Demchur owns and operates Shellbark Hollow Farm, producing small-batch goat cheeses. He never planned for his home on a 3.5-acre lot in West Chester to become a farm; the slow transition into farming began when his family gave him a pair of goats as a Father’s Day gift. A framed photo of those original goats sits on top of the living room television, alongside photos of the children who gave them to him. Demchur bred the pair, then started milking and making cheese. “Over the years,” he says, “the goats just took over the whole place.”
Homemade ricotta is wholly different from the store-bought alternative, but for the richest, most flavorful ricotta, use raw, grass-fed whole milk. I purchased some from Wholesome Dairy Farms at the Fair Food Farmstand, and it yielded much tastier results than a batch I made from pasteurized milk. This ricotta is pillowy and fluffy—great for breakfast with berries and a drizzle of honey.
Note: you’ll need cheesecloth and a candy thermometer
- 1 g. fresh whole milk (ideally raw, and not ultra-pasteurized or homogenized)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/3 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Rinse a large stock pot with cold water to help prevent milk from sticking to the sides as it cooks. Pour milk into the pot and add salt. Heat gradually on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 30 to 40 minutes. Be patient—the slower you heat the milk, the softer the curd.
When the milk begins to simmer, at around 180°F, remove the pot from the heat and gently stir in lemon juice. Stir just until combined, then let sit for 20 minutes.
Line a colander with cheese cloth—you may want to fold it in two and use a double thickness—then use a ladle to scoop the curds from the pot into the cloth. You can reserve the whey (it’s good for making pizza dough) or let it drain into the sink.
Let the ricotta drain until it has reached your desired consistency, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Then refrigerate and use within three to five days.
For those with an eye toward the farming life, it sounds like the beginnings of a perfect job: six months rent-free on a mountain farm, hands-on education in the art and science of cheese-making, fresh food from the garden, a small stipend and even a little schooling in marketing and “basic goat care.”
Despite those draws, Paul Lawler is having a hard time finding a serious cheese intern. Maybe it’s his liberal use of the phrase “hard work.” But he’s hoping he just hasn’t reached the right audience yet. Although it has only been a month since Lawler left Cricket Creek in Massachusetts to become head cheese maker at Cranberry Creek Farms, owners Jeff and Mary-Jean Henry have been advertising since February for an intern to join them and their 57 goats on the 100 acre farm, located in Cresco, Pa. They've had a few nibbles, but haven’t yet found a candidate ready to commit to the rigors of farm life and cheese-making.
Chilly tempatures typically give us Grid staffers little desire to leave the office during the day, but with the new Valley Shepherd Creamery outpost opening in the Reading Terminal Market this week, we figured that was reason enough for a cold-weather fieldtrip down the block.
While the most enticing reason to spot by their stand may be the cheeses made on site, the real reason we wanted to check it out is the lunchtime offering of grilled cheese sandwiches at the adjacent Meltkraft counter run by CIA-trained chef Rebecca Foxman. Expect a few unusual combinations (like the mac and cheese with brisket) and a couple on the more typical (although none-less-tasty) side. Plus the kale and cabbage coleslaw side is a nice compliment to the salty cheeses, and the tomato soup option a good cold combatant. And don't forget the cane sugar-only Boylan sodas offered from the fountain behind the register. Check out the full menu here.
We were only able to try half of the menu, so a second visit is in our future—wouldn't want to miss out on the full olive bar and fresh, in-house-made mozerella sandwiches. Definitely a tasty solution to surviving the long winter days still ahead.
The stand at Reading Terminal joins the creamery's others in Park Slope, NY and at their farm shop in New Jersey. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Grid’s illustrious neighbor, the Reading Terminal Market, has some exciting new occupants. The New Jersey-based Valley Shepherd Creamery, due to open in November, will truck in milk three times a week, allowing customers to witness their cheese-making process firsthand.
Already open are the Tubby Olive, which sells olive oils and vinegars on tap, and the Head Nut, a coffee roaster from the Main Line that also offers bulk goods, including dry beans, nuts and candy, so bring your refillable containers!
For more information, visit readingterminalmarket.org
If you’re looking for a bold cheese to pair with beer, reach for Red Cat from Birchrun Hills Farm. This classic washed-rind stinker from Sue Miller isn’t as bossy as a ripe Epoisses—a pungent French delicacy—but it has the same creamy texture and beefy character. Think of stewed meat and bitter greens. The slightly astringent finish makes this cheese an ideal pairing for the rustic hoppiness and grapefruity twang of a Yards Pale Ale. For something gentler and smoother, try Red Cat alongside a pint of Slyfox Saison VOS. Loaded with apricot and honey notes, this saison softens Red Cat’s growl into a luxurious purr.
Resembling a pot of creamy, green-flecked pebbles, the addictive herbed farmer’s cheese made by Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm materializes unpredictably enough to make its every farmers market appearance memorable. Sweet, milky and deliciously versatile, farmer’s cheese is just a bottle of milk and a squeeze of lemon away when you can’t get your Birchrun Hills fix.
When Kristian Holbrook named his mixed-milk robiola “Hummingbird,” he couldn’t have chosen a more perfect image. Like its namesake bird, this soft cheese is bright and delicate, with a nectar-like flavor profile that calls to mind vanilla and citrus. At one week, Hummingbird has the consistency of airy cheesecake; at three, the center liquefies and gains pungency.