As a cheese, to say nothing of a goat and sheep lover, what could be more entertaining than the annual Cheese Tour encompassing farms in Vermont and nearby Washington County, NY? Our first stop was Consider Bardwell in West Paulet, VT, founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell (a name in a million) himself.
Today’s owners make award-winning cheeses, largely of goats’ milk, with Vermonty names like Mettowee, Dorset and Manchester. Equinox is an aged raw goat cheese named for a local mountain; Manchester is slightly nutty and also aged goat. Both are divine. www.considerbardwell.com
The tour map, more art than science, vaguely directed us to our next stop at Three Corner Field Farm on one hundred beautiful acres in Shushan, NY. Here sheep are the stars. We were instructed to scrub the soles of our shoes with a disinfectant so as not to carry any harmful agents inside the barns.
The hardy East Frisian sheep are kept outside all year which works because of their thick, wool coats. They graze on grass and clover and seem very happy although we didn’t solicit their thoughts regarding the upcoming November breeding season. www.dairysheepfarm.com.
A lunch break took us to Steininger’s, housed in a 150 year-old brick store in beautiful, downtown Salem, NY. A far cry from a chain operation, Steininger’s is family-run and a step back in time. I had (cheeseless) salmon salad on a bed of great lettuces and broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and carrots, the whole topped with a nasturtium. None of us sprang for either the desserts or the house-made chocolates, the place’s trademark items, although we did a little drooling.
Our last stop was at Sweet Spring Farm in Argyle, NY where “Cossayuna” Nubian goats rule, producing various kinds of chevre, all yummy. Milton, one of the owners, ‘shepherded’ us through a tour of the milking process. The goats are milked in shifts, eight goats per shift, two milked simultaneously, and have their names—Sunshine, Mona, Ellis– displayed on a whiteboard with notes like “Mona’s tag is missing. She’s black and white.” www.sweetspringfarm.com
At this time of year, squash of all kinds is ubiquitous. This recipe, combining squash with cheese, makes fans even of ardent squash-haters. The cheese is Parmesan, not a local item nor from sheep or goats but hey…
Summer Squash Parmesan
2 cups young zucchini (or a mix of young zucchini, Pattypan and yellow squash—any hard rind squash will do)
Grated Parmesan cheese (from the supermarket in a plastic container but buy a good brand and select shredded—or be a hero, buy a whole piece and shred it yourself)
Ground black pepper
Wash and dry squash. If really young, there’s no need to peel it. Cut off tops and any brown parts and slice squash into fairly thin circles. (Pattypan may end up more like thin squares which is fine.)
Put 1 T. olive oil in bottom of a casserole dish (meaning oven-proof dish— the dish size is determined only by how much squash you use in turn related to how many people you plan to serve.)
Follow with a layer of squash. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then with grated Parmesan. Keep layering squash, salt, pepper and Parmesan, ending with Parmesan. You need only add more olive oil if you reach more than three layers. Then another 1 T should do it.
Bake in a 300° oven for 30 minutes. If squash isn’t fully tender, bake a little longer, covering the top with foil if it begins to brown. I realize the recipe is a little vague but it’s also very forgiving so give it a whirl.