Harvest of the Month: Dairy

Harvest of the Month: Dairy

Making homemade ricotta cheese is not as difficult as one might think. — Emily Duncker

Martha’s Vineyard farms are waking up for spring as a chorus of little “baas,” “moos,” and “cheeps” can be heard from the baby animals being born.

Step five: Scoop cheese curds into the colander with a slotted spoon.
Step five: Scoop cheese curds into the colander with a slotted spoon.

For many farmers, spring is a time of birth and renewal for their flocks and herds. When any mammal gives birth, they produce milk to feed their young, and for a dairy farmer this can mean twice-daily milkings. This April, we celebrate Dairy, in all of its delicious forms, as our Harvest of the Month.

On the Vineyard, we are lucky to have two commercial dairies, Mermaid Farm and Grey Barn and Farm, which sell milk and value-added products from their farms at the West Tisbury Farmers Market and in some independent food stores. Milk products from cows raised on grass have higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients as well as richness and complexity of taste.

When purchasing milk and other dairy products from the grocery store, be sure to read the labels. Make sure the product contains no rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) or the similar hormone rBST. Check milk, yogurt, and smoothies for added sugar, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, and other artificial sweeteners, and avoid these products if possible.

You, too, can make ricotta

Ricotta cheese is fun and easy to make at home (we promise!). Try this recipe from Harvest of the Month guest chef Robin Forte.

Ingredients:

1 quart whole milk

Step six: gather corners of the cheesecloth and close with a rubber band.
Step six: gather corners of the cheesecloth and close with a rubber band.

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 and 1/2 tsp. white vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:

In a medium pot, combine the milk and cream. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to 185 degrees; do not let the mixture boil. Remove the pot from the heat and add the vinegar and salt, stir for a minute, cover the pot with a clean dishcloth, and let sit two hours.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place in a large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the curds into the colander. Carefully gather the corners of the cheesecloth and close with a rubber band. Let sit for 30 minutes. Transfer ricotta to a bowl and use right away, or refrigerate for later.

Emily Duncker is the Preschool Coordinator Program Administrator at Island Grown Schools.