Cheese making and hair nets

cheese1Last Sunday my in-depth feature on cheese making about Branched Oak Farm near Lincoln, Neb., ran in the paper. It’s part of an ongoing occasional series I write called Locally Grown, about local producers doing creative and unusual things with food. The series is one of my favorite things I do as the food writer, because it lets me try food, of course, but it also lets me make food and meet people who make food every day, starting with zero and ending with something we all eat. I always walk away smarter than I was when I arrived. I hope readers feel the same way.

A lot of people — well, three to be exact — asked me why a photo of me in full cheese-making garb didn’t run with the story in the paper. There is a photo of me that went with the story, and thankfully, my editor didn’t run it. But since you asked, and since I am a good sport, I decided to share it on my blog, along with some photos of what I did with the mozzarella balls I helped make that day and some other photos I snapped at Branched Oak.

SAXoPicture-07542724-325416160Nice hairnet, right? Focus on the cheese. Or on the handsome cow below, one of Doug and Krista Dittman’s Jersey herd.

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Or on the delicious lunch we had after our cheese making was done. That little chunk of cheese on the top of my plate was pure deliciousness. I got so into eating my bowl of homemade yogurt topped with frozen berries — ok, my two bowls — that I forgot to take a photo. But you get the idea.

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I wrote in my story about how Krista takes cheese from the on-site cheese cave, which is coated in mold, and scrubs it before its cut and sold. Here’s a “before” and an “after of two wheels of cheese. On the left is how they look straight out of the cave, on the right is what you and I buy at the market. One of those wheels is dill Gouda and the other is Prairie Grove nettle, which is only available in the springtime and is truly delicious. It’s among my top three Branched Oak cheeses I’ve tried, pictured at the top of this post along with rosemary-studded Quark and hand-stretched mozzarella.

Ribbet collage

And here’s what I did with my two mozzarella balls, a fresh caprese salad that I served last weekend at a party. For once, I didn’t grow the herbs and tomatoes; instead I stretched the cheese.

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