April 2011: Green Dirt Farm Tour and Tasting
Slow Food Kansas City’s sold out event at Green Dirt Farm was every foodie’s dream. It began with a tour of the farm and the cheesemaking facilities led by co-owner and farm manager, Jacqueline Smith.
Jacque explained how the farm practices management-intensive grazing with their sheep, meaning the sheep are frequently rotated from pasture to pasture allowing the land to recover before being grazed again. This improves the quality of the grass the sheep are eating, which has a direct effect on the milk they will eventually produce. This type of grazing also protects and builds the soil naturally, making their little piece of Earth a better place than when they came.
Being a farmstead cheese producer (the cheeses are produced on the farm in which the milk comes from), they take careful measures to produce the richest most flavorful milk starting with the breed of sheep they raise all the way to the careful handling of the milk. One unique aspect of grass-fed milk is the flavor and chemical structure of the milk changes based on the changing diet of the animals who are producing the milk. The sheep are eating whatever grasses are growing in the current season and those flavors will shine through in their milk. This means throughout the year the cheeses will develop different flavors highlighting the season in which the milk it was made from was produced. Conventional dairy farmers take measures to standardize their products by controlling the animal’s diets, while true artisans embrace mother nature’s helping hand — even if it sometimes means altering their award winning cheese recipes to achieve the desired result with the milk they have to work with at the time.
Once the milk is produced, the operation is handed over to the other co-owner, Sarah Hoffman, who is the resident cheese making genius. Sarah produces several varieties of award winning fresh cheeses, including Rosemary, Nettle, Firecracker (hot peppers), Lovage (garden herbs), Confetti (garlic and onion), and Plain. That’s only the beginning of their line up – award-winning line up.
The tasting portion of Sunday’s event highlighted Sarah’s favorite fresh cheese of the moment, Rosemary, as well as two of their other farmstead cheeses, Woolly Rind and Dirt Lovers. Yes, both of those are award-winning, as well, which not many newcomer cheese makers can boast about (hence the emphasis on it).
Sarah and Events Coordinator, Tony Glamcevski, walked us through each of the three courses of cheese and drink pairing, which they thoughtfully created for this event. Perfecto. As we progressed through each course the flavors of the cheese became more robust, as did its partnered drink.
Without the ambiance of the event barn at Green Dirt Farm and without being surrounded by the quiet green pastures, you may not get full foodie experience of the tasting at home. You can, however, recreate the courses and impress your friends (and your tastebuds) to no end.
Course One: Rosemary Fresh Farmstead Cheese* paired with Domaine Merlin-Cherrier, Sancerre Blanc, reflecting the chalky terroir of Bué, a hamlet in the village of Sancerre.
*2009 American Cheese Society Competition Winner
Fresh is a spreadable cheese that highlights the wonderful clean, grassy, flavors of our milk.
Course Two: Woolly Rind* paired with Pinot Blanc Reserve produced by Albert Seilz in Mittelbergheim, located in the Alsace region of France.
*2010 American Cheese Society Competition winner
Our version of a classic Camembert style cheese. It has a lovely edible white bloomy rind that is sometimes mottled with flecks of tan, blue or orange as the cheese ages. The cheese has a firm body and flavors of milk and grass when it is young. At the peak of ripeness, the cheese becomes runny at room temperature. It develops a lovely forest floor aroma and buttery, mushroomy flavors with a natural sweetness to the rind.
Course Three: Dirt Lover* cheese pair with Boulevard Brewing Company’s Tank 7 beer.
*2010 American Cheese Society Competition winner
This cheese is styled after classic ash-dusted French farmhouse cheeses. It has an edible white bloomy rind that reveals the underlying layer of vegetable ash. In spring, the cheese is often firm and dense with a nuttiness that is balanced by the savory note imparted by the ash. In summer, the cheese is firm when young and develops a beautiful creamy ring just under the ash layer which expands as the cheeses ages. It makes a lovely presentation on a cheese plate.
You can find Green Dirt Farm cheese at several of the farmers markets around Kansas City, as well as, retail outlets and restaurants. Their cheese is also available for sale online. Look for the wines at a specialty merchant shop, such as Cellar Rat. Tank 7 is widely distributed around the city, so look for it at your local liquor store.
While this was a one of a kind event, Green Dirt Farm holds regular events from May through October. Tickets for their Cheese Appreciation events, similar to our Slow Food KC tasting, went available for purchase on April 8, 2011. The first event, “Stinky Cheese and Dessert Wines” is May 14th or May 15th (you have your choice of days). Seats are limited, but there are still a few available. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets.
Their Farm Dinners, some of the most highly sought after events in Kansas City at the moment, are held in the barn and are prepared by a different guest chef each time. The 2011 line up was just release last week and it includes 14 of the city’s leading chefs. Each one will bring their own flare to the table using Green Dirt Farm’s sheep milk cheeses and grass-fed lamb, as well as, locally grown and produced earthly delights. The dinners sell out quickly, so follow Green Dirt Farm on Facebook and sign up for their newsletters so you don’t miss out on one (or two) of these unforgettable events.
Thank you to Sarah, Jacque, Tony, Josh and everyone else at Green Dirt Farm for an amazing day at the farm!
The next Slow Food Kansas City event will be held on May 15, 2011, at Shatto Milk Company. Tickets on sale now!
Photos courtesy of Bill Vandenberg