Saturday, November 19, 2011

Melt Cheese Like the Swiss Skillshare

by Elaine Siew

A couple weeks ago, I invited Slow Foodies over to my house to explore the decadent world of fondue and raclette. I spent a year in Switzerland as an exchange student in 2005-2006, and was very fortunate to learn about the sweet melty-cheese-magic of fondue (not just for chic 70’s parties anymore) and raclette (stinky cheese heaven). For the first time two weeks ago, I ate BOTH in one night with my fellow Slow Food cheese-lovers!

So Swiss cheese fondue (French for “melted”) is a delicious combination of Gruyere cheese, Emmental cheese (what we would commonly know as just Swiss cheese – with the holes in it), white wine, and lemon juice, with a couple subtle spices. I cooked this on the stove and then poured it into a garlic-rubbed fondue pot over a flame, but traditionally you would cook this in a heavy stoneware or cast iron “caquelon” and eat right out of it. Also, in Switzerland, you would normally just eat this with bread cubes – oh yes, carbs and cheese all night long – but at the skillshare we added grapes (and you can really dip anything that you like covered in cheese!). And we drank wine with the fondue of course, because many a Swiss person will tell you that you can only drink wine or hot tea with fondue – or you will die (seriously).

To double-dose on cheese, we also prepared raclette – my FAVORITE Swiss meal. It is basically melted raclette – a pungent-smelling, soft cheese abundant in Switzerland – over boiled potatoes and cured meats, sprinkled with cracked pepper and garnished with cornichon pickles. Traditionally, the Swiss would take a massive half-wheel of raclette and prop it over an open flame, then take a big knife and scrape off the melted layers onto the accoutrements on your plate (it’s amazing to find a raclette hut mid-mountain when you’re skiing the Swiss slopes). Today, you can buy special raclette grills – with mine, you can grill veggies on top (to also get covered in cheese, of course) while you melt slabs of raclette on little paddles in cubbies under the grill.

For dessert, we enjoyed Swiss “carac” tarts – which are tartlet shells filled with chocolate ganache and fondant, as well as bars of Cailler chocolate – the most amazing chocolate in Switzerland that they sadly do not export (but were shipped to me by a very sweet friend in Geneva).

All in all, a beautiful evening celebrating everything that is good and right about Swiss cheese, and proving yet again that you can never, never have too much cheese.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mobile Poultry Processing with Pete and Jen

By Elliot Hohn 
This Fall I was lucky enough to be able to join Peter Lowy and Jennifer Hashley, founders of Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds, on their beautiful farm in Concord, MA to help with the harvesting of their flock of chickens.  Jen and Pete regularly invite volunteers to come out and get their hands dirty (or rather, bloody), and to get an up-close look at our food system in action. 
Jen and Pete started raising chickens in 2003, and the farm is now home to over 600 hens, as well as pigs, rabbits, and sheep. All of the animals on the farm are pasture-raised, with humane and sustainable practices being essential aspects of Jen and Pete’s farming philosophy. Additionally, Jen and Pete are state licensed to slaughter their birds using something called a Mobile Poultry Processing Unit (MPPU), which is a custom-built trailer outfitted with a killing-room, a feather-plucker, and set of processing and cleaning stations.

The long day of chicken harvesting starts early, with volunteers arriving before 7am for coffee, home-baked bread, and a quick briefing from Jen on evisceration techniques and hygienic practices during the handling of freshly killed birds. Joining me for the day were a handful of other Tufts students, a half-dozen students from the Cambridge Culinary Institute, and a random assortment of folks from the Concord community and from around Boston. 
For the next six hours, we worked hard to process around 375 birds, including capons, Freedom Rangers, Cornish Rocks, and even one large (and handsome, I might add) turkey. Surrounded by good company and the feeling of being a part of what is, in my opinion, one of the more impressive and respectable operations that exists within our food system, we enjoyed a long day helping put tasty, humanely-raised  chickens on the tables of Jen and Pete’s loyal customers.
To anyone who is interesting in getting gaining a deeper understanding of where the food they eat (or don’t eat) comes from, I would highly recommend making a trip out to Jen and Pete’s place. They are a wealth of knowledge, and the experience just might change the way you look at the food on your plate.

For more info, visit their website at


Monday, November 7, 2011

Formaggio Kitchen Cheese Cave Tour & Tasting

by Tina Galante
Last week, 12 Tufts Slow Foodies visited Formaggio Kitchen, an artisanal cheese and specialty foods store in Cambridge, for a private tour and tasting event. The event started off with a tour of the store’s “cheese caves,” which are small underground rooms kept at the precise temperature and humidity ideal for aging young cheeses and maintaining moisture in older cheeses. Our cheese-monger, Julia (a Tufts alumn!), told us all about the store’s process of buying and importing cheese and went into great detail about the special relationships Formaggio builds with its small-scale producers.

After the tour, it was tasting time! We each got to sample a sizable hunk of 6 different cheeses, each carefully paired with a unique and delicious condiment. Arguably the biggest hit was a local raw cow’s milk Landaff cheese with an out-of-this-world tomato jam (I was hesitant at first, but I think this is my new favorite jam!). Another amazing combination was “Inspiration,” a washed rind, raw milk cheese from Vermont, paired with a piece of local dark chocolate (produced by a man who roasts his cacao beans in a toaster oven in Western Mass!)

Each cheese and condiment came with a story that gave us an even greater appreciation for the craftsmanship and care that went into each of these delicious products. It was truly the epitome of a Slow Food experience, and given that most of the group went home with at least one purchase from the store…I’d say the event was a success. :)

Thanks to Julia Hallman and Erin Weber of Formaggio Kitchen for making this event possible!

(And thanks to Rachael Kirk for the great photos!)

If any of you are interested, I’d highly recommend attending one of the upcoming events and/or classes hosted by Formaggio. Click here to check them out!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Last week, the nation celebrated its first Food Day. October 24th marked a day to bring awareness to our food system and Tufts was not exempt from the festivities. Mayor Menino delivered a talk at the Sackler School about nutrition in Boston and the Friedman School screened the documentary Forks Over Knives.

Where was Slow Food among the day's events? Serving up delicious snacks! Slow Food popped New Jersey-grown organic popcorn for movie-goers to munch on. Because what's a movie without popcorn? And what's Slow Food without healthy, environmentally conscious food?

Food Day was certainly a success. People from different fields gathered to find solutions to important nutrition and agricultural problems. And Slow Food was there to fuel people's brains with delicious popcorn. Thank you to all those who attended events throughout the day, we hope you enjoyed!