Food Friday: Zucchini Time!

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What are we to do with all the zucchini? It doesn’t look very nice on the windowsill – the many tomatoes in varying stages of ripening are much more attractive. With school starting soon it is time to say good–bye to summer, and to turn on the oven, as you rid yourself of demon zucchini.

An elegant galette is a good way to start your purge. The crust is easy and forgiving, and it is soothing to lay out all the zucchini rings in ever widening circles. You will look very competent and trustworthy. And then you can start to spring these other surprises on the unsuspecting. If you have a garden, you have been harvesting tomatoes with a greedy heart, thinking about the jars of spaghetti sauce you will enjoy this winter. But what about that ever-rising green mountain of zucchini? You need to put on your thinking cap, and find some creative culinary solutions. https://www.purewow.com/recipes/zucchini-ricotta-galette-recipe

That one packet of seeds you planted can probably take care of a family of four from now until next planting season. The prospects are daunting. But do you want to be the formerly favorite aunt who brings zucchini ginger cupcakes to the picnic at the lake? Not if you want those kids taking care of you in your old age! They never forget so-called “gourmet” baking experiments, or deliberate kid slights. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Zucchini-Ginger-Cupcakes-1222207

Do not be this person. Do not be a vegetable sneak. Those fourth grade girls will make your life a living hell, and I will pay them to do it! Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cookies http://www.food.com/recipe/chocolate-chip-zucchini-cookies-61402

Instead, be like Nigella. Warm, earthy, sweet and flavorful. And perhaps you will develop a cute British accent. Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Chip Cookies https://www.nigella.com/recipes/chocolate-chip-cookies

Nobody is fooled by zucchini bread. Least of all the small children into whom you are trying to stuff healthy vegetables. You might fool them once, but never twice. Here is one recipe for you to try, you shameless exploiter of small children. Lemon Zucchini Bread: http://www.lemontreedwelling.com/2017/03/lemon-zucchini-bread.html

One of the best ways to reduce your zucchini surplus is to invite unsuspecting houseguests. Breakfast is usually a good time for a surprise zucchini onslaught. The white wine from last night isn’t out of their systems yet, and the coffee hasn’t kicked in. They will need food. A hot and cheesy frittata, please. If they were raised to have minimally good manners, they will eat whatever is placed in front of them, and then they will ask for seconds, and also for a copy of your recipe. Print the recipe in advance, so you look gracious and artfully prepared. Ina Garten’s Zucchini and Gruyere Frittata Squares https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/zucchini-and-gruyere-frittata-squares-5505844

Soon you will be running low on friends and dinner invitations. But just in case your iPhone vibrates with a sudden text to come next door for an impromptu drink, consider having a quart (or two) of Sichuan Pickles on hand to bring along. Your friends won’t suspect anything, since you won’t be clutching a large brown paper bag while edging furtively into their house. This is a glorious host-y gift, particularly if you package it nicely. Think green garden twine, and Mason jars, and vintage labels. Lovely. Sichuan Pickles http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sichuan-pickles

It has been a record year in our neighborhood for zucchini harvests. You should have a variety of zucchini recipes lined up: breakfast, lunch and dinner. You are going to be working on a veritable squash assembly line. And you will look back fondly on these wacky summer zucchini days when you are scraping ice off your windshield come February. Really.

Breakfast: Thank you, Food52, Lemon Zucchini Pancakes
https://food52.com/recipes/17054-lemon-zucchini-pancakes-with-a-heart-of-brie

Lunch: Thanks to A Spicy Perspective, Zucchini and Green Chutney Salad
http://www.aspicyperspective.com/zucchini-and-green-chutney-salad/

Dinner: Cooking to impress, from Sur la Table – Baked Sole Roulades http://www.surlatable.com/product/REC-204/Baked+Sole+Roulades+with+Zucchini+Stuffing

Dinner: For the rest of us: No Cooking Required Zucchini-Potato Soup.
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/zucchini-potato-soup

Get cracking!

“Vegetables cooked for salads should always be on the crisp side, like those trays of zucchini and slender green beans and cauliflowerets in every trattoria in Venice, in the days when the Italians could eat correctly.”
― M.F.K. Fisher

Food: The Buzz on BeeGeorge

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Being surrounded by approximately half a million bees is not necessarily on everyone’s comfort level. But that’s what happened when Chesapeake Harvest visited one of our honey suppliers, George Meyer (aka BeeGeorge.) in Oxford, MD. We were instructed to wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, but despite the almost 80-degree weather, added a winter jacket and boots for the extra protection we thought we’d need.

After BeeGeorge outfitted us in the standard beekeepers’ hat and long gloves, we watched as he lightly and bare-handedly moved a swarm to a ‘roomier location.’ As the bees noisily buzzed around us, we asked for reassurances: how many times has he been bitten, could they come through the netting to bite our face, etc. He corrected us: It’s a sting, not a bite. Semantics. Either way, we wanted to experience neither.

We then moved into a large area containing numerous ‘wooden boxes.’ BeeGeorge’s honey is well-known in this area, but we also learned he sells starter hives to new beekeepers. Known as ‘nucs’ these fully functional small hives include a laying queen, which he explained, “We’re going to tag!”

Opening a nuc, he removed each of the five frames containing either brood or pollen. He located and removed the queen, again with no protection on his hands, put her in a special ‘cage,’ where he marked her with a small spot of paint on her back, before gently returning her to her colony.

It wasn’t too long after that we ditched the bulky gloves with the realization that everything we thought about bees had changed. Before leaving, we asked what each of us can do to protect these miraculous creatures. BeeGeorge advised:

Plant flowers.
Buy local honey.
Don’t spray insecticides or weed killer, if possible. But if you do—
Don’t spray when it’s windy.
Don’t spray your flowers.
Spray at first or last light.
Mow before spraying.
Mow but don’t kill your dandelions and clover.

Chesapeake Harvest proudly carries BeeGeorge’s honey on our online marketplace/farmer’s market of locally produced food and food-related products.

Chesapeake Harvest is an organization working to build a vibrant local food economy, producing healthy food, expanding economic opportunities for Delmarva farmers, and growing new markets for local food. For more information, go to https://chesapeakeharvest.com/

Food Friday: Easy Peasy No-Cook Meals

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My personal summer philosophy, as Gentle Readers may have noticed over the years, is to avoid the menace lurking in the kitchen – the stove – as much as I can. I make exceptions for steaming ears of corn, quick-frying croutons for BLT chicken salad, and boiling pasta. In my fantasy life we would be dining out often, but the reality is not half that glamorous. We tend to be frugal homebodies, but that doesn’t mean that we are not eating well.

Last night we had a divine Caprese salad, that was rich and varied and quite unlike the cold, straight-out-of-the-fridge restaurant version that you often get served these days. I shopped local (our farmers’ market) for a couple of pretty and colorful heirloom tomatoes even though our garden is still producing a prodigious amount of fruit. It was nice to inject some color with the yellow tomatoes, and a little sweetness with some jewel-like cherry tomatoes. I snipped a couple of bunches of basil from the back porch basil farm, too. We had some leftover fresh slicing mozzarella from last Friday’s pizza, and small olive-sized pearl mozzarella. Mr. Friday likes olives more than I do, so I tossed a handful of deli Kalamata olives in his bowl. Then I enjoyed a grownup version of roasting marshmallows by roasting red, green and yellow peppers under the broiler for a few minutes. They sizzle and crackle and blacken. I suppose you can cheat and buy jarred peppers, but where is the fun? (And five minutes of broiler time will not seriously compromise your new summer philosophy.)

Easy Peasy Caprese
Suggested ingredients:
2 ripe bell peppers, 1 red and 1 yellow if possible, roasted
Salt and pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh mozzarella, at room temperature
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
½ pound cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon capers
A scoop of good-quality olives
6 thin slices of prosciutto, more if desired (I skipped prosciutto in mine)
Handful of basil leaves

You can also add croutons, cucumber, or thin onion slices. Use your imagination, and what may be hiding, forgotten, in the vegetable bin. We want to avoid wasting food as much as we want to avoid another trip to the store.

We drizzled lots of fancy olive oil, too. Obviously two people will grind to a heart-stopping halt if they ate that much cheese every night, so eyeball the amounts you want to use, or what you have on hand. You can even make this as a side dish, and use salad dressing instead of just oil. We were trying to feel sophisticated and Tuscan. Be sure to add some good crusty bread and a glass or two of delightful wine. And candles. And then there is plenty of time to binge watch Season 2 of Derry Girls.

Here is a somewhat fancier recipe:
Ultimate Caprese Salad
https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/ultimate-caprese-salad

More stay-at-home, no-cook summer favorites:

Gazpacho – so versatile – you can make it as soup, or as a cocktail!
https://www.foodiecrush.com/classic-gazpacho-recipe/

Garden-Fresh Chef Salad – get out of the iceberg rut!
https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/garden-fresh-chef-salad/

Cucumber, Yogurt, and Horseradish Soup
https://www.marthastewart.com/904175/cucumber-yogurt-and-horseradish-soup

Here is a fiendishly easy way to rid yourself of excess zucchini!
Zucchini Carpaccio
https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/zucchini-carpaccio

This next recipe does involve turning the oven on to roast the nuts, but maybe you can assign that to someone else while you read the next chapter of Fleishman is in Trouble.

You should be enjoying the heck out of summer. Winter will be here soon enough. Indulge!

Nigella Lawson’s No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake
https://food52.com/recipes/39622-nigella-lawson-s-no-bake-nutella-cheesecake

“In the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible.”
– Sarah Dessen

Food Friday: Keeping Cool in August

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Welcome to the dog days of summer. We have just started our long slog through August, yearning for relief while gasping for a cool breeze and grasping at (paper) straws in our cocktails. Through this wretchedly long month we droop, we melt, and we puddle in the heat. Thank goodness today is Friday.

During the week we will enjoy cheap white wine with dinner, but with the weekend comes a little freedom to imbibe more exotic nectars. Although Mr. Friday will tell you that the best thing on a hot day is an icy cold beer, pulled from a galvanized cooler, dripping with melting ice and condensation. I prefer a little frippery in my life, although my New England forebears would look askance, and tut tut. Obviously they will have forgotten about August, the hottest month in our hemisphere. We enjoy air conditioning in our cars and houses, and any time we spend outdoors seems hellishly warm. Even Luke the wonder dog is tired of the heat. Halfway through our morning walk he lay down in the shade, and refused to budge. He is not a fan of the dog days.

My favorite cocktail is the French 75, which offers a nice kick, but not much in the way of coolth. It is shaken with ice, and it quickly warms up outside in the real world. Unlike Nick and Nora Charles, I cannot be witty or clever after a few cocktails. Instead, as we sit in the early evening shade in the Adirondack chairs, I want to hear the clink of ice cubes in a tall, light and fruity drink as we wait for the fireflies to start lighting up the back yard. Luke, never far away, sits on the grass with the ball between his paws, hoping for one more game.

Find some backyard cocktail glasses before you start mixing up your own concoctions – something colorful and durable. Something to flash color and spark back to the fireflies as we all sit out the hot month in our backyards, waiting for the Perseid meteor showers to begin.

I am informed by the young and impossibly cool young folk I know that rosé wine is the way to go this summer. And, if possible, sparkling rosé is even more sought after. My exposure to rosé was limited to my parents discovering Mateus rosé the summer they went to England. Interesting that it skipped a generation. So try to be young and impossibly cool, too, with this:

Rosé-Aperol Spritz
https://www.bonappetit.com/story/rose-cocktails

¾ cup passion fruit juice, chilled

¼ cup Aperol

¼ cup fresh lime juice

4 teaspoons sugar

1 750ml bottle sparkling rosé, chilled

Ruby red grapefruit wedges (for serving)

Whisk passion fruit juice, Aperol, lime juice, and sugar in a large pitcher until sugar is dissolved. Stir in rosé. Serve spritz in large ice-filled wine glasses. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.


This brings sweet relief:
Sour-Cherry Gin Smash
https://www.esquire.com/food-drink/g1498/summer-cocktails/

2 ounces gin
6 sour cherries

1 sugar cube
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Ginger ale

1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker, combine the cherries and the sugar cube. Muddle until the sugar is broken down. Add the lime juice and gin, and then shake. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of ginger ale and garnish with a lime wedge.

Perfect for the backyard at twilight:
Firefly Lemonade
https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a53665/firefly-lemonade-recipe/

4 cups lemonade
4 cups tonic water
1 cup Blue Curacao
1 cup Midori
1/2 cup vodka
4 glow sticks

To four glasses, add crushed ice. Add in 1 cup tonic, 1/4 cup Blue Curacao, 1/4 cup Midori, and 1 ounce vodka.
Stir with a glow sticks to combine. (If you prefer a lot of ice, stir together mixture first, then pour over ice.)

This is pretty kicky – The Frida. I’m sure Frida Kahlo, the ultimate in cool, knew how to refresh in the summer heat of Mexico.
https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/drinks/how-to/g827/summer-cocktail-recipes/


1.5 ounce jalapeño-infused tequila

2 ounce of watermelon purée (purée pieces of watermelon in blender)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup


Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass, garnish with lime, and serve.

But this is my favorite summer cocktail, hopelessly old-fashioned:
Pimm’s Cup
https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/the-pimm-s-cup

Moonlight croquet, anyone?

1 3-inch piece English cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch slices, plus 2 spears (for garnish)

3/4 cup Pimm’s No. 1*

3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Ice cubes

2 sprigs each fresh rosemary, thyme, and mint

2 lemon slices

2 fresh strawberries, halved

Ginger beer, chilled

2 rhubarb stalks (for garnish)


Place 1/2-inch-thick cucumber slices in cocktail shaker. Using muddler or handle of wooden spoon, mash well. Add Pimm’s, lemon juice, and sugar. Fill 2 Pilsner glasses with ice; set aside. Add ice to Pimm’s mixture, cover, and shake vigorously 20 times. Strain into glasses. Push 1 rosemary sprig, 1 thyme sprig, 1 mint sprig, 1 lemon slice, and 2 strawberry halves down into each glass. Fill glasses with ginger beer. Garnish with cucumber spears and rhubarb stalks.

“My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.” 
― George R.R. Martin

Gardening: Unity Church Hill Nursery Tent Sale

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Unity Church Hill Nursery is holding a tent sale all day Saturday, August 3, from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Come early to take advantage of great bargains for your home or garden up to 75% off on selected items. Choose from nursery overstock or discontinued items including seeds and seed-starting supplies, organic mechanics potting mix and soil amendments, hammocks, select pottery and containers, select plants including conifers and crape myrtles, and much, much more. Take a selfie with the “Big Rooster” and check out the fresh produce and herbs for sale in the Roadside Stand.

Stroll through the grounds with a vast selection of unique outdoor pottery, sculpture, outdoor furniture, garden art and inspirational design ideas to enhance your home and garden. Need help in planning your garden or adding to your existing landscape? Nursery’s sister company Unity Landscape Design/Build, Inc. is conveniently located on-site at the nursery and its design staff will be on hand during the sale to discuss designing, permitting, installing and maintaining your landscaping projects.

Unity Church Hill Nursery is located at 3621 Church Hill Rd, Church Hill, MD. For more information, please call 410-556-6010 or visit https://www.unitychurchhillnursery.com/events/nursery-tent-sale/Church Hill, MD 21623

 

Tidal, Mixed Media Works by Alison Cooley, on View at Adkins Arboretum

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There’s something dazzling about the pure, carefree joy of Alison Cooley’s mixed media paintings in her exhibit, Tidal, on view at Adkins Arboretum’s Visitor’s Center through Sept. 27. Although abstract, their watery pools of deep, luscious color and the needle-thin lines that scribble and loop across their surfaces conjure seaweed swirling under the waves, wind-whipped grasses and the sweeping movement of flocks of birds or schools of fish. There will be a reception to meet the artist on Sat., Aug. 10 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Artwork by Alison Cooley

Cooley has long been fascinated with the ever-changing margins where water meets land.

“I am always drawn to the edges of land,” she said. “I lived for 14 years on Nantucket Island, and now my studio in Easton is near the water. Even when I lived in cities, I was close to the rivers. The immediacy and intensity of weather and water continue to be a big theme for me.”

Everything is in motion in these paintings. As if glimpsed in a fleeting moment of change, the lush pools of emerald, turquoise and inky blue in “Tidal 7175” seem to billow out of the pure white of the paper. Skinny colored lines make gawky ovals that skitter by on top, while tiny doodles bubble up here and there. The effect is comic, beautiful and as exhilarating as a walk on the beach. You can almost feel the refreshing chill of foamy water streaming around your ankles.

Cooley paints and draws with acrylic ink, oil pastel, pencil, pen and marker. Whether on large gessoed panels or on yupo paper, a super-smooth, waterproof polypropylene paper, she works on ultra-smooth surfaces that allow her ink to flow and bloom with seemingly effortless ease. Like some of the artists she admires, including Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline and Cy Twombly, Cooley works spontaneously, listening to music as she mixes drawing and painting techniques in deceptively casual dialogues between color and linework, texture and smoothness, tension and flow.

“I start my work by staining the panel or paper with pools of ink,” she explained. “I find layering, marking and untangling forms an intuitive process, so I move from piece to piece. Sound and music are a huge part of my practice. In the end, I think less about painting and more about being in balance with the harmonies and rhythms of the music or the subtle noises from outside.”

Each of Cooley’s paintings is a wild dance of rich, earthy spills of paint mingling with swooping linework and gatherings of tiny marks. Full of fascinating details that sometimes look almost like what you might find in a tidal pool, sometimes like handwritten secret messages, they allow for many interpretations. But, like both music and nature, each is an energetic balancing act between change and continuity.

Asked what she hopes people will get from her paintings, Cooley said she prefers they form their own ideas, but that they may have “a feeling of the beautiful and relentless cycle of nature and, in larger strokes: harmony and dissonance, certainty and illusion.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through Sept. 27 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410–634–2847, ext. 0 or info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

Brewer’s Art and Orchard Point Oyster Teamed Up to Create Tasty Brew

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The Brewer’s Art of Baltimore, MD, and Orchard Point Oyster Company of Stevensville, MD, have teamed up to produce a light, oyster beer that’s drinkable all year long – “Bugeye: Oyster S’Light”. The beer is brewed using local Orchard Point oyster shells and a new RoastOat™ malt donated by Briess Malt of Wisconsin. A portion of the proceeds will benefit healthy waterways across the Eastern Shore through the work of ShoreRivers. Bugeye drinks like a full, rich stout, but is a gorgeous hazy golden color, with lovely fruit notes and a dense rocky head of lacy white foam. Smooth as silk, brilliant as a golden sunset – it’s like nothing you’ve tasted this summer.

The Brewer’s Art has brewed craft beer in Baltimore since 1996. It has produced many award-winning beers and its brewpub restaurant is consistently ranked as one the city’s best restaurants. Named the Best Beer Bar in America by Esquire Magazine in 2008, the Brewer’s Art supports clean water via partnerships with organizations such as ShoreRivers.

Orchard Point Oyster Company has been raising premium half-shell oysters since 2015. Originating in Rock Hall, it has expanded to operate in Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot county waters. Through its sustainable modern aquaculture practices, it continuously improves water quality via filtration and provides ecological services to the Bay ecosystem. Each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. Orchard Point’s farming practices are recognized by the EPA and State of Maryland as a Best Management Practice (BMP) in meeting mandatory Bay nutrient reduction goals. The shells are a representation of these efforts and lend the beer essential minerals.

Briess is a global leader in malt and brewing ingredients. Stemming from Czech roots, they currently produce more styles of malt than any other malting company in the world. The malt used in this beer is a brand-new hull-less, lightly roasted oat variety: “Blonde RoastOat™ Malt.” The malt produces a unique beer with a mild sweetness and blonde hue. A velvet mouthfeel and aroma are balanced by calcium and chloride additions from the oyster shells.

ShoreRivers is a local non-profit dedicated to improving water quality on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With six major shore tributaries under their purview, ShoreRivers works to improve the health of our waterways through science based advocacy, restoration, and education initiatives. It is the organization when it comes to understanding our rivers’ health and implementing projects that have a direct effect on improving it.

We are excited to announce the release of Bugeye. Each Bugeye brewed and consumed, will directly contribute to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Bringing together industry leaders and clean-water advocates can certainly yield delicious results. Please support this effort by asking for a Bugeye, wherever fine beer is served on tap!

Adkins Arboretum Graduates Master Naturalist Class

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In June, Adkins Arboretum graduated its 2018-2019 class of Maryland Master Naturalist interns. Geared toward the study of the coastal plain, the program provides training for volunteers to learn and share knowledge of the natural world in Maryland and engages citizens as stewards of Maryland’s natural ecosystems and resources through science-based education and volunteer service in their communities. The Arboretum offers Master Naturalist training annually in partnership with Pickering Creek Audubon Center, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center and ShoreRivers.

Pictured are (front row, left to right) Mary Drake, Denise DeOrio, Sue Hauser, Robin Page, Lianna Gomori-Ruben and Gail Raty. Back row, left to right, are Samantha Baker, Mike Morgan, Adkins Assistant Director and Master Naturalist Facilitator Jenny Houghton, Dorie Coleman, Deborah Colborn, Eric Mills, Vivian Stacy, Laura Bittinger, Laura Lindsay, Sara Robins, Susan Green, Dolores Engle and Greg DeCowsky.        

Individuals accepted into Master Naturalist training receive 60 hours of instruction, including hands-on outdoors experience. All classes are taught by experts in the subject. The curriculum includes sessions on Maryland’s natural history, flora and fauna, principles of ecology, human interaction with the landscape, and teaching and interpretation. Following training, participants serve in their communities as University of Maryland Extension volunteers.

Applications are being accepted for the 2019-2020 Master Naturalist class. Training sessions will be held monthly from October to July. The program fee is $250. For more information or to apply for the Master Naturalist program, contact Jenny Houghton at 410-634-2847, ext. 23 or jhoughton@adkinsarboretum.org, or visit extension.umd.edu/masternaturalist.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.

For the Love of Cheese: Alp Trosen’s Connection to the Eastern Shore

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Before I tasted “Alpage”, (seasonally produced cheese made from alpine-grazed milk), my childhood memory of Swiss cheese was a square of cheese with holes in it usually paired with ham for sandwiches.

Then I tasted the Alpkase cheese at Piazza Italian Market as part of its “Adopt-an Alp” promotion. It was fresh and creamy and piqued my curiosity about this type of cheese made in Switzerland. Historically, many cheeses in Alpine countries were produced via the principle of “transhumance”. As the summer sun warmed the slopes and fresh green grass sprouted, the cows and their herdsmen left their valley homes in search of higher feeding areas. At the end of the day, cows and their farmers retired to small huts for the night throughout Switzerland’s Alps.

P

Piazza’s adopted Alp for 2019 is Alp Trosen, located in the Sankt Gallen canton of northeast Switzerland. This alp is rich in history, for the Silk Road once passed through Alp Trosen and there is historic evidence of human habitation on this alp long before Marco Polo passed through. Each summer, Jakob Knaus, Sr., leaves his home in the valley below, hikes up the mountain with his herd of cows to live in a one room stone hut built into the hill. Every evening for nine weeks, he sleeps in the loft above the stables below. The hut has a solar panel for electricity and a government-required water filter; otherwise, his summer home has no modern amenities. On the site of this humble 500-year-old hut, transhumance and cheesemaking continue the tradition begun over 2,000 years ago. Knaus and an assistant use a copper kettle over a wood fire to make Alpkäse cheese by hand once a day, every day and the result is a cheese full of flavor. The milk comes from his herd of cows that is exclusively eating wild grasses, herbs and flowers and drinking fresh water from the streams cascading down the Alpine slopes. This is beyond organic and the resulting flavor of the cheese is a pure expression of the Alp and its microclimate. It is truly a beautiful cheese from a beautiful place.

The production of Alpage has increased over the last five years, arguably due to the Adopt-an-Alp program. This initiative was created by native born Swiss Caroline and Daniel Hostettler of Quality Cheese, Inc. They are passionately committed to generating awareness and appreciation for the endangered practice of transhumance and to highlight “real” Swiss cheeses. To date, over 100 retailers throughout the United States have participated in the Adopt-an-Alp promotion. Each store adopts an Alp and agrees to purchase a certain allotment of cheese in advance from an alpage cheese producer. Stores are encouraged to think of creative ways to promote the cheese and for the past four years, Quality Cheese has selected three winners to accompany them to Switzerland and to visit the stores’ adopted Alps.

This year, Piazza won the “Adopt an Alp” promotion contest for the second time. As the Director for Special Projects, I was the store’s representative and joined the other winners for a week’s tour hosted by the Hostettlers of the four Alps adopted by the winning stores. Our visit to Alp Trosen began by meeting Lucia Knaus, Knaus Sr.’s daughter-in-law, at the family’s home in the valley. I told Lucia I was an architect and how much I admired the design of her beautifully crafted Swiss chalet styled home, especially the decorative window trim. She beamed with pride as she told me her husband built it himself from trees cut in their own forest!

Lucia’s husband had just moved the cows to the higher Alp so she drove us up through breathtaking scenery as far as you could see of granite peaks with a layer of snow down to the green slopes below. We found the Knaus herd of cows happily spread out among the grazing areas and some were enjoying lounging on a patch of snow that from a distance resembled an ice rink! The cows all had names and were very happy in the company of human strangers. I reached out to scratch one cow under her neck as I would my cat and the cow ecstatically moved her head left and right as her cowbell rang joyfully. When I moved away to join my fellow “Alpeneers” my new “bestie” attempted to follow me for the rest of the tour!

Even though this was a busy workday for the Knaus’ and their worker, Lucia graciously treated our group to a midday meal of cheese and cured meats from their cows, of course. With the first bite of cheese, scents of grass, herbs and milk all combined to create a delicious treat. What is amazing about Alpage is that the daily production of cheese differs in taste from the previous one-the taste depends upon the cow’s daily meal of grass, herbs, and flowers and the proportions of each “course” of her meal. This is organic food at the highest level.

As we left the cows contently grazing in their picture perfect Alpine surroundings, the melodic sound of their cowbells followed us down the mountain. Each farmer’s cowbells have a distinctive sound so he/she can recognize it as the cows prepare to come in at the end of the day for milking. I came away with a renewed respect for this ancient method of making cheese and grateful that I can purchase Alpage over 4,000 miles away at Piazza Italian Market. If you haven’t tasted this cheese yet, visit Piazza for a sample and it will be hard for you to leave without a purchase. Most importantly, you will be helping a farm family in Switzerland keep their tradition of transhumance alive.

The “Adopt-an-Alp” program was created by Caroline Hostettler of Quality Cheese and it is officially supported by Schweizerischer Alpwirtschaftlicher Verband (SAV), (Swiss Society of Alp Economy), a Swiss government agency for protecting and marketing Alp products. For more information, visit here.

 

All cheeses sold through the Adopt-an-Alp program are exclusively imported by Mifroma and distributed by Atalanta Corp World’s Best Cheeses (WBC). Piazza Italian Market offers Alp Trosen’s Alpkase and Sbrinz AOP, another cheese made in Switzerland.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.

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