This week’s feature was written by Laura Martinez, CUESA volunteer and author of Everything Cheese Book (July 2007).
Northern California’s pastures have supported a thriving dairy industry for over a hundred years. Dairy farmers and food artisans make specialty cheese with the milk of carefully tended herds of cows, goats, and sheep. Farmstead cheesemakers use the milk of their own herds; others use the milk of local herds. Both are creating some of the most exciting flavors ever to come out of our region. People living in the Bay Area have ready access to several of these cheesemakers through the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. The description of each cheesemaker includes a suggested pairing of a cheese with another farmers’ market food.
ACHADINHA CHEESE COMPANY
The Pacheco family’s farmstead cheeses are handmade according to old world traditions. Wheels of Capricious, a semi-hard goat’s milk cheese, are hand-rolled, then rubbed with olive oil as they age. Broncha has subtle flavors of the brewers’ grains fed to the goats, and Donna Pacheco’s handmade Feta is soaked in sea salt brine. Each cheese is available year-round, though depending on demand they may be aged for slightly different lengths of time. The milk for these cheeses comes from the Pachecos’ herd of approximately 1200 milk goats raised on 229 acres of pasture in Petaluma.
Market pairing: For a delightful, light snack, pair Capricious with fresh or dried pears.
Spring Hill Jersey cow’s milk, Volpi Ranch goat’s milk (both from Petaluma), and the occasional batch of sheep’s milk are the key ingredients Soyoung Scanlan, a solo artisan cheesemaker, uses to create her exquisite cheeses. Many of the names of Andante’s cheeses are musical terms, and Andante is “the tempo mark for many songlike movements that indicates a moderate rate of speed of a strolling walk.” Nocturne, Pianoforte, and Legato are bloomy-rind, cow’s milk cheeses. Largo and Picolo are full expressions of triple-cream cow’s milk, where crème fraîche is added to the milk before the cheese is made. Andante goat’s milk cheeses include Acapella, Fresh Goat, Impromptu, Pastoral, and Crottin in various sizes and shapes, some with coatings of ash. Rondo, Metronome, and Melange are made from a mixture of cow and goat’s milk, and Minuet is a triple-cream goat’s milk cheese. Many of Andante’s cheeses are seasonal, with quantities and varieties dependent on milk availability and seasonal variations in butterfat content of the milk.
Market pairing: Pair Andante’s triple-cream cheeses with French Breakfast or Red Globe Radishes sprinkled with sea salt.
BODEGA & YERBA SANTA GOAT CHEESE
The Salmon family uses Peruvian-, French-, and Spanish- style cheesemaking techniques to produce their farmstead cheeses. The milk comes from 85 goats raised in Lakeport; the goats roam on organic pasture and are treated with herbal tinctures when they are sick. Homemade Zinfandel wine is used as a rub while aging Queso Cabrero. Queso Fresco (fresh feta) is light and ideal for cooking, and Queso Crema can be used instead of cream cheese or ricotta. Keep your eye out for the Fresh Chevre, Chevito, and Natilla, a Peruvian style caramel sauce.
Market pairing: For a delicious, smoky sandwich, spread Queso Crema on whole wheat bread and top with Aubergine Spread from Marin Gourmet.
Cowgirl Creamery’s triple-cream cheeses are made from organic cow’s milk from the Straus Family Creamery in Tomales, the first certified organic dairy west of the Mississippi. Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam, a bloomy-rind cheese, and Red Hawk, a washed-rind cheese, are available year-round. The pungency and sunset colors of Red Hawk’s rind come from beneficial molds that exist naturally in Point Reyes Station, where the cheeses are made. Cowgirl’s seasonal offerings include Inverness, St. Pat, Pierce Pt., Sir Frances Drake, and the occasional, delicious experiment. Fresh cheeses include Clabbered Cottage Cheese, Fromage Blanc, Crème Fraîche and Niloufer’s Paneer. Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are sold both at the farmers’ market booth and at their retail store in the Ferry Building Marketplace. At the farmers’ market booth, you can also find local cheeses from Bellwether Farms, the Matos Family, and Vella Cheese Company.
Market pairing: For a Sunday breakfast treat, drizzle Robert Lambert’s Golden Date Syrup, available from Flying Disc Ranch, over Niloufer’s Paneer on a wedge of French toast.
PT. REYES FARMSTEAD CHEESE CO.
Fresh, creamy, raw milk from Holstein cows goes into the production of Pt. Reyes Original Blue Farmstead Cheese, the only artisanal blue cheese made in California. Bob Giacomini has been milking cows in Pt. Reyes since 1959, and the family started making their blue cheese in 2000. The creamy white color of the cheese comes from partially homogenized cream, and the blue veins from a strain of Penicillium roqueforti. The closed herd of 300 cows grazes on pasture amid the coastal fog and salty breezes overlooking Tomales Bay. The ranch is Free Farmed Certified by the American Humane Association.
Market pairing: For a delicious dessert, pair Pt. Reyes Original Farmstead Blue with honeycomb from Marshall’s Farm Natural Honey.
SPRING HILL JERSEY CHEESE
Spring Hill cheeses are made entirely from the pasteurized milk of Jersey cows. Jersey cow milk is high in butterfat, allowing Larry Peter and his family to make rich, creamy, certified organic, farmstead cheeses including: Cheddars, Giana (a soft, washed-rind cheese), Jacks, Dry Jacks, Mozzarella, Old World Portuguese (rubbed in salt and Virgin Olive Oil), Quarks, Ricottas, Teleme, and Spring Hill Breeze (a Brie-style cheese). The cows are pasture-fed and supplementary silage (fermented red oats, white oats, fava beans, bell beans, and rye grass) is grown at the family dairy in Petaluma. The family makes cheese year-round.
Market pairing: Enjoy an appetizer of sliced baguette topped with Spring Hill Teleme and Tierra Vegetables’ Farm Blend Chili Jam.
Take a self-guided cheese tour of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this or any Saturday! Maps of the market are available at the CUESA information booth.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »