Day 31–Hillsborough Cheese Company

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Not sure which cheese you would love? You can try 'em before you buy 'em!

My child is in love. With a cheese.

Really, it could be worse, right? This sweet infatuation began at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market, where we visited the booth of artisanal cheese makers The Hillsborough Cheese Company (hillsboroughcheese.wordpress.com). We had been looking for a local cheese source, and were thrilled to find the cheese booth, complete with tasting opportunities. We sampled a few and ended up purchasing some Eno Sharp for grilled cheese and some fresh mozzarella for pizza.

Then, we tried the Bloomin’ Sweet Ash, an aged goat cheese that gets its ashy exterior from the application of a food grade vegetable ash. Really! They describe the cheese this way: ‘The result is a creamy, gooey layer surrounding a delicious, chevre-like spreadable center that alternates between notes of sweetness and bitterness.” My child believes this is the best cheese. Ever. I heard about the virtues and superior quality of this cheese all the way home. Apparently, I am going to be adding this to my list next week.

Hillsborough Cheese Company offers a nice range of cow and goat milk cheeses made with locally produced milk. Their cow milk comes from Maple View Farm in Orange County, which sets the standard in our area for high quality, no growth hormone milk from pasture raised cows. Their goat milk comes from similar high quality goat dairies in the area. Cheesemaker Cindy West focuses on crafting European style cheeses and it appears that they have some standard offerings as well as some seasonal varieties that take advantage of available local ingredients.

So how was the cheese? We tried the Eno Sharp in our grilled cheese last night and all of us agreed it was amazing. It had perfect melting qualities and a wonderful milky taste that was not overly sharp, but had enough flavor that we could really taste the cheese. Hard to describe (I’m not a cheese expert by any means). We would definitely do this again.

The mozzarella is a fresh, hand stretched mozzarella that we used on our homemade pizzas. It was so much more flavorful than store-bought pizza cheese that I don’t think we’ll ever go back to shredded cheese in a bag. A $4.00 round of cheese made enough grated cheese for two pizzas, so that’s $2.00 a pizza–definitely within our budget.

Hillsborough Cheese Company cheese is available at some farmer’s markets in the area–check their website for specific information. As for me, I’ll be heading out Saturday to purchase some Bloomin’ Sweet Ash for my bloomin’ sweetie.

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Day 24–“Wildly Affordable Organic”

English: A hand reaching for organic tomatoes ...

I recently came across a great resource for staying on a budget while eating organic and thought I would share it. Although our goal isn’t specifically to eat “organic,” it is a part of our overall goal to eat sustainably and to reduce our household toxin load, and organic foods are a big part of that.

The resource is a book, website and blog titled “Wildly Affordable Organic” (www.cookforgood.com). Author Linda Watson (of Raleigh!) claims to have the secrets to living on $5 a day or less while eating organic (and vegetarian). In flipping through a borrowed copy of the book, there are some good tips for frugal living and some good tips for eating organic. The vegetarian and vegan recipes online look good enough that I might go ahead and purchase the book.

While the frugal tips are good, eating “organic” and eating “sustainably” are not necessarily the same thing. Buying organic produce does lessen the world’s pesticide load, but buying organic tomatoes from Mexico when you live in Maine does little to alleviate the carbon footprint of your food–especially if you can get minimally treated tomatoes or organic tomatoes locally at a slightly higher price. And are organic tomatoes from another country sustainable if the “farm” is a large agribusiness and laborers are not paid a fair wage? And are “organic” canned beans packaged in a can with a liner that uses BPA really worth the price if you’re getting a packaging toxin along with your healthy beans? You can only imagine the dilemmas swirling around my mind…

At some point, though, you have to stop and actually eat. Philosophical foodway issues aside, this seems like a good reference book for beginners on how to purchase organic foods without breaking your budget and how to make low cost, vegetarian dishes. Check out the website and see for yourself. Any day I can learn a few new tricks is a good day!