experience in the world of business is that many problems are may be susceptible of a single solution – one size fits all – and we have had to adjust our minds to the fact that animals and plants and weather have a way of springing something new on us every time.  Realizing this fact has lowered our tension level a notch or two; now we don’t feel like failures every time we have to alter the management practices around here.

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Wednesday, June 12:

Another baking day.  Not a hot day – it was rather cool, actually – but a day for baking the seven loaves and five dozen buns which provide us with our daily bread for about a week and a half.

There are a lot of us.

Along with the bread and obligatory pizza which must be dinner on bread nights, we made a five-pound paysano, our signature Colby-style cheese.  With this project in mind I instructed Shawn the night before to bring up the morning milk, which would otherwise have gone to the pigs.  In the summer we seldom have time for making hard cheeses, which are rather time consuming, and the excess milk is put to fatten the pigs, but a look in the dairy refrigerator had revealed only eight remaining hard cheeses – paysano, parmesan, and gouda – and so we had determined to make a few paysano to fill the gap.  Hence, when the warm new milk came up from the barn this morning it was taken and added to two gallons of skim milk from Tuesday, inoculated with buttermilk (mesophilic lactobacilli, to us cheese makers) and rennet, and put aside to set.

Strange results.

The curd set rather quickly, and a thin film of whey made a shallow lake on the surface of the curd when I came to cut it.  Three-eighth inch cubes are what is called for in paysano, and the curd felt quite firm under the long cheese knife.  When all was cut and I reached in to stir with a well-washed right hand and arm I found the curd oddly grainy and exceptionally firm.  The curds had a sandy look to them, which with my shortsighted vision I took to be the small bubbles that form in curd made of milk which has been somehow contaminated with yeast, and, disappointed, I thought to throw them to the pigs, when it occurred to me that yeast-riddled curds float, and these were sinking in the proper manner.  With some reservation I proceeded with the cheese making, deciding that Shawn must have brought me up Baby’s milk, rather than Isabel’s, and some remaining colostrum in the milk must be responsible for the odd texture.  One hundred percent for me; when I asked about it he confirmed that the milk had been from the recently delivered Baby, not the lead cow, Isabel.  How the difference in milk quality will affect the cheese remains to be seen; we will label this cheese appropriately.

Funny how firm the curd turned out to be.  When we redressed the cheese periodically for turning and pressing under greater weight, we saw that it was knitting poorly.  We may have to dip it in boiling water and repress for an hour if it fails to knit in its final, fifty pound pressing.

And just as a warning, if you make cheese on the same day you are baking, you need to be very careful to keep the two projects strictly apart, as yeast in the cheese curds can spoil all your work.  Don’t use the same tools in their preparation, and for goodness’ sake don’t use the same cheese cloth or dish towels to cover the dough and drain the curd, as this would certainly lead to contamination.  Not deadly, just a needless waste.

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Composing online.

Two days.  Hived two swarms.  Tilled and hoed thousands of feet of potatoes.  Weeded onions, garlic, planted fifty-four tomatoes and twelve peppers (not done), hauled and spread three? truckloads of grass clippings for mulch.  Transplanted three buckets of strawberries, and weeded lots more.  Made cheese.  Made butter (remind us to tell you what kind of churn not to buy, this one is a big pain).  Mowed first cutting hay in three fields, or is it four?  Pricked out or potted up everything left in the greenhouse.  Milked.  Moved paddock.  Lost a softball game to St. Agnes Mingo.

Going to bed.

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