Our farm was mentioned in the December 9, 2014 edition of The News & Record, December 9, 2014 on FOX8, and December 15, 2014 The Winston-Salem Journal

Hit the Cheese Trail
By Jennifer Fernandez

GREENSBORO − Cheese lovers rejoice. Just like wine lovers, you now can travel a statewide trail to sample new and favorite varieties made in North Carolina.

There even is a map online to help you chart your course to farms making farmstead and artisan cheeses from cow, goat or sheep’s milk.

About 40 small farmers make and sell cheese across the state, including 11 that make up the N.C. Cheese Trail, which formed in April.

The trail stretches from as far east as Goldsboro to one farm that is west of Asheville. Several are in the Piedmont Triad.

The trail features novice cheese-makers, such as Fabian Lujan of Greensboro’s Piemonte Farm, who started last year, and veterans, such as Gibsonville’s Calico Farmstead Cheese, which started with one kind of cheese in 2005 but now sells mozzarella, fromage blanc spreads, queso fresco, ricotta, farmers, feta, skillet cheeses and cheese curds.

Officials of the N.C. Dairy Advantage, a nonprofit created in 2007 by the state’s dairy leaders to support their industry, say the state has one of the most robust cheesemaking communities in the Southeast.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture doesn’t keep statistics on how much cheese small farms make, but only a handful were registered to do so a decade ago. Now about 40 are.

A push to eating healthy and buying local have helped drive this industry, which has grown and stabilized in the past decade, said Steve Lathrop with the N.C. Agriculture Department.

Unique flavor

There’s certainly an interest in cheese of any kind. Americans consume an average 23 pounds annually, according to a 2013 report by a consumer group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“The fun thing about local cheese,” Lathrop said, “you can get cheese (that) you can’t get that flavor anywhere else.”

Part of that flavor is shaped by what the cows (or goats or sheep) are eating - the type of grass or feed.

At Calico Farmstead, the cows are grazed on chemical-free grass pasture and eat organic hay and forage, all the other feed is conventional.

Much of what determines the taste comes down to temperature and how much and what combinations of cultures are used. Cultures react differently based on temperature, which affects the final product.

Lujan makes cheese from cow’s milk twice a week. He gets up by 4 a.m. and starts collecting the milk - 50 gallons - about 5 a.m. He hooks up the cows to automated milkers and has to rush between the barn and the creamery to stop the machines when he has enough milk.

He keeps track of the variations of his recipes in a notebook and carries with him a copy of the third edition of “Home Cheesemaking” by Ricki Carroll. Yellow sticky notes mark sections of the book that he still references sometimes.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Lujan spent more than six hours making eight eight-pound wheels of his Don Agustin cheese, a Manchego-inspired, semifirm cheese with a sweet, nutty flavor. The name honors his grandfather’s Spanish roots.

An idea grows

Lujan said he and his wife, Sandra Sarlinga, came up with the idea of cheesemaking while swimming on vacation at Hilton Head Island. The couple, who are from Argentina, were talking about what they might develop next after a stint of baking and selling bread at farmers’ markets.

But making cheese can be a costly business, with equipment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lujan got a $4,000 loan just to build his “cheese cave” - a temperature- and humidity-controlled building where he ages his cheeses.

But you also need presses and vats and, for some, pasteurizing equipment.

“We didn’t have cows, a creamery ... or knowledge,” Lujan said. “But these are things you can get with friends.”

They turned to their longtime friends, the Gerringers of Calico Farmstead Cheeses, who helped Lujan set up his cheesemaking at their creamery.

The Gerringers had started to make cheese commercially after several farmworkers asked about using the farm’s milk to make cheese. Farmers can’t sell raw milk directly for consumption, so the Gerringers followed their employees’ idea and now make about 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of cheese during a typical week.

“When we first started, we couldn’t find out what we needed to do or (what) equipment we needed,” Larry Gerringer said.

They also had no idea where they could sell their cheese and had to learn how to market it.

The trail begins

As the industry has grown, cheesemakers have helped each other sell their products at farmers’ markets or shops they set up on their farms.

The cheese trail was started as another way to help showcase the cheese being made in the state, said Johnny Blakley of Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, one of the architects of the trail.

Organizers first looked at joining the WNC Cheese Trail, which was started in 2012 and now has 11 members in western North Carolina. But they decided to start their own because the WNC Trail is focused on the Asheville area, Blakley said.

They’re still finding and adding members, Blakley said, and are tying cheese into some other popular and growing industries in the state.

“We’re doing some cross-referencing with the beer trail and wine trail and even the barbecue trail,” he said.

Looking forward

All of the cheese made on the N.C. Cheese Trail uses either goat or cow’s milk.

Lujan said he plans to add two sheep’s milk cheeses, possibly by next year. He and his wife recently bought their first flock of sheep - six ewes, one ram and a wether, a castrated male - with hopes of enlarging to about 25.

Until then, he will concentrate on the many varieties of cheeses to be made from cow’s milk.

The cheese he made just before Thanksgiving will be ready for sale after sitting in the cheese cave for about two months, when it firms and mold forms along its outer crust.

After that, only cleaning is required before sale.

“I expect that we will slowly add a few more” small cheesemaking operations, Lathrop said. “We’ll continue to see a few come in and a few go out, but the cheese market is much more stable.”
Our farm was mentioned in the December 12, 2014 post on Food and Brew Review

Celebrating Our 10th Anniversary: Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar
by Jerry and Regina

Jerry and I have always been foodies. The first year we dated, he never took me to the same restaurant twice. We would travel the state comparing Lexington style and Eastern style BBQ. There was a trip to Baltimore for the best crab cakes I have ever had. From seafood festivals on the coast to wild game in the mountains, we searched for the best local dishes each region had to offer. It was a gastronomic whirlwind of adventure for two. This week we celebrated our 10th anniversary at the Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar, and we would like to invite our readers to virtually dine with us and “share” our meal.

The 1920 two-story A.H. Bahnson home was restored and adapted in 2011 to be used as Spring House restaurant. A unique atmosphere was created by having separate dining and meeting areas like the Library Bar, Magnolia Room, Sun Porch, and Main Dining Room with a fireplace. We dined on the Sun Porch and although it was already dark outside, I enjoyed the gorgeous expanse of windows overlooking the terrace. After being greeted by Chef Tim Grandinetti, our evening started with glasses of complimentary champagne.

We shared two starters. The N’Awlin’s Crawfish “Roll” with Red Curry Honey Dipping Sauce and the General Tso’s Sweetbreads with Ham Jam and Hot Mustard Sauce. Ham Jam became our phase of the evening and if they would ever sell it in a jar, we’ll take two please! Tucked underneath the crostini, one never would suspect that element of the dish would be so decadent and delectable.

We brought a bottle of wine that we had been saving for a special occasion with us. On Wednesday, there is no corkage fee. If your wine is 10 years or older, there’s no charge anytime.

For our first course, Jerry had the Caesar Wedge and White Anchovies with Toasted Corn Bread “Shard”. You wouldn’t believe how good the anchovies were; we both wanted them to bring us out a whole tin. I had the Kale Salad with Smoked Almonds, Goat Cheese, Dried Cherries, and Cheerwine Vinaigrette. I know Spring House uses NC cheese in one of their cheesecakes, and I meant to ask if the goat cheese in the salad was from NC too. It was amazingly creamy. (Update 12/13: Yes, it was a local NC goat cheese from Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery!)

My entrée was the Pork Tenderloin Saltimbocca with Pimento Cheese Grits and Wild Mushroom Marsala Reduction. If you’ve ever seen the movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces with Barbara Streisand, you’ll understand what I am talking about when I refer to the perfect bite. Flawlessly cooked pork, creamy grits, salty prosciutto, and savory mushrooms combined together on one fork…Perfection!

Jerry had the Duck with Apple and Ginger Chutney - Confit, Croquette, House Bratwurst, Sweet Potato, and Red Cabbage Marmalade. No knife was needed for the duck; it was fall off the bone tender. The roasted sweet potato was incredible. I grow sweet potatoes in our garden and would love to know the chef’s secret.

The chef sent our table a Butterscotch Bundino and an Upside Down Pineapple Grits Cake with Pumpkin Ice Cream and White Chocolate+Caramel Swirl for dessert. Topped with a cloud of whipped cream and salted caramel, the bundino was my favorite. Jerry loved the rich pineapple cake. The seasonal items on the menu like the pumpkin ice cream make the dining experience unique each visit.

The meal had been outstanding, each course beautifully presented with a subtle mix of flavors. We relaxed over after dinner cocktails: a Toasted Rusty Nail (Drambuie, Dewar’s Scotch) and a Moonlight Kisses (Dark Rum, Canton, Pineapple, Rosemary Green Tea Syrup, Rock Candy Swizzle Stick).

Jerry and I had a wonderful evening at Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar. With a seasonal menu using local ingredients, we can’t wait to see what Chef Tim Grandinetti creates on our next visit.
Our farm was mentioned in the November 20, 2014 edition of The Winston-Salem Journal

Dixon: Farm finds a niche in baby ginger, turmeric
Amy Dixon/Special correspondent

One of the best parts about writing this column is discovering new places, new people and new plants.

Recently, I discovered Plum Granny Farm in Stokes County - and the unique crops that they cultivate

Owners Cheryl Ferguson and Ray Tuegel are best known for garlic. Growing more than 20 varieties has put them on the food map.

Regular venders at the King and Cobblestone Farmers Markets, Plum Granny always offers a great selection of produce and products, including raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, numerous jams and fresh-cut flowers.

But Plum Granny also specializes in two crops that most people are not familiar with: baby ginger and turmeric. Ferguson and Tuegel gave me a great lesson on the cultivation and uses of these crops since it’s now harvest time.

First, a little background.

Baby ginger is a younger, more tender version of what you usually find in the grocery store. Mature ginger is harder, stronger and much more fibrous than baby ginger. Baby ginger is not as spicy and slices like butter. It can be eaten fresh and it freezes nicely.

Turmeric is an Indian spice, most commonly found in your spice rack as a powder. It is usually used in Asian dishes and has a distinct, spicy flavor. Turmeric is also known for its curcumin composition, making it a super food with cancer-fighting properties. It can be eaten fresh or dried and turned into powder.

The process of growing baby ginger and turmeric begins in February inside the milkhouse at Plum Granny Farm. The milkhouse is an outbuilding on the farm. It’s well insulated and serves as a great place to sprout the seed rhizomes of ginger and turmeric.

The family farm has been in Ferguson’s family for 140 years, and many of the original buildings have remained, including the milkhouse.

“The milkhouse is probably one of the most useful buildings on this farm,” Ferguson said. “We didn’t build a whole lot, we’ve just tried to re-purpose things for our use.”

During the pre-sprouting process, the rhizomes are put in nursery trays, misted periodically and kept warm with a portable heater. The rhizomes sprout quickly and require no light at this time since they are being “forced,” just like a narcissus bulb.

Once sprouted, the seed rhizomes are moved to a large greenhouse, where they will grow throughout the spring, summer and fall. Ginger and turmeric produce attractive green foliage, but the real crop is beneath the surface. Throughout the growing season, both the baby ginger and the turmeric produce vast “fingers” of root rhizomes, which is what’s harvested for market.

Ferguson and Tuegel grow their baby ginger and turmeric in large bags instead of pots. The bags are more practical. Their square shape makes for better use of greenhouse space. The flexible sides are easy to roll up and down, and they are more cost effective than regular nursery pots. Their soil medium is a light and airy coconut coir, which is ideal for the rhizomes.

Unfortunately, 2014 hasn’t a good year for baby ginger at Plum Granny. A combination of bad seeds and fusarium (root rot) has plagued their crop, resulting in lower numbers.

“We have struggled with our ginger this year,” Ferguson said. “We had bad seed to start with, which has led to a supremely reduced ginger crop for us. We were gonna have close to 170 bags of ginger and we’ve ended up with maybe 20 bags. We’ve always known ginger is temperamental, and this year it has really shown us this, even more so.”

Even though their crop has been smaller, the remaining baby ginger has grown strong.

Digging into a bag and pulling back the soil from a stalk of ginger, Tuegel showed me what the harvestable roots look like.

“What you should have is a nice pink top and a cream-colored bottom. As the ginger grows we hill it and then it produces more as it grows outward, like a hand.”

A ready-to-harvest ginger plant has large clumps of rhizomes, which look like fingers on a hand.

“You plant ginger in a relatively shallow soil,” Ferguson said. “And as you start to see the pink on the top, that’s your signal to hill it. You hill it like you would potatoes. You want to encourage the ginger to grow out and down.”

Turmeric grows a little different than ginger. Instead of growing up, turmeric grows down. A turmeric rhizome produces nubs and side-shoots that continue to reproduce more “fingers” throughout the season, eventually forming a large “hand” of product.

Mature turmeric looks like ginger, but with a bright orange center. When cut open, a piece of turmeric looks like a little carrot. The flavor is mildly spicy, bright and has a unique mint flavor.

But comparing fresh turmeric to the spice rack equivalent is pointless. “You almost wouldn’t know it’s the same product,” Ferguson said.
Turmeric has gained in popularity over the last few years, and it’s desirable in juicing.

“Our first year we grew a little bit of turmeric, and we were kind of walking blind,” Ferguson said. “We grew it and asked ourselves: ‘Now what do we do with it?’ The second year we grew it, we saw we had a market for it. And now customers really want it. They expect it.”

Turmeric takes a little longer to sprout, and it has a little longer growing time than the baby ginger. Baby ginger is typically harvested in mid-October, turmeric in mid-November. Unlike the baby ginger, the turmeric crop is strong this year. Because of their setbacks with their baby ginger, both crops will be harvested at the same time this month.

Ferguson and Tuegel offer baby ginger and turmeric at both the King and Cobblestone Farmers Markets. It is typically sold in 2-ounce portions for $4. They also sell it by the pound.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 29, Plum Granny Farm will co-host an open house for Small Business Saturday. They are teaming up with Buffalo Creek Farm & Creamery to promote local farms and local products. Plum Granny will offer fresh greens, lettuce, paperwhites, mistletoe and garlic braids. Their homemade jams are also a big hit at this event, which incorporate baby ginger as the inspiration.

“The reason we got into growing ginger was because we knew we wanted to do a ginger raspberry jam similar to a jam produced by a farm Ray used to work at in New Mexico,” Ferguson said.

These jams include baby ginger strawberry mint, raspberry baby ginger and raspberry cranberry.

For those interested in growing baby ginger and turmeric at home, Ferguson and Tuegel recommend contacting Susan Anderson at East Branch Ginger in Pittsboro. Anderson is an expert in growing both crops. She can be reached at (207) 313-4358. Puna Organics in Hawaii also does mail order on both baby ginger and turmeric. You can find Puna online at www.hawaiianorganicginger.com

Plum Granny Farm is located at 1041 Flat Shoals Road in King. Ferguson can be reached at (336) 994-2517 or email cheryl@plumgrannyfarm.com.

If you have a gardening question or story idea, write to Amy Dixon in care of Features, Winston-Salem Journal, P.O. Box 3159, Winston-Salem, NC 27101-3159 or send an email to her attention to gardening@wsjournal.com. Find Amy Dixon on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WSJAmyDixon.
Our farm was mentioned in the November 20, 2014 edition of The Stokes News

Stokes County Farm to Host On-Farm Event for Small Business Saturday

Looking for a perfect gift for your Holiday giving? Stop by Plum Granny Farm’s Holiday Market and Open Greenhouse event on Saturday, November 29 from 10-4. This event, which is part of the national Small Business Saturday, will give visitors a chance to “Shop Small” by supporting small businesses in the community.

In addition to Plum Granny Farm, there will be other local farms and producers bringing their products to the event: BeNutty Bakes and Butters of Winston-Salem (gourmet peanut betters and baked goods), Greenberries Farm of King (eggs and photography), Truffles NC at Keep Your Fork Farm of King (truffle products including honey, butter, salt and white chocolates). Plum Granny Farm will offer a wide variety of farm products, garlic braids and other garlic products, turmeric and baby ginger, jams, mistletoe and Holiday greens, kitchen herb gardens, paperwhite narcissus and more.

The day will also feature on-farm activities such as Christmas tree cutting and a bonfire with s’more making. There will be refreshments and door prizes. The farm is located at 1041 Flat Shoals Road, just off of NC Highway 66 north of King.

The farm is partnering with Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton for the day. Buffalo Creek is also hosting a Small Business Saturday event with at least ten vendors participating. The farms are conveniently located near each other (a 20 minute drive through beautiful country roads) and offer a great opportunity for visitors to see small family farms in operation.

Now in its fifth year, Small Business Saturday is held every year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The day was created by American Express in 2010 to support the small businesses that create jobs and boost the economy. Plum Granny Farm, located just south of Hanging Rock State Park, is a Certified Organic farm that produces garlic, brambles (raspberries and blackberries), ginger and turmeric as well as heirloom and other specialty crops such as asparagus, artichokes, and fingerling potatoes. Ordering is available on their website: www.plumgrannyfarm.com.

Our farm was mentioned in the December 15, 2014 post on Food and Review

Shopping Local For The Holidays And Snacking All The Way
by Jerry and Regina

This weekend Jerry and I finished the holiday shopping, sent out our Christmas cards, and decorated the tree. It was a super busy weekend and started Friday with a stop at Farmer Brown’s Provisions, a mobile market stocked with local and organic foods to pick up a box of Accidental Baker Tuxedo Sesame Crackers. It was also a chance for me to see what foodie finds they might have for Jerry’s stocking. Our family thought it would be fun to fill each other’s stocking with favorite NC foods. I’ve tweeted about the fantastic local products I’ve found for Jerry and my parents these past several weeks. They’ve been banned from Twitter until Santa delivers their gifts so follow us there for stocking and gift basket ideas. Since my parents will see this post, I can’t go into too much detail about what I bought but I can recommend places that carry local NC food products.

Let It Grow Produce was next on our list. They were having a food pantry drive (everything will be picked up Thursday, December 18th for distribution on the 20th.) Anyone who brings in something for the boxes gets a free Peppermint Latte, which is Joe Van Gogh coffee with a scoop of Homeland Creamery Peppermint Ice Cream. We had some extra canned goods to donate and enjoyed the delicious coffee while we shopped. I highly recommend the peppermint ice cream. We picked up something for Mom and an afternoon snack for ourselves. Let It Grow carries hummus made by Diamondback Grill Restaurant. The hummus had just the right amount of garlic and cumin. We plan to try their Roasted Red Pepper Hummus next time. Let It Grow works with many NC farms & producers and carries more than fresh vegetables. In a quick glance, we saw Fogwood dried mushrooms, Running Pine herbs, honey & molasses, Buffalo Creamery cheese, Chad’s Carolina Corn, Three Sisters Artisan Bakery breads and more!

Back on the road again, we headed to the Country Club Dewey’s Bakery “outlet” to pick up a sweet for Dad. We had already found something for Mom at Dewey’s in the Thruway, and I had thought of a little treat that my father would enjoy. Even in the winter, there’s outside work to do and he volunteers in the church gardens. He usually packs his lunch or a snack so this bakery goodie would be perfect.

Card shopping in Clemmons almost did me in but a quick pick up me at Grapes & Grains did the trick. I had a pint of the Wicked Week Freak Of Nature Double IPA, and Jerry tried the Beer Army Battle of Brock’s Mill. Grapes & Grains offers twelve beers on draft, beer flights, and growler fills. Their complementary beer tasting is on Thursday, and Tapoff Tuesday has a growler fill special each week. Check out their Facebook for all the wine information. Next door, East Coast Wings will deliver your food to G&G. The Golden BBQ Boneless Wings with Inferno heat index had a phenomenal mix of tangy, hot and sweet.

Saturday morning it was time see what was going on downtown. Our first stop was Black Mountain Chocolate. We sampled the chocolate fruitcake (chocolate chunks, cranberries and pecans soaked in moonshine whiskey) and bought one to take home along with a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart. They have one heck of temping display case and there mayyyyy have been something decadent we picked up for Mom.

Across the street near Mary’s Gourmet Diner, it was the last Cobblestone Farmer’s Market of the season. The Chad’s Chai booth caught our eye. We sampled the Chad’s Original Black Chai and purchased a cup of Jamie’s Grey to compare. Jerry liked the Jamie’s Grey a bit over the Original, but I loved the Original so we picked up a bag of it for home. There’s quite a few locations where you can get their tea in Winston.

I made a quick stop at City Beverage to buy Mom and Jerry a gift. Jerry and I were there last weekend for the beer tasting and picked up a couple bottles of Lindley Park from Olde Hickory Brewery, a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout with honey and raspberries. That’s one of the beers we will save and take to the relatives at Christmas. Each week City Beverage does a free wine tasting on Friday and a free beer tasting on Saturday. They offer eight beers on draft if you stop in for a pint or you can sample them in a flight. They also fill growlers which are great to take to a party or you can pick up a bottle of wine for your holiday festivities.

The Authentic NC Goods store in High Point had exactly what we needed to finish our shopping for the day. They had samples out at the time we were there which helped us decide on several new products for Mom and Dad. I won’t give away what we bought but the Black Dog Gourmet sauce, Old Mill of Guilford muffin mix, and Granny Roselli’s pasta sauce all were tempting us while we browsed. Granny’s Donuts was next door, and we picked up a dozen chocolate crème filled doughnut holes for breakfast the next morning. How can anyone resist Granny’s?

I was ready for a nice long break before the drive back to Winston. Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery was a superb choice for our late lunch. We’ll be back after the holidays when I’m not tired from shopping so we can tell you all about the brewery but I have to share a couple of highlights from our lunch. Jerry had the Texas Melt with thinly sliced blacked beef, roasted turkey breast, applewood smoked bacon, monterey jack cheese, and cheddar cheese. I had the Ahi Tuna Sandwich. A thick, rare tuna steak was crusted with white and black sesame seeds and topped with seaweed salad & pickled ginger. The toasted bun had swirls of wasabi cream and on the side there was a ramekin of rich, luscious soy ginger. Two thumbs up for their crispy, crunchy incredible French fries. We shared two flights of beers so we could sample all their offerings. I was blown away by their Amber Waves. It was the last beer in the two flights and still had its head by the time we got to it. The lacing was outstanding. It had a nice medium body. There was a bit more hops that you might expect in an amber but I am an IPA fan so it was a plus for me. We can’t wait to return to Liberty.

We want to thank everyone who helped us find our holiday gifts and goodies this year. Jerry and I had a blast looking for local delicacies and delights with which to surprise each other on Christmas.
Our farm was mentioned in the January 7, 2015 post on Food and Review

Food and Brew Finds and Favorites
by Jerry and Regina

Truffles NC
It was so hard keeping all the foodie finds a secret at Christmas. The Black Truffle Butter I picked up for Jerry from Truffles NC has been one of our favorites. If you want to indulge in this earthy, aromatic splurge, you can order the truffle butter online or pick it up from Whole Foods in Winston Salem. We loved it on a grilled steak!

Big Boss Baking Company
My mom enjoys a simple breakfast that is easy to put together. She was especially happy with the Big Boss Baking Company Blueberry Walnut Granola I got her. She had a bowl with fresh blueberries and strawberries we had put up in the freezer earlier this year from Mabe’s Strawberry Farm. The loose style granola was sweetened with a delicate touch so the notes of vanilla and cinnamon came through. It would be great sprinkled over yogurt or ice cream.

Downtown Thai & Sushi
Downtown Thai & Sushi makes a killer Thai Iced Tea. The crunchy Spring Roll starter and Spicy Tuna Roll fashioned a gorgeous and tasty lunch.

Carmine’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
We’ve written about Carmine’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria before. It’s in our neighborhood and we like to pick up take out from them for our Family Movie Night. This past Sunday, we tried three sandwiches and a salad. Jerry got the huge and quite filling Antipasto Salad (Italian meats, cheeses & vegetables, marinated in extra virgin olive oil over a bed of lettuce with tomatoes, olives, onion & cucumber). I had the Meatball Parmesan Sub (meatballs, baked with mozzarella cheese & tomato sauce). Mom ordered a Philly Cheese Steak Sub (grilled steak with green peppers, mushrooms & onion, melted cheese, lettuce & tomato). Dad had what I think was the best tasting sandwich of the group (and it was also the messiest!), a Tuscany Chicken Sandwich (grilled chicken on focaccia bread topped with pesto, mozzarella, tomatoes & balsamic glaze).

Athena Greek Taverna
The last time we were at Athena Greek Taverna I didn’t get a piece of Baklava and had been regretting it ever since. This time I made sure to save room, and it was so worth it. The flaky phyllo dough was dripping with honey and stuffed with chopped nuts and spices.

Small Batch Beer Co
Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Co
On Sunday, we stopped in for a pint at Small Batch Beer Co. and Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Co. Small Batch is the home bar for the Winston-Salem chapter of the American Outlaws, a group that supports the U.S. men’s soccer team. Their beers rotate frequently, so there’s something new on tap each visit. We had the Clock End ESB and Mr. Lemon Man IPA. The brewers at Hoots are on fire. You’ve probably seen their beers around town at Mission Pizza, Westerwood Tavern, The Porch, and the growler fill station at Lowes Foods. Drop by the bar and toss a few quarters in the jukebox, play a game of pinball, relax, and enjoy a well-crafted NC beer. We had the Watchnight (a starkbier) and the Creekside Pale.

La Botana
I was feeling a “Rumbly In My Tumbly” as Winnie The Pooh would say, so we headed to La Botana. (More to come on that meal in another article) I was thrilled to find they featured several NC craft beers on their menu. For me, the Foothills Torch Pilsner was light and refreshing. It was exactly what I was looking for to go with my spicy salsa & chips.

Buffalo Creek Farm & Creamery
One final Christmas gift we had kept hidden in the freezer was the Buffalo Creek Farm & Creamery Date & Honey Farmstead Chevre. Sweet, scrumptious with the barest tang, we enjoyed the cheese on Millchap Sweet Potato Company Crackers. Mom and I agreed that it would be fabulous on a breakfast bagel too.
Our farm was mentioned in the May 3, 2015 edition of the Times News

Top cheese: N.C. Cheese Trail puts locally made cheeses on the map

By Michael D. Abernethy / Times-News

Is there a food more universally adored than cheese?

Bacon is within spitting distance, but there are religions that forbid it. Pastries or freshly baked bread might vie for the trophy, but they fall short.

Cheeseburgers, cheese fries, cheesecakes, cheese Danishes, cheese balls, cheese straws, cheese bread, cheese sauces, cheese quesadillas, cheese toast, extra-cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese. Heck, there’s even a cheese dog that’s literally just cheese on a bun.

Kids won’t eat broccoli? Add cheese. Use it to make salads, soups and plain old potatoes decadent. Pair it with fruit or wine and launch your taste buds into the flavor stratosphere.Face it, there is no food quite as wonderful as cheese.

That’s why we now have the N.C. Cheese Trail, actually the state’s second cheese trail. The WNC (western North Carolina) Cheese Trail covers the hills and dales of our Appalachians and foothills. Both trails have sprung up in the last five years, following the local food trend and a shift back to agriculture.

The N.C. Cheese Trail spans the Piedmont and Sandhills, and currently lists 12 cheesemakers from Banner Elk (the western outlier) to Mt. Olive. Each one offers different types of cheeses and products, and more than a handful are in the Triad, including two just across the Alamance County line: Calico Farmstead Cheese in Gibsonville and Lindley Farms Creamery in Snow Camp.

“Cheese in North Carolina is maturing,” said Steven Lathrop, with the N.C. Department of Agriculture. “When it began, we started out with a lot of fresh cheeses and chevres. Now, we have a wonderful variety.”

Lathrop offered a quick primer on the types of cheeses, categorized as chevres (goat cheeses, spreads), soft (mozzarella), semi-soft (Cheddar, Swiss) and hard (parmesan, asiago). Ranges of tasty cheeses can be made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and buffalo. Different cheeses are made by adding bacteria to milk and allowing it to ferment. Some cheeses, like stilton, rely on fungus for their complex flavors.

Once the milk has fermented, rennet - enzymes that cause the separation of solid curds and liquid whey - is added. Once drained, the curds can be molded, ripened and heated to create the array of cheeses we enjoy.

North Carolina cheese makers boast many of those varieties, Lathrop said, from cave-aged blue cheeses, Cheddars and many softer, savory cheeses.

AT LINDLEY FARMS Creamery, Ann Campbell specializes in mozzarella cheese made from the Lindley family farm’s dairy cows. She sells mozzarella cheese balls, feta cheese, spreads and cheesecakes.

Almost everyone’s had cheesecake (and likes it), but you probably haven’t had one like Campbell makes. The mozzarella is lighter, fluffier, with a texture like soft fudge or cannoli filling.

Campbell stumbled into the mozzarella cheesecake market by accident. The family had been looking for a way to make a value-added product from their dairy and cheese was the natural choice.

Several years ago, after a disastrous attempt at Cheddar cheese through mail-order cheese-making kit, she used the kit’s mozzarella recipe.

“I couldn’t get it to do right, but I didn’t want to waste it, so I ended up throwing it in the blender with eggs and sugar and put it in a crust,” Campbell said.

The next day, a neighbor tasted it: “This is what you should do,” they emphatically told Campbell.

Once she perfected the recipe, her cheesecakes became a hit at farmers markets. Her cakes have less sugar and fat than traditional cheesecakes (her diabetic husband can eat them without blood sugar spikes, she said.) Some Northern transplants with Italian roots tell her the flavor and texture is similar to the sweet treats their grandmothers made.

These days, Campbell’s scaled back on market days - an exhausting amount of time spent cooking and traveling - and plans to open the farm to customers one or two weekends a month, mainly selling orders placed ahead of time through the Facebook page and website, lindleyfarmscreamery.com

“I like small. Small you can control,” she said, noting she would have to hire employees to keep up with the demand of selling at five or six markets a week.

But Campbell could be talking about the local food movement in general. People are returning to the thought of knowing where their food comes from, how it’s grown and who grows it. That’s spurred all sorts of North Carolinian agritourism and food trails for barbecue, wine, produce and aquaculture.

NORTH CAROLINA-MADE goods are earning a reputation. That includes its cheeses.

Just last weekend, around 1,000 people attended the Western N.C. Cheese Festival in Asheville to taste cheeses from about 15 makers, Lathrop said.

The State Fair now holds annual cheese-making contests, with entries from across the country and around the world. Last year, Chapel Hill Creamery took Best of Show and the Best in N.C. trophies. Goat Lady Dairy, in Climax, has made foodie headlines nationwide for its cow and goat milk cheese blends.

Now, national grocers want in on their share of the local cheese stock, Lathrop said.

The idea for the N.C. Cheese Trail - the brainchild of Johnny and Robin Blakley, of Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, and Sue Stovall, of Paradox Farm Creamery in West End - was to harness that draw into a collective. The WNC Cheese Trail wasn’t interested in expanding its reach too far outside Asheville, so in April 2014, they started one to cover the entire state.

“Cheese has no boundaries,” Johnny Blakley joked. “There’s so much cheese being made in North Carolina, and so many different types of it.'

People can visit farms, see cheeses made, sample and purchase what they like. To become part of the trail, licensed cheesemakers need only apply at the trail’s website and pay a $50 fee to cover marketing and webpage upkeep.Buffalo Creek produces a range of soft chevres, farmers cheeses, prize-winning fetas and aged raw-milk cheeses from its dairy goats. Blakley cautioned consumers that raw milk can’t be sold under state law, and that raw-milk cheeses must age at least 60 days before the state will allow its sale. Anything else isn’t being inspected, he said.

That the trails work together means a yummy future ahead for the state.

“I’m excited about the cheese industry in N.C. growing and maturing,” Lathrop said. “The trails are great. It helps cheesemakers grow and get exposure and allows people to experience their cheese and go see how their cheeses are made.”

More information

For more details, including a map of the trail and a list of all artisan cheesemakers on the N.C. Cheese Trail, go online at www.nccheesetrail.com.  The website includes contact information for each cheesemaker and information about the types of cheeses they produce. Call or email to plan visits or purchases.

Local cheesemakers:
• Calico Farmstead Cheese
3737 High Rock Road
Gibsonville, N.C. 27249
(336) 697-2213

• Lindley Farms Creamery
255 Bob Clark Road
Snow Camp, N.C. 27349
(919) 742-1284
• Note: Calico Farmstead Cheese couldn’t be reached for this story. According to its website, the Gibsonville creamery has been producing a variety of cheeses - including queso fresco, mozzarella, fromage blanc spreads and goat’s milk cheeses - since 2005.
Our farm was featured in the May 7, 2015 edition of The Stokes News

Goats, cheese and more
by Nicholas Elmes

For Johnny and Robin Blakley farming was something that kind of grew on them.

The owners of the Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery told participants of the Stokes County Cooperative Extension Small Farms Tour that they had started out to be meat goat farm.

“We made the mistake of buying some Nubians,” said Johnny Blakley. “They have a lot of personality and my wife got addicted to them. Next thing you knew we had a few more and then a few more.”

They started making soap with all of the extra milk. Then they had to get a chest freezer to store it. They started making ice cream for their own personal use.
“But there is only so many gallons of ice cream you can eat,” said Blakley. “So I started making some cheese and I started attending some cheese classes.”

They soon found they had lots of goats they were too attached too to sell or kill, lots of goats milk and lots high quality cheese. After they visited a dairy in Pelham County and saw what a success it was they finally decided to open their own creamery.

“Today we are a Grade B goat dairy farm,” said Blakley. “That means that we are allowed to do cheese, ice cream and butter. We could step up to a Grad A if we had about $10,000 to invest in the equipment, but we are not built to handle the production it would take.”

He said the creamy focuses on cheeses because it too expense to separate goats milk in order to make ice cream or butter.

“Goats milk is so homogenized that is almost impossible to get the cream off the milk,” he explained.

The Germanton farm is located just over the county line in Forsyth County.

“We are in a voluntary ag district and in Forsyth County that will allow you to have a commercial building as long as it is selling agricultural products in an agricultural setting,” said Blakley. “We ended up having to put our dairy downstairs because of setback requirements. I had wanted to build a slab that had windows so that you could walk by and watch us making cheese.”

The basement dairy includes a milking parlour and processing room for filtering the milk.

“Then we have our cheese making room where we have all of our bulk tanks and then we have a cheese cave,” said Blakley. The cheese cave is kept cool using a small gadget called a coolbot. “It is a little piece of equipment that tricks an air conditioner into becoming a cooler. It is a really cost effective way to get cooling.”

Because the Blakleys had to build a basement dairy, they were able to create retail space on the upper floor.

We have taken advantage of that by carrying products from 12 to 15 farms from across North Carolina and southern Virginia,” he said, noting the store carries soap, cheeses , jams and jellies, grape juice ad pecans. They also sell a variety of meat raised on the farm. “We got our meat handlers license which is very easy to do. So we sell our lamb, beef and we will have some chicken later on.”

The store is open every day except for Christmas.

“The goats keep us here all the time because they have to be milked every day,” said Robin Blakley. “They don’t give us a day off.”

The couple also sells their cheese and meats at Cobblestone Market in Old Salem, the downtown Winston-Salem Cobblestone Market and at Reynolda Village.

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

Sunday Suppers on the Farm

A sunset evening hosted by Bill & Margie Imus at Minglewood Farm & Nature Preserve. Meal prepared by Chef Harrison Littell.
Our farm was mentioned in the September 1, 2015 post on Townies WS
Our farm was mentioned in the July 15, 2015 edition of the Pilot News
Northern Triad Farm Tour

KING - The growing interest in fresh, local food has made farm tours more popular in recent years. The Northern Triad Farm Tour was held Sunday, inviting the public to visit five diverse farms in the region.

Cheryl Ferguson, of Plum Granny Farm in King, developed the tour after learning that this year’s Carolina Farm Stewardship tour was cancelled. “We participated in the tour last year, and had over 150 people visit the farm,” said Ferguson.

Understanding that consistency is key to establishing events, Ferguson reached out to other farms that participated in the 2014 Carolina Farm Stewardship tour. “There was no hesitation,” Ferguson said of the other farmers’ willingness to participate.

Minglewood Farm and Nature Preserve in Westfield, Truffles NC at Keep Your Fork Farm in King, Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton, and Yellow Wolf Farm in Walkertown joined Plum Granny Farm to create a wide array of experiences. All the farms were open to visitors with no admission fees from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tour goers could choose to spend the whole afternoon at a single farm, or follow the map to visit several.

For more than 20 years, Bill and Margie Imus have cultivated Minglewood Farm. Bringing together Margie’s background in flowers and education with Bill’s interest in food crops and forestry, the farm has been turned into a nonprofit with a focus on outdoor education and nature preservation.

“We have seen a growing nature deficit in children, so it is our goal to help them find a connection with the outdoors,” said Bill.

Minglewood serves schools, youth groups, seniors and families. “We cater our programs to the needs of the group,” said Margie, explaining that offerings are endless ranging from digging in the dirt and harvesting vegetables, to art classes using all the senses, or nature hikes identifying native birds.

At Keep Your Fork Farm, Jane Morgan Smith grows truffles and makes products such as truffle butter and truffle salt under the name Truffles NC. Visitors had a chance to learn about the inoculation process and the dogs trained to assist in harvesting the ripe product.

Harvesting 10 pounds of Black Perigord truffles over a three-year period, Smith said, “There is a lot of mystery in growing truffles.” A pioneer in the field, Keep Your Fork Farm is participating in the first research grant for best practices in North Carolina, hoping to pave the way for future farmers.

Plum Granny Farm is a USDA certified organic farm supplying local restaurants, farmers markets, and individuals in their u-pick area. Ferguson explained the process of becoming and remaining certified organic, “to me it is the most important thing that we grow organically, so we are not poisoning our workers, our customers, our environment, or our selves.”

“We do pick-your-own weeds,” teased Ferguson, when explaining that no herbicides are used on the property. Garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes, blackberries, apples and a variety of herbs are among the crops grown on the 47-acre farm.

Johnny and Robin Blakley operate Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery in Germanton. The micro dairy breeds and raises the goats, then milks them and makes cheese on site. “We process about 125 pounds of cheese each week,” said Johnny.

The Blakleys also raise chicken, lamb and beef which can be purchased at area farmers markets or in the store located at the farm. “We also like to support other local farmers by offering their products in our store,” said Robin.

Goat’s milk soaps and lotions as well as a variety of preserves can be found at Buffalo Creek Farm.

Located in Walkertown, Yellow Wolf Farm focuses on humanely raised livestock. Raising heritage breeds of sheep, pigs, goats, rabbits, and poultry, the farm offers fresh meat, eggs, and goat milk products each Saturday and through their Community Supported Agriculture memberships.

With hundreds of visitors to the five farms, the Northern Triad Farm Tour provided an opportunity for the public and farmers to make connections. Angela King, a guest at Plum Granny Farm, said, “I’m interested in local food, and this was very informative.”

A diverse group, the farms were brought together by more than geography. They all share a passion for educating people about where their food comes from in an up-close and hands-on way. One visitor to Buffalo Creek said, “I grew up on a farm, but this is the closest my grand kids may ever come to experiencing that.”

Each of the farms can be found online at: www.minglewoodpreserve.org, www.trufflesnc.com, www.plumgrannyfarm.com, buffalocreekfarmandcreamery.com, and www.yellowwolffarm.com.

Diane Blakemore may be reached at 336-368-2222 or on twitter @PilotReporter.
Our farm was mentioned in the March 18, 2015 post on Kitchen Lacroix

Mushrooms: Project Cheese
What’s not to like about a project that lets you explore food? Better yet how about an entire month devoted to exploring cheese? In the month of March I’ve been fortunate to sample a great variety of local and regional cheeses, many of which I would never have found had I not set out to do so. The best way to expand your food knowledge is to being intentional. While it’s easy to traipse up and down the aisle of your favorite grocers, why not be intentional about the food you research and try something new? Pick a topic; let’s say mushrooms or oils or herbs. Then, pick a time period: let’s say a week, a month or a quarter and just dive in. So that brings me back to my month of cheese. For today’s post, I have a beautiful Saura which I picked up on a recent trip to Buffalo Creek Farm & Creamery in Germanton, North Carolina. The name Saura hails from the nearby Sauratown Mountains situated in the Piedmont region of the state. The name is a variation of “Cheraw” a legacy tribe of Native American Indians who lived in the region.

Now to the cheese itself. As you can see, the cheese is encased in a red wax-coating. The havarti-style white cheese is made from goat’s milk and offers a dense texture with a creamy feel. The flavor is sharp with an undertone of salt, a characteristic that increase with age. To offset the sharp somewhat salty flavor, I paired this with a mushroom ragout made with chanterelle, shiitake and porcini mushrooms. I chose these three for their unique and earthy flavors as well as their firm texture. I like to balance a certain earthy flavor with stronger cheeses. In this case, I also chose to make this a ragout or “stew” if you will - cooking down the mushrooms slowly and methodically, layering in flavors like garlic and rosemary as the liquid evaporated from my pan. Evaporating liquid means that the flavor is concentrating - something for which the taste buds yearn. Whether you serve this with the aforementioned mushrooms or just a simple tear of freshly baked wheat bread, the flavor and texture of this cheese is sure to stand up for itself.
So go ahead, be intentional. Find a farmer’s market (lots are popping up with Spring upon us) and learn something about the foods and farmers in your part of the world. Go on a “foodventure.” All for the love of food.
Buffalo Creek Farm and Creamery, LLC
Farmstead Goat Dairy
3255 Buffalo Creek Farm Road
Germanton, NC 27019
336.969.5698
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