Fall is ready to pounce here at the ranch. It hits me in the face at dawn when I go out to free the chickens from their coop. One of the highest cottonwood branches has turned canary yellow. No frost yet, but any day, or so the old-timers tell me. I sometimes think people remember the worst first or last frost and encode it as the normal. I sure would like to get another week of tomato ripening 80 degree afternoons.
These peppers are already roasted and in the freezer, along with peaches, zuchinni, carrots, corn, spinach and kale. If you dig deeper, you will find some berries and a bunch of apricot freezer jam for those cold grey winter days when it seems like spring will never come again. I brought in a five gallon bucket half full of tomatoes yesterday that I need to turn into sauce, salsa and oven-roasted packets of sweetness.
All that cooking, but that’s not what we are eating now. Last year, I won a gift certificate from New England Cheesemaking Supply but I didn’t use it right away. The temporary lodging kitchen was not conducive to prepping anything more than a bowl of cereal or an adult beverage. A few weeks ago I went on a cheese-making shopping spree. NECS sent a trove of little cheese-starter packets and a proper thermometer. Then we sourced some raw milk. R picks it up on his drive home to the ranch from the lab. We use that for Friday night mozzarella and it put on my sourdough pizza dough. This week it was extra special: our friend Guy gave us an incredible gift of wild porcinis that he had foraged on Boulder Mountain. We sauteed some as a pizza topping-unbelievably delish.
Not all milk will make cheese: if the producer has pasturized it at temperature that is too high, the proteins won’t come together into curd. Winder Dairy milk is working for us. That’s what we used this weekend to make our first batch of fromage blanc. This cheese is slightly easier than making yogurt. It is easier than peeling an apple. Maybe not peeling a banana. And when it’s done, you feel like a genius and you want to eat it with a spoon.
The French make coeur a la creme, a dessert with fromage blanc, sugar and berries. We had it for lunch with fresh tomatoes and bread. Then we had it for dinner on pasta with more tomatoes, and for dessert on bread with apricot jam. Unlike the mozzarella, which loses its freshness by the hour, this cheese will last two weeks in the fridge. It won’t though. We still have dill and basil in the garden to chop and stir in for a veggie dip. There is roasted pepper-fromage blanc pasta sauce to make. Our potatoes are ready to dig and roast, calling out for cheese and bacon. And Ricki Carroll’s cheese-making bible and cookbook has a recipe for an apple butter fromage blanc cheesecake. I heard the Ginger Gold apples are ready in the park.
When Guy dropped off my mushroom treasure, he said the colors are already turning on the mountain. Contemplating the killing frost isn’t so scary when you can greet it with a spoon. Bring it on (after I get the tomatoes in please). I’ll make some more cheese and we’ll open a bottle of cider.