Archive for the ‘Cheese’ Category

Local Cheeses Get Our Goat!


Northern California is home to some of the most beautiful and flavorful artisan cheese in the world today. Our perfect combination of geography and climate provide dedicated artisans with the resources necessary to practice their craft. Unlike the Northeast and the Midwest, our mild winters allow animals to spend almost the entire year on pasture, and the wonderful flavors of the terroir and the seasons are expressed in the cheese. Many of these cheeses are only available at the local farmers’ markets, or at select independent retailers throughout the area.

The Mendocino coast is home to the Elk Creamery, California’s first certified organic goat dairy. Cheesemaker Kermit Carter produces a variety of cheeses, including a delicate camembert and the lusty Red Gold, which is dusted in dried hot peppers. By far, Elk’s most popular cheese is the Black Gold, a camembert-style cheese aged under a coating of vegetable ash. The cheeses almost burst when ripe, and are a perfect complement to crusty breads.
Further inland, you will find two more top-notch producers of artisan chevre. The newest, Shamrock Artisan, is located outside Willits. Their Bouchon (translated, “wine cork”) is an aged button similar to Crottin de Chavignol from France’s famed Loire region. Few local cheesemakers sell aged cheeses, as the time from milk to market is longer and return on investment is slower to recoup. Shamrock also makes an Ashed Tomette, another aged but flatter disk, with the same nutty flavor and toothsome texture. Along with these, you can also purchase a selection of fresh chevre, both plain and flavored, as well as a tangy goat feta.
Yerba Santa Dairy is perhaps one of California’s oldest goat cheese artisans. The farm was purchased from its founders several years ago by bothers Daniel and Javier Salmon, who previously hailed from Bodega Goat Cheese. Javier produces Bodega’s line of cheeses on the farm, located just west of Lakeport, and Daniel produces the Yerba Santa recipes, including the aged Shepherd’s, one of the few raw milk goat cheeses available in California today. Their most unique offering is a Peruvian version of cajeta, goat’s milk caramel, called Natilla. The recipe comes from their father, and the sweet and tangy paste is a natural topping for fig and prosciutto pizza, featured below.
Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
1 ¼ cups tepid water
1 package instant or fast rising dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-31/4 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
¼ cup cornmeal
Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 slices of prosciutto or slivered ham
4-5 fresh figs, halved
¼ cup Yerba Santa plain Chevito, crumbled
Bodega Goat Cheese Natilla, slightly warmed in hot water bath
Place water in mixing bowl and dissolve yeast in the water. Add the oil and 1 ½ cups of the flour and all of the cornmeal. Beat together for 5-10 minutes to form a sticky batter. Knead in the remaining flour until dough is smooth and elastic. Place on a clean counter or in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or towel. Allow to rise until double in bulk, about one hour. Punch dough down and divide into three equal parts. You can roll out the dough at this point and freeze between layers of plastic wrap or in individual zip bags (defrost before topping and baking).
To make pizza, preheat your oven to 450F with or without a pizza stone. Roll one portion of dough into a rough circle on a lightly floured baking sheet. It should make a circle about 14” across, depending on how thick you like your crust. Brush with olive oil, and top with meat, figs, and crumbled Chevito. Drizzle warm Natilla over the top and bake either on the sheet or directly on a pizza stone for 10-15 minutes or until crust is browned to your taste and topping are heated through.
Post by Julia Conway on August 14th, 2008