|Donna Hulnick, Speciality Foods Team Leader|
A couple of weekends ago, a great wheel of Parm was split open after being aged for 2 years in Hadley. "The crack heard around the world...." was touted by Whole Foods where a wheel of cheese, the size of a radial tire, was pried in two on a very busy Saturday.
Parmesan, from the Parmesan region of Italy comes in 80 to 90 lb wheels is known as "The King of Cheese" and its subjects were out in force, some wearing crowns. "Have a piece," said speciality associate Issac with a flourish from his station in front of a big window at the back of the wine department where the wheel was inspected by shoppers.
Other store associates mingled about passed out parma pieces dipped in bitter chocolate and parma with strawberries and balsamic vinegar. OMG.
The cheese monger explained that this was the very first time this cheese would be exposed to air after sitting in a bank vault in Italy. Donna Hulnick, team leader for the Specialty Foods department, instructed me to examine my piece very closely for telltale signs of freshness. In the case of this cheese there was hardly any darkness near the rind, just a little bit of color and it was quite moist. And getting a taste of the nuttiness of fresh cheese also tells the tale of the fact that this cheese, fresh out of the bank vault.
Getting a taste of aged cheese before oxidation sets in is a rare opportunity. This taste was a nutty, rich and not-very-salty parm flavor. Extra for experts: use the rind of the cheese to adding it to stock. Try it, the next time you have a cheese rind around. Basic foods that need a long cook time, like dried beans, for example, get a nice dose of yummy fat flavor when cooked with a hunk of cheese rind. (Yes, be sure to fish it out before serving the beans. After that compost the rind.)
In the recipe below I feature parm (with aged goat cheese as an alternative) for a Bolognese dish with mostly local ingredients. Goat meat is a bit tough but has an interesting, not gamy flavor. I buy goat meat at the end of each summer at the Northampton Farmers Market. It is sold by Caroline Hillman of Hillman Farms. She sells chevre all summer long, first fresh and then aged toward the end of the season. In August she takes orders for goat meat. It is $75 for a quarter of a goat. That buys you ground goat meat, goat chops and 2 goat legs/shanks.
For a quick meal, a Goat Bolognese uses ground goat meat (pork or beef or in addition to) and requires very little fussing. I treat it like bolognese by adding cream, wine and cooking for a while. The addition of milk and cream make for a velvety mouth feel. I usually try not to use salt and pepper, just because they can mask the flavor of herb.
Serve with wheatberries or just over potatoes if that is what you have that is local. The cheese, of course, is optional but the goat is not.
1 lb ground goat (or ground beef or pork) meat
1 small red onion, chopped fine
½ small white onion, chopped fine
3 small carrots, peeled and chopped into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup stewed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp dried sage
1 cup milk
½ cup cream
1/2 C aged cheese, Italian parmasena or local aged goat cheese, to finish
Brown meat, add vegetables, use olive oil if there’s not enough fat in the meat, cook until onions, garlic and carrots are softened. Add wine, bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and let simmer for around 1 hour with lid on. Add cream, milk and herbs with salt and pepper to taste.