an eco-friendly goat cheese
Ever wonder where your food comes from? If you’re like me, the closest you have come to livestock in recent years is your local zoo or a stray feather on your chicken. When I decided to learn more about what goes into the making of one of my favorite cheeses, goat cheese, I turned to the folks at Adamah. A working farm and Jewish learning community at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center, Adamah produces kosher, eco-friendly cheese. They taught me about where goat cheese comes from and how the production can be done in a green way.
Adamah makes three main goat milk products: goatgurt, feta, and chevre—one of my personal favorites. Milk is provided by the farm’s 11 goats which are hand-milked twice a day, producing about 10 gallons of dairy goodness. After milking, batches of the creamy delicacy are sent for pasteurization, to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Once pasteurized, culture (good bacteria) and microbial rennet are added to begin the cheese-making process. The milk begins to solidify into curds, which separate from the liquid whey. Finally, the cheese is hung to drip dry and packed for sale at local shops, co-ops, and eateries. Since chevre is a soft cheese, there’s no need for aging, making time from milking to the store’s shelf less than a week. At Adamah, the whole process is under supervision of a mashgiach (supervisor) to ensure everything is kosher.
So how does this process bring a dimple to Mother Nature’s face? At Adamah, the herd is hand-milked, reducing the need for energy consuming machines and the materials used to make them. Also, the goats’ diet consists of organic grain, local hay, and shrubbery from woods on the farm’s grounds. As Adamah’s Dairy Director Aitan Mizrahi, 33, explained, their “diverse and healthy diet translates into healthy and tasty cheese for us.” Yum!
Adamah’s team, including the goats, each get personalized attention. From the hand-milking to the network of local shops, co-ops, and restaurants that sell the finished products, Adamah’s brand of eco-friendly production reflects a balance of commitment to its Jewish foundation and environmental values. The twin passions of Jewish learning and green living are what attract many Adamahniks, like Laura Held, 29, to the farm. Held, formerly a book publisher, found a way to combine her love of Judaism and agriculture with a career she was more passionate about at Adamah. After completing the Adamah fellowship, she stayed on board as mashgicha for a second year, and will head for an MA in agriculture at Tufts this fall.
So if your passion is for a green Jewish America or just a darn good creamy cheese, and you happen to be passing near Falls Village, Connecticut, stop by the center’s bookshop to pick up some Holy Chevre. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch milking time. With cheese in hand, you’ll be ready to prepare this recipe, which combines chevre’s tang with the earthy savor of shitakes and the fresh flavor of locally-grown spinach in a pillowy casing for a healthy, kosher, and eco-friendly brunch!
Chevre, Spinach, and Shitake Blintzes
3 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. flour
½ c. water
¼ stick butter, room temperature
10 oz. chevre, cubed
1.5 c. onions diced small
6 c. fresh spinach, chopped
8 oz. shitake mushrooms caps or 16 oz. button mushrooms
A sprinkle of salt and pepper
Diced tomatoes (optional garnish)
Bletlach (Blintz Crepes)
Beat eggs with a fork (not a whisk) for 3 min. to minimize the amount of air in the eggs. This prevents holes in the bletlach. In a separate bowl, mix small amounts of flour into the water until a smooth batter forms. Combine eggs and batter in a large bowl.
Next, use a clean dish towel to grease an 8-inch non-stick pan with butter. Ladle the bottom of the pan with enough batter to coat evenly, pouring back the excess batter. The goal is to get them paper-thin. When the batter begins to peel from the thin edges, remove it with a knife and watch for the center to slide easily from the pan. Next, flip it over onto a clean dish towel, tapping the counter with the top of the pan to make sure it separates smoothly. Allow to cool before stacking.
To make the filling, remove stems from shitakes and wipe clean with a wet dish towel. Chop and dice all veggies. Brown onions in butter until translucent. Then add mushrooms and cook until onions crisp at edges. Sprinkle the rest of the ingredients into the pan and mix.
Spoon one tablespoon of filling into the center of each bletlach, fold in corners to make a square pouch and place on a baking dish, folded sides down. Blintzes can be made a day or two ahead of time. Brown before serving and garnish with diced tomatoes from your local farmer’s market!