The Lady, The Man and I are fans of The Cooking Channel, the “Little Sister” of the Food Channel. This week we watched a special titled appropriately, “The Big Cheese” and hosted by Jason Sobocinski, Cheesemonger and Owner of Caseus Fromagerie and Bistro in New Haven, Ct.
He began the show with a bit of cheese trivia: The US produces the most cheese in the world with 350 different kinds and the US eats more cheese than any other country in the world.
In this special, Jason visited five US cheesemakers and either helped make cheese at each stop or chatted with the cheesemakers who shared stories with Jason. After each stop, he visited local restaurants and pubs and used the cheeses to create dishes.
The first stop was Calabro Cheese Corporation in East Haven which makes fresh mozzarella. Jason took us through the operation of making mozzarella, a fresh cheese made in just a few hours. The process sounds simple enough: pasteurize the milk, add the rennet to coagulate the milk and form the curds; drain the whey; cut the curd; salt the curd and brine. Right, it sounds simple enough but it takes talent to make cheese… ask The Lady, she has “assisted” twice making cheese.
After making the mozzarella, Jason headed to Bar Pizza in New Haven and with the owners made a pizza using the mozzarella. In addition to the cheese, the pizza had a layer of mashed potatoes under the shredded mozzarella on a thin crust. On top were bacon, garlic and parmesan. A few squirts of water and oil topped the pizza which was cooked in a wood burning oven for 7 minutes are 725°. (The Lady made a variation and the recipe will be posted on my sister blog later today.)
From New Haven, he headed to Oakleaf Dairy in Lebanon, Ct.to milk the seventy goats and then to Beltane Farms where he hung with the cheesemaker, Jonathan Howard. Although Beltane has its own herd of goats, which are protected from coyotes by Nestor, the family donkey, they buy milk from Oakleaf to use in cheesemaking. Jason and Jonathan made the first chevre of the season and then Jason was off to another local eatery, the Chester River Tavern where he and the chef used the chevre to make a snack baguette and then a twice baked soufflé.
Jason’s next stop was Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in the Hudson Valley north of Manhattan. OCSC boasts the largest sheep dairy farm in the US with more than 1000 East Friesians. Here Jason assisted in making a Camembert which he took and headed to Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern where he and the chef made small cheese croquettes using the camembert.
Then he was off to the West Coast for a stop at California’s Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese near Modesto. The cheesemaker and Jason talked about the award-winning Bandage Wrapped Cheddar that made Fiscalini famous. Jason took some of the cheddar and headed to Robert Sinskey Wines where the chef used the cheddar in crust to make a Bacon Onion pie and an apple pie… my oh my… both sounded and looked soooo good… hope The Lady was taking notes…
Jason ended the show with a stop at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese where he and the cheesemakers enjoyed a cheese plate and then a family style pasta dinner (in their classroom kitchen) that incorporated one of their blues. Jamie tasted a new blue that needs a name… The Man suggested “Reyesling Blue” – I posted his choice on their Facebook Page.
This is a “Must-see” show for cheese lovers and doesn’t everyone love cheese??? Jason is fun to watch and he knows his cheese. His passion for cheese shines through in every frame.
Here’s hoping The Cooking Channel decides to make this into a regular series or at least make recurring episodes – he has more cheesemakers to visit… so many cheeses…
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