Calgon…Take me Away

Ever think that it would be nice to go to France,Hungary, Egypt, Spain, Russia, Ukraine? I do but work and finances don’t allow me to take in all i want to see and do, But someday. In the meantime, one can experience some of the foods. We are so lucky to live in this country Canada, that exposes without prejudice the cultures and foods of all the places i hope someday to visit. We have multiculturalism in our restaurants, our festivities, our schools, and at Smoky Valley we try and expose some of the cheeses.
Our mainstay and what we inherited from the purchase of the farm was the FRENCH cheeses. Valencay, St Maure and BRIE from goat milk. Now the terroir is different of course here in Canada, and obviously in Alberta. We cannot create the exact flavours one would get from the cheese shops in FRANCE. Our cheese might not be the “REAL”cheese form FRANCE but it is the REAL CANADIAN cheese from NE Alberta. But one can pair our cheeses with a FRENCH WINE or a “REAL Alberta Wine and experience some of the pleasures one would experience if one were really there. Have a get together or girls night out and have a THEME PARTY.
Last month we made a WELSH CHEESE called CAERPHILLY which we call “REDWATER”to give the famous cheese the method of Wales , the flavour of NE Alberta Terroir and an Alberta “name. Last week we brought out MONTASIO, an ITALIAN Cheese. Again the process but the ALBERTA terroir and our own names. One cheese the SZENDIMOON, has a rind development of ALBERTA HONEY and BC Lavender. Very creamy cheese. The name may not be an Albertan name but is very special to Alex’s and my heart. Alex’s mother passed away from Cancer and my mother is very fragile. Alex’s mom was a caterer and she loved Lavender and Honey. Her maiden name was SZENDI. Last year we took my mom to a LAVENDER Farm in Sydney BC. As Alex pushed my moms wheelchair into the field of lavender she asked to be left there just for a little while as she enjoyed the scents and the view. She said if she died today this is what she wanted to remember. Then she proceeded to almost buy out the local store on my VISA of Lavender everything. But it was priceless! As a kid my parents raised BEES. I grew up on honey. We did not even have sugar in the house. Childhood friends were so surprised when they would come over and see us using honey on our oatmeal, coffee, meats, cookies, baking, carrots, everything. My moms maiden name is MOON. Hence the cheese.
We have another version of the MONTASIO we call EL TORRO. That cheeses rind is developed using oil and chipolte spices as a rub. Same cheese but different rind. It was interesting with the launch how some people could detect the totally different taste, yet same cheese. Amazing how the rind can change the flavour of the cheese.
We have more coming out of the cheese room that I will write about in the next few weeks as we bring them to market. It was at the market last Saturday that spurred me to name this Calgon, take me away! A customer came up and tasted the cheeses and then asked if we make this cheese some call MONTREAL Cottage Cheese. I gave the customer my email and he made some connections and got me the recipe. Apparently this cheese is RUSSIAN, but has also been produced in MONTREAL. It is a cottage cheese made from buttermilk. I assured him that i would make the effort to make this cheese for him. It is an interesting cheese, and i reiterate, I am so lucky to be surrounded by multiculturalism and to use my craft to experience my little world of cheese. I think it turned out beautiful and I hope our customer feels the same. We will know Saturday. We liked it so much we had some for supper and have made extra to sell at the market.
This week at market we have a little something with COCONUT. Hmm, City104 MArket City Hall Edmonton 10-3pm.
We have the next #Cheesepalooza cheesemaking workshop coming up Feb 17th. There we will introduce out new cheese called RACLETTE. We named it ALLOETTE. This cheese is unique for its melting abilities and creates the REAL CHEESE for a european event. We will have a RACLETTE LUNCH that day. Sign up for the workshop , taste the European Raclette Lunch and take some cheese home with you to have your own themed european event at home. NOW LET’S MAKE CHEESE!

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Smoky Valley GREEN CHEESE!. Over the last year or so since we bought the facility and farm I have wondered over environmental impact. Then i watched the “Story of Stuff” and the “Clean Bin Project” . I wondered How could … Continue reading

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Valencay/St Maure Where it ALL Began!

Oct 05th, Smoky Lake Pumpkin Fest Cheesemaking.Alex and I went for a DRIVE…and checked out this little farm of 10 acres with a cheese making facility. We both had jobs that were quite secure at an aboriginal charter school near Stony Plain. We decided to take the plunge and by Oct 21st we had left our jobs and moved into a 3 bedroom mobile home with a cheese facility from a five bedroom home with triple garage on a lake. We got the bed set up and a few boxes and we were in the cheeseroom cleaning and making cheese by 7pm that nite. I think it took us almost three weeks just to set up table chairs dishes and basics.

One might think that the hard cheese wheels are a lot of work. That the pressing of the curd, brining the wheel, flipping and washing and closely monitoring the development of the rind and then wait. Wait for minimum 2 months as the rule of pasteurization. We can sell raw milk cheeses as long as they are ripened for 2 months. After that time the bacteria that is evident SOMETIMES in raw milk is either by a) pasteurization or b) 2 months ripening, been destroyed.

Fresh cheeses, Valencay St Maure and Brie have a 90 day shelf life BECAUSE we pasteurize and its the rule. But let me tell you the work and the patience that is required to make this cheese is phenomenal. First pasteurization 6 hours, cultures, 6 hours, time to curd 16 hours, time to mold. 2 hours, times to clean up 6 hours, time to dry 3-4 DAYS. Then ash and wait. Wait, Wait, sometimes 10-14 days to get the most beautiful bloomy white rind. Then sell. And as each day goes by that you don’t sell you are loosing your 90 days. The cheese gets smaller and smaller each day for 90 days. Then throw in the garbage or find some pigs or the barn cats sometimes. We have the most finicky barn cats. They live on MICE and fine french cheese. Beautiful cheese, lots of work.

Sustainable farming is difficult to start… we survived the first year strictly on the income from the farmers market but it was unsustainable so we now have off farm income. I work full time and Alex works 3 months on and 3 months off in the agricultural industry. Neither of us have every farmed or been involved in agriculture so our learning curve has been huge. Before this year we could not tell you what wheat or rye or oats looks like. The only thing we know is Canola cause its yellow in the field. Our jobs have given us an insight into the cycle of farming, the diseases the farmer faces in the field and many of the trials and tribulations. Millions of dollars in expenses, to provide food for our families around the world. ALWAYS THANK A FARMER. Sure the grain farmer can go to some warm climate in the winter , but you know the stress they are under during their season is great, and if nature is mean they do not get to go either. when they are in that warm climate believe me they are carrying a debt load to sustain us in the “bread basket ingredients” for next year. The livestock farmer has to go out twice a day EVERYDAY for feeding , and milking. The feedlot has all of the BIRTHING responsibilities RAIN or Shine.
It was a dream for ALEX and I to do the sustainable farm. The lifestyle seems attractive. Our goal is to reach the sustainable farm without off farm income but that is going to take some time. Off Farm income or not our favorite day of the week is going to the farmers market. We will make cheese and go to FARMERS MARKETS until we are six feet under. Hope to see you there! Remember we have the #cheesepalooza Cheesemaking Workshops at the farm. Next one is Feb Long weekend on the Sunday FEB 17th, 2013. We will be introducing a new cheese and some new product combos we will be including in our line-up. Cheese Chatter Boxes, What are those you ask. See us in FEB, Let’s Make Cheese!

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Tis the Season

Tis the Season.

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Tis the Season

Both Alex and I work off farm as well as make cheese, go to markets, have cheesepalooza workshops and try out new recipes and ideas we see on the web. I can’t imagine if we had children to look after and feed and nurture. We nurture 1 cat named Pockets, 1 Dog named JAVA and 2 barn cats Mia and Boots. We basically nurture cheese. Maybe it is our age. We have 3 children between us and 1 grandchild. Our children are 2 girls 26 years old, one mine one his and a son 28, and I have a grandaughter 8. Rarely ever do we see any of the girls , but my son every once in a while. They grow up and move away, and life goes on. Thankful for social media or we would barely ever converse. Especially skype, gotta love it. Now if we could have smellavision and tasteavision they could taste and smell the cheeses as we produce them.
Alex works three months on and three months off for the same company I do , for our off farm income. I work full time. During his 3 months off our plan is to stock up on the hard RAW milk cheeses so this spring and summer we will have a large variety of cheese for our customers to enjoy. As well we are trying to hold back some cheese for long term maturation. With the expansion into Cow milk as well as Goat milk, our lineup of products will be ever evolving. Especially since the partnership with #cheesepalooza and the workshops. We have the workshops on long weekends. Next one will be the family day long weekend. There are some special events with #cheesepalooza and Fruit Rescue coming up that we are very excited about so please stay tuned as we can announce some of the funstuff coming about.
Launching this month will be a cheese called Montasio. We have 2 varieties of this hard cheese. One the rind is developed with Honey and Lavender and is called SZENDI-MOON. The other Montasio the rind has been infused with many spices and chipolte. This one we call EL TORRO. Another cheese coming up will be our NEW BRIE, with coconut cream infusion. Our Caerphilly called REDWATER came out in December but we have that version and another version called CALLINGWOOD launching in January as well. The REDWATER has the rind developed using ARN whereby the Callingwood does not. This is a RAW MILK Cheddar. Towards the end of January our Goat Mountain Tomme RAW MILK Cheese will be ready whereby we also will have a smoked version. Our Pyranees will be smoked as well as a new line of BLUE CHEESE will be smoked and non smoked. Pretty exciting. Hopefully many of our customers new and repeaters will stop by our table at CITY104Market and try and buy our new lineup.

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annetteInteresting week.  After doing my first post my thought was well that’s not so hard.  I could do this daily or weekly but I commend those that stick with it.  Blogging takes dedication…maybe I do have adult ADD. My son has coached me many times that I need to do more blogging and even bought me a book about Social Media for Seniors.  LOL, I know I am old but Senior? Got to love him. Anyway at least here goes number 2.  Last week my #cheesepalooza friends and I had another workshop.  Two attendees were from a St. Albert Farmers Market.  The girl had decided this one day to visit the market on a whim and there was this cheese booth offering workshops to come out to the farm and engage in cheesemaking as a stepping stone to artisan cheesemaking at home.  I was handing out little chits of information on the project and the event.  She came up and started screaming in delight that she now knew what she was getting her father for his 50th Birthday.  She never tried any of the cheese or anything just took the little chit.  A couple of weeks later there she was in an email asking for more info~ collected the fee and sent her a gift certificate for her father and “build it they will come~” …she and her father did.  What a great addition to the #cheesepalooza project.  Very enthusiastic and engaging in the process.  For that session we made more Caerphilly but also finished dressing the rinds on our Montasio.  We did half the wheels in a chipolte rub and half in the honey rub that is in the book.  Did not have straight fennel and honey but had a mix with lavender fennel.  She got very excited about the lavender so away we went with it.  The rind turned out very shiny and pretty.  We have had to wash the cheese once, but we will be doing a second application here in the next day or so.

On Friday the health inspector did his visit to the facility and again we passed with flying colors.  Koodos to Alex.  With me working full-time during the week, I depend on him for the upkeep.  We did about 5 days of cheesemaking so cheeses were in various stages of development, needless to say after work duties can be challenging.  We have many hard wheels on the go but also now 270 fresh goat cheese pieces to attend to.  The goat Brie, (Annette) has come out beautiful again.  We are back to using a supplier out of Lacombe.  The milk upon arrival was beautiful.  The first thing I did after loading in the vat was the cream test.  🙂  I love to take the fresh cream off the top and go into the house and make a fresh pot of coffee and froth the cream to make a fresh latte.  Besides the other tests we do that is the MOST IMPORTANT for ME!  it was great.  Needless to say this leads to awesome chevre, st maure, valencay and annette. We also perform other tests on the milk and are very fortunate to have the equipment to do that in house. Just like any commercial plant we must test our milk for hormones, antibiotics, ecoli steph, and other things.  The milk that comes thru our door and out again is farm fresh and artisan but also very clean and pure.  Koodos to the farmers that do that work for us and put their heart and soul into the raising and caring of the milking herds.

We have a few wholesale accounts that are waiting patiently for the cheese.  One order we got which is a new market for us is RED DEER.  Most of the goat cheese that Alex is attending to right now (Thank god for Alex)is heading to Big Bend Market, next week.

There are a couple of other new outlets that are going to take our cheese, and will post about those later when they are headed out.  We are also looking at supplying a new smoothie bar with our goat yogurt.

We went to market today in SMOKY LAKE.  First time going there.  Kind of a practice run for us again since we have not been to market since the fall.  Met great people and launched our REDWATER Caerphilly.  Big hit, which we thought it would be.  Met some awesome artisan foodies.  I always enjoy tasting some of the other products out there as well.  I LOVE  the Farmers Market…once I get there.  Packing up is always the hard part.    The Redwater went really nice with an apple rosemary jelly that a lady had and we were next to birds and bees wine.  Ryan from Birds and Bees who knows our cheese immediately thought the REDWATER would go with the Apple Wine he has, so the sales started a three-way.  We have some cheeseplatters that we need to make up this week so we got to trade for some apple rosemary jelly to add to our platters.

Picked up a couple of other treats.  One is from Sharon Johnson.  She sells farm fresh cow cream in Bonnyville and manages the TUESDAY Market.  It was great to see her again, since I have not been back to the Bonnyville Market since last winter.  Some exciting things in the works with #cheesepalooza, involving a guest coming to facilitate and give some expertise with making cheese.  Cannot say much right now as details are still in the works.  But believe me if you love cheese you wont want to miss the announcement.

Christmas time we will be making ASIAGO Cheese.  Smoky Valley “We’ve Got Your Goat”Cheese and now Cow cheese as well.  Dont know how to incorporate both in our byline.  Inspector thought call our cheese COAT Cheese for both Cow and Goat.  I thought BOGO for Bovine and Goat?  Any suggestions?

Coming to Edmonton Dec 15th and 22nd @CITY104.  Come out and try our new lineup and our old standby cheeses.  Talk to us about #cheesepalooza workshops.  Let’s Make Cheese!

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What is Artisan Cheese!

What is Artisan Cheese!.

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What is Artisan Cheese!

Many people when viewing or tasting my cheese start out with the same question.  How many goats do you have.  The answer is NONE.  We are an ARTISAN Cheese producer which means that we use raw product (milk) and make cheese.  We do not have the time to feed and milk the livestock and make cheese and work a full-time job!  Not only the time factor but it takes a very special breed of farmer to do the livestock cycle of milk production and we truly respect the farmer that does that job for us.  Also the farmer that produces the milk does not have time to make cheese.

Alex and I were working at a Charter School Calle Mother Earths Children’s Charter School.  It is Canada’s first Indigenous Charter School. We were learning many things during the course of that employment and the plights of the aboriginal people of Alberta.  It at times was very stressful and very rewarding.  “Having been self-employed for most of my Adult life and heading into “retirement years” we thought a somewhat sustainable lifestyle while we had the physical capabilities and energy might be the way to go heading into the twilight years.  Let me tell you that the cheesemaking lifestyle is a LOT OF WORK!.  The monies are tough to come by and we now have off farm income to help sustain us while we grow the cheese business.  Now we also work at VITERRA which is an Ag Retail Location in Smoky Lake.  Every day we deal with many farmers of the area and until one walks a mile in their shoes, their job is the hardest of them all.  It is a lifestyle sure that we all dream about!.  No boss nobody telling you what to do and living off the land.  Being in the food and agricultural world is all that but, there is a very big price to pay.  You have to grow your product, store your product and then market and sell your product.  Maybe, just maybe you will make enough to live on.  Yesterday I had a customer come to the cheese facility and ask me would i have done it all over again if i knew then what i know now, and the answer is ….. I don’t know.  What I do know is that when a customer tastes the cheese we have created and they not only buy the product but then thank us for making it and bringing it to market…I say Absolutely YES Great Decision.  When we are late in the night and cooking the curds and dispelling the whey with our bare hands in the vat, the answer is Definitely YES.  When we are washing the cheese and seeing the rind develop and the creation of a FOOD that is healthy and fresh and we are contributing to the feeding of people and the enjoyment of our products by customers having a get together and tastings with their wine and other foods and beverages…YES..we made a great choice.  When the monies are low and the winter nights are long and cold, and the highways are treacherous, its like what have we done.  So the good outweighs the bad on MORE Days than not.  We are just past the one year mark, give us many more and ask us again.

When we first came to the farm it was the start of winter.  The building has no windows, no music, no tv and barely communication with the outside world.  It was a very big adjustment because when you head to the cheeseroom there are many hours spent in the room and time flys by.  So if you go in the early morning and you come out at 5pm, all you have seen is darkness.  The only time we saw daylight it seemed is when we went to market.  Market days gave us the energy to go back and do it all over again for another week.  However, some weekends the hwys were treacherous and we would miss a market but our customers really wanted us there so sometimes we just braved them carefully.  Thankfully touch wood nothing went wrong except for a flat tire.

So their came a project called #cheesepalooza.  The project was started by @acanadianfoodie, @bigaddie, @pleizar and @debthelocavore.  The project involves getting cheesemaking as a home hobby.  Getting people to experience making their own cheese.  I could have taken this project as a threat to my business as I am a cheesemaker and i want people to come and buy my cheese at the market and the project is encouraging people to make cheese at home so they don’t need to go to market to buy cheese.  Thats how I make a living.  Well I thought about the project and called Valerie @acanadianfoodie.  I suggested to her that I would like to incorporate Smoky Valley into the project and maybe we could do workshops at the facility on the farm.  She and her group said yes, and came out for the first workshop Sept 09th.  It was a hit and the 3 project people that attended were awesome.  We have had a slow start with attendees but I am confident that if we build it they will come and everyone that has attended has been satisfied that the experience has been fantastic.  It is not so much of a teaching workshop as an EXPERIENCE workshop.  It allows people to come out and gain more confidence in going home and trying to make cheese, and the camaraderie has been priceless.  Ian especially has been so supportive in helping us to develop more cheeses and stretching Smoky Valley’s abilities to make more varieties.  Addie is very attentive to detail and has many interests and knowledge, and Valerie is second to none.  I cannot say enough about these people to appreciate what the experience this far means to Alex and I.  Valerie is a wonderful hostess when it comes to the cheese tastings and she knows food and home food making , baking and growing.  We are very grateful to be included in this project. 

Those long cold winters with the little daylight is not going to be a problem this winter and we have #cheesepalooza to thank for that.  We have a purpose now to keep up with what the project is all about.  Getting people excited about creating cheese at home and for those cheeses that take time and cold rooms and maturation Smoky Valley will be there.  For those that don’t want to participate on a monthly basis in making cheese but want to experience it without the mess and investment and cleanup, can come out to the workshop at Smoky Valley.  Even if it is just enough to tweak their interest and boost their confidence to do this at home.  Lets face it …so many people do not cook at home anymore from scratch nevermind make cheese.  But if what we are doing contributes to just a few meals, a few appetizers, and a few farm fresh ingredients to add to people’s pantry then it is a success.  Valencay Melted

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