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PumpkinFor New England bakers, the time of year has come when pumpkin makes its appearance on the menu. These goodies are invariably accompanied by crisp, autumn days, clear blue skies and beautiful fall foliage.

I recently learned that canned pumpkin in the supermarket is not a reduced form of jack o’ lanterns. What you get in those cans is a type of squash, just not the one we cut up and decorate for Halloween.

In the US, about 80 percent of the canned pumpkin market is held by Libby’s and they use something called the Dickinson pumpkin, which is paler and a bit more oblong than jack o’ lantern pumpkins. (more…)

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Mozzarella di Bufala DOP

One of my favorite summertime meals is mozzarella di bufala or burrata sliced and layered with a sweet heirloom tomato.  That said, I must also plead guilty to eschewing the tomato and eating the cheese straight up with just a sprinkle of sea salt. I love my fresh cheeses and none more so than a good mozzarella di bufala or burrata, both classic pasta filata cheeses.

What are pasta filata cheeses you might ask? They are cheeses where the curds have been spun, stretched or pulled – filata literally translates to “spun” and pasta refers to the curds, or what will be the ‘paste’ of the cheese. This method of cheese production has its roots in the Middle East – cheeses in this style can be found in both Israel (e.g. Gilad) and Cyprus (e.g. Halloumi) – and flourished in Italy. (more…)

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Sweet Basil

A couple of years ago, on one of my many visits home, I bought a cheapie pot of basil at the supermarket. That pot of basil still sits on the window sill in the kitchen at my parents’ house and my mother plucks leaves from it when she makes a Caprese salad or needs some fresh seasoning. It doesn’t look too pretty now – it’s rather tall and skinny with a stick that helps to keep it upright – but it continues to be a fragrant and delicious addition to family meals. (more…)

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Stichelton and Colston Bassett Stilton

Stichelton (left) and Colston Bassett Stilton (right)

Stilton is one of the most well-known blue cheeses in the world — up there with Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Cabrales. As possibly the most traditional English cheese, Stilton is often called the “King of English cheeses” and sometimes (and more controversially!) the “King of Blues.”

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Three Roqueforts: Vieux Berger (top left), Gabriel Coulet (bottom left) and Carles (right)

Three Roqueforts: Vieux Berger (top left), Gabriel Coulet (bottom left) and Carles (right)

We carry a number of AOC cheeses here at Formaggio KitchenÉpoisses, Langres, Comté and Fourme d’Ambert, to name a few.  As a result (and not surprisingly), one of the questions that we often field on the cheese counter is what the term AOC actually tells us about a given cheese.

AOC stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (translating to: Controlled Name of Origin) and is a designation of process and provenance that is used in France. There are equivalents of the AOC program in other countries – in Italy it is called DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata) or DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta)*, in Spain it is called DO (Denominacion de Origen) and, in the EU as a whole, the designation is PDO** (Protected Designation of Origin). (more…)

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On the cheese platter: a raw milk, blue cheese - Stichelton

On the cheese platter: a raw milk, blue cheese – Stichelton

A common question we get on the cheese counter is about how to put together a cheese plate, be it for a cocktail party or as a dinner course. There aren’t any rules per se – after all, it really comes down to what you will enjoy eating!  That said, when customers ask, we generally offer the following recommendations:

- It’s usually nice to include at least one cheese from each of the three major milk categories: cow, sheep and goat.

- Similarly, we like to include a variety of textures. For example, one might choose something smooth and spreadable (think Camembert, Brie or a chèvre), something semi-soft (for example, Vendéen Bichonne or Ardrahan) and something on the firmer side (ComtéCalcagno or a Boerenkaas).

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Dorset cheese from Consider BardwellThis is one of the most common questions that I and, I suspect, my fellow cheesemongers field on a daily basis.  It is a good question to ask because how you store your cheese can profoundly affect both its flavor and longevity. (more…)

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Lo Brusc Acacia honey

When putting together cheese plates for our classes, we pair a condiment with each cheese flight.

Floriano Turco honey: Melata di Bosco

Not only is it fun for folks to try new things together but the ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ phenomenon certainly comes into play when pairing cheeses with condiments. Classic go-tos for cheeses are honey, jam and membrillo (quince paste).  We also have a range of mostardas from Italy that provide a wonderfully spicy/fruity compliment to some of our stronger cheeses.  The rule of thumb (as with wine pairings) is generally to match strength to strength. (more…)

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Sarawak White Peppercorns

Our spice buyer, Julia, has been working really hard on our spice selection here at the shop.  She recently spearheaded an effort to improve packaging – the new tins not only better protect the spices from sunlight but they also hold up better.  Previously, some of the Turkish peppers would actually cause the plastic containers to crack open and this no longer happens.  An added plus – the new containers look really chic too!

Julia has also been making an effort to bring in some new and special spices.  This week saw the addition of three new peppercorns to our shelves.  (more…)

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Sulfur is a natural by-product of the wine making process and, as a result, there will always be around three to six parts per million (ppm) of naturally occurring sulfur in a wine.  Today, wine makers often elect to add sulfur for a variety of reasons throughout the wine making process whether it be in the vineyard, in the wine room or in the cellar.Sustainable wines from Formaggio Kitchen

Why do wine makers add more sulfur? In the vineyard, sulfur can be used to combat pests and diseases.  After harvest, it can be used to ensure a predictable fermentation or prolong the time before vinification by killing any yeasts or microbial life on the skins of the grapes.  In the wine cellar, sulfur is commonly used to clean barrels and fermentation vats in preparation for harvest.  It can be used in the cellar at the time of bottling (especially for export wines) to maintain a wine’s color and protect it from re-fermentation which produces a spritzy sensation on the palate.

How much sulfur are we talking about? In the European Union, the maximum sulfite level for certified biodynamic red wine is 60 ppm while the certified organic designation for red wine is limited to 90 ppm.  White wines in both categories allow slightly higher levels.  For conventional wines, the EU allows 160 ppm for red, 210 ppm for whites and rosés and 400 ppm for sweet wines.  In the U.S., the limit is 350 ppm.

So, why does the level of sulfur matter? The common perception is that sulfites in wine (especially red wine) contribute to headaches.  In fact, sulfites have been shown to affect a limited population of people (less than 1% of the population) with allergies to sulfites or asthmatic conditions.  In addition, red wine tends to have the lowest level of sulfites amongst the wine styles.  So, while many people do get headaches after drinking wine it appears unlikely that sulfites are the reason – or at least it’s unlikely they are the only reason.  Even if sulfites are innocent in this regard, we find other good reasons to seek out wines that are lower in sulfites. (more…)

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