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Strawberry & Fresh Cheese Tart

I find that it is often easier to live in the future than in the moment. I’m embarrassed by how many of my conversations with Dan begin with “when we have a…” Be it a house, a better yard, a dog, kids, chickens, a goat, a boat, a unicorn, I often focus on that next step. It’s natural, we all do it. If it weren’t for planning and hoping and wishing and thinking ahead we’d become stagnant. The downside, of course, is that it’s easy to forget today, the now.

In just a few weeks, I’ll turn 26. Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how very old I feel. I’ve just spent a lot of time reflecting on all the things I’ve put off into the future, and challenging why so many of them can’t be brought into the here and now. Last week we made cheese, which had long been on our list of when-we-have-a-big-kitchen-and-a-goat list, in our tiny, messy, crowded kitchen. And it was hot, and I got a bit grumpy, but in the end we had cheese. And it was delicious.

There are some things that belong on the future list. We can’t have a boat until we live near the ocean, can afford a boat, and have a place to put a boat. But making cheese? We can do that in our apartment. Which is why today I ordered the supplies I need to make creamy goat cheese. Because… what’s stopping me?

Strawberry & Fresh Cheese Tart

1 pint strawberries

1/2 cup creamy goats cheese

3 tbsps honey

Fresh lavender

Pie crust (half of this recipe here)

Roll out your pie dough and press it into a tart pan. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the bottom is cooked through. Remove from the oven, remove the beans. Lay a rack on top of the pie and flip, so the crust comes out of the tart. Then place a plate on the bottom of the crust and flip back over so the tart is sitting on its own. As you can see in the pictures, I sucked at this step.

Spread your cheese along the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with lavender. Slice strawberries and fill. Drizzle with honey and serve.

 

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Lavender & Honey Farm Cheese

I know this blog has been an ode to Baltimore  lately, but hell, if I do nothing else in my time here I might as well try and convince the rest of you what a great place this is. Plus, when I was catching up on Southern Living yesterday I noted that they named Baltimore one of the top ten Southern food cities, so maybe my whole Baltimore-is-not-the-South stance is wrong after all and I should start backpedaling. Maybe.

Anyway, one of the reasons Baltimore stole my heart in the first place is because of the parallels it shares with Durham. I always saw connections, but the more these two cities evolve the more wonderfully similar they become. One such example is the strengthening local, thoughtful, dynamic agriculture scenes. I see farms and collectives popping up all over the place in both cities, and I would be lying if said I wasn’t powerfully moved by it.

The Museum started partnering with Kayam Farm, a local Jewish sustainable farm, about a year ago. Over the course of the past year we’ve worked together in many different ways, and I’ve learned quite a bit from them about biblical farming, sustainable living, and food justice. And, as of Thursday, cheese-making. We had them down for a First Thursday program where they demonstrated the technique for making a simple farmer’s cheese. Dan and I both left that night saying that we would be trying it at home as soon as possible. So yesterday afternoon, we did.

The hardest part of the whole process was waiting for the gallon of milk to come to a boil. Other than that, it was stupid easy. I am a huge fan of recipes that are stupid easy. We flavored half of the cheese with fresh lavender and honey, and I have to say, it was delicious. I now feel empowered to move on to more complex cheeses. Chèvre, anyone?

Ed note: this is what my kitchen looks like, really. It’s small, poorly lit, and messy.

Lavender & Honey Farm Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (or goat’s milk)

1/4 cup white vinegar

Cheese cloth

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh lavender, chopped

1 tbsp honey

In a large, non-reactive pot, place your milk over low heat. You want to bring the milk up to almost a boil without scalding it, so it’s important to heat it slowly. This will take what feels like forever. Heat the milk, stirring occasionally, until the pot is hot to the touch. Then you can crank the heat and stir the milk frequently until it begins to boil. When this happens cut the heat and stir in the vinegar. This will cause the curds to separate from the whey.

Line a metal mesh colander with cheese cloth. Pour the whole mixture through, which will catch the curds. We suggest you hold onto the whey- it’s an incredible source of protein and I’ll be posting some whey-related recipes soon! Allow the cheese to drain, tying the cheese cloth around it to promote drainage. When it is moist but not wet, stir in salt. Transfer from the cloth to a small bowl and stir in lavender and honey. Serve or refrigerate for up to a week.

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Honeysuckle & Mulberry Spritzer

Last week, when I was out picking honeysuckle, I stumbled upon a section of the trail that was full of berries. Ankle deep in brush and hands full of honeysuckle, I stopped to stare at the small, deep purple berries. At first, I thought “look, blackberries!” This year has been so warm, it seemed logical that blackberries could have arrived. But I wasn’t sure and didn’t much feel like dying from a poisonous berry, so I tweeted a picture of it, hoping the internet would come through.

As always, they did. Within a few minutes someone had replied that they definitely weren’t blackberries, they were mulberries. Which are not only totally harmless, they’re delicious. Needless to say, I stuffed my bag full of them.

As I walked home, appreciating the burst of honeysuckle scent erupting from my bag every few feet and carefully trying not to squish the berries, I thought about how I could combine the two flavors in a recipe. My mind bounced from jam to sorbet, and finally settled on a cocktail. A light, summery, refreshing yet sweet, incredibly local cocktail. One that I dubbed the “Jones Falls Jammer.”

The Jones Falls Jammer, also known as a Honeysuckle & Mulberry Spritzer for those of you with no connection to the Jones Falls River, is honeysuckle simple syrup, muddled mulberries, vodka, club soda, and a squeeze of lemon. It is everything you want in a summer cocktail, perfect for drinking on the porch, a color almost too good to be true.

Also, this week we revealed the tshirt design for the B’Eat More Pie Fest shirts. They’re great, designed by my good friend Brit, and available for pre-order. Go forth and order a shirt! And come to pie fest!

Jones Falls Jammer

honeysuckle simple syrup:

1 cup honeysuckle flowers

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

spritzer:

1/2 cup fresh mulberries (or blackberries)

1 oz vodka

3 oz club soda

Lemon wedge

To make your simple syrup, soak honeysuckle in water overnight. Strain, and combine water, sugar, and cinnamon in a pot. Simmer until sugar dissolves. Cool.

To mix the drink, muddle 10-12 mulberries in the bottom of a glass. Add 1 oz syrup, 1 oz vodka, and club soda. Stir together. Top with a wedge of lemon. Enjoy!

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