Cooking Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Eva Varga

September 6, 20135

Growing up in Bandon, Oregon, I have many fond memories of walking down to the cheese factory with my brothers to sample the cheese curds.  Often, we would walk home with a giant scoop of delicious Umpqua Dairy ice cream dripping down the sides of the cone. One of the most memorable field trips I enjoyed as a student at Ocean Crest Elementary was to the cheese factory where we had a behind the scenes introduction to the science of cheese making.

Over the years, we have returned to Bandon often and the vacant lot in the center of town was more than a mere eyesore, it had been a bitter reminder of a loss the city and its former residents have continued to mourn.  The cheese factory, of course, was gone. It had been for years. Cheesemaking had been a tradition. It was history. In addition to cranberries, it was part of what Bandon was.

cheese factoryIn July, we visited the Bandon Historical Museum with my dad and according to a display in the museum, cheese making began in the area around 1880.  Swiss immigrants Fred and Ida Moser, opened their factory on the North Fork of the Coquille River in 1895 and by early 1900s as many 15 cheese factories operated in the Coquille Valley.  Bandon was incorporated in 1891.

In 1927, the original Bandon Cheese & Produce factory was founded. And so it went for more than seven decades. Then, in 2000, the Tillamook Cooperative Creamery bought the Bandon Cheese Factory and retail shop. Three years later, they closed the factory and one year after that the store was also gone. They demolished the building in 2005.

On May 8 of this year, the Bandon Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for Face Rock Creamery, welcoming the return of a cheese factory right on the spot where the old factory once thrived.  Owner Greg Drobot even lured renowned cheesemaker Brad Sinko home from Seattle where he helped launch Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Sinko knew more than a little about Bandon cheese. His father was the former owner of the factory.

“I learned at the Bandon Cheese Factory,” said Sinko, who last year won the American Cheese Society’s Best of Show and in 2007 won best cheddar in the U.S. “I got taught the routine. I didn’t like it at first. But it turned out I have a knack for it.”

cheese factoryDuring our July visit, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to watch the cheese curds being made and we were given a short tutorial.  There are several steps that are needed in order to make cheese curds. The first step is getting a good load of quality milk. It takes about 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese. After the milk is put into the vat, a coagulant is added. This is a milk-clotting enzyme that helps turn the milk into solid pieces of cheese.

You can try this at home too if you have access to quality, un-pastuerized milk from a local dairy. 

After the coagulant is added, and cheese curds are formed, the cutting process begins. This process separates the liquid (the whey) and the curds from one another. Once the cutting is done, there is a stirring and heating process in the vat. The curd and the whey are stirred by a big stainless steal arm while being heated to a desired temperature in the vat. After this process, the whey is drained living the curd behind. Finally the curd is ready to eat!

cheese factoryWhen we visited again last week, we learned that Face Rock Creamery has earned unprecedented kudos in the cheese making world, winning first place at the annual American Cheese Society’s Judging & Competition held in Madison, Wisconsin. The winning recipe was my personal favorite, Vampire Slayer curds, under the “fresh, unripened cheeses with flavor added” category.

Vampire Slayer curds and cheese are some of the most popular items at the creamery. Sinko won’t list all the ingredients — trade secret — but did say the recipe is all-natural, uses lots of garlic, parsley and other herbs with no added salt.

Face Rock Creamery curds, including classic unflavored, jalapeño and garlic; plus fromage blanc, In Your Face Rock Cheddar, garlic cheddar and Monterey Jack will be available. The retail store also features a selection of Oregon-made artisan cheese and wine.  And of course, Umpqua Dairy ice cream by the scoop.

August 13, 20134

As members of the Sons of Norway lodge, we have access to a variety of cultural skills programs that are easily integrated into our homeschool curriculum. I’ve written about the benefits of the lodge in the past both here and at Curriculum Choice. In July, I shared with you our progress in Norwegian Folk Dance. As we begin a new school year, I share with you two additional heritage and cultural skills programs available to members.

cultural skillsNorwegian Cooking

Over the past few years, I have been working on developing my repertoire of Norwegian cooking skills. I achieved level 1 (favorite recipes) a couple years ago. In June, I submitted my application for levels 2 (baking) and 3 (meat dishes). At each level, applicants are required to prepare 4-5 Norwegian recipes. An elective project is also required and a variety of suggestions are provided.

  • I wrote several Hub pages: LefseBløtekake, & Smørrebrød
  • I prepared dishes for our lodge business meeting (Bløtekake and Vaflerer).
  • I taught my Barnesklubb kids how to make lefse.
  • I planned a traditional Norwegian Easter dinner.

Now that I am familiar with numerous dishes, my kids have expressed interest in earning these pins themselves. In the photographs above, they are making Almond Bars with an old family recipe.

Norwegian Literature

We have also recently began working towards our cultural skills pin in Norwegian Literature together.  Like cooking, it is divided into three levels and a pin is awarded for each. Level 1 is Favorites, level 2 is Fiction, and level 3 is Non-fiction.  Within each level we are required to read a specific number of books by a Norwegian author, and a specific number by a Norwegian-American author, write a report, and select an elective (book club, an article for the lodge newsletter, start a lodge library, etc.).

Presently, we are working on level one and thus far, we have read:

  • Race of the Birkebeiners by Lise Lunge-Larsen
  • Dr. Proctor’s Fart Powder by Jo Nesbø
  • The Klipfish Code by Mary Cassanova
  • Viking Tales by Jennie Hall (available for free!)

As an elective activity, we have started a book club within our Sons of Norway lodge whereby we meet regularly to discuss the books we are reading.  Through book club, I have come to discover other books by Nesbø, though not appropriate for young readers, provide a fascinating look into Norwegian culture.

Cultural heritage activities enrich our understanding of our ancestry and foster friendships.  Do you integrate lessons in heritage and cultural skills in your homeschool? What activities do you and your children enjoy most?

January 12, 20132

After trying our hand at harvesting our own olives recently, What to Do With Fresh Olives, I wanted to give the kiddos a taste of the agricultural sciences. When I was browsing the recent edition of Edible Shasta-Butte magazine, an ad for Lucero Olive Oil caught my attention. The fact that the company is third-generation family owned and operated business resonated with me and I thereby made arrangements to visit their mill and store front in Corning, California, known as the Olive City, is home to the Bell Carter Olive Company, which is the world’s largest ripe olive cannery. Corning also has a significant agriculture industry centered around olives, olive oil, dried plums (prunes) including the “Sunsweet” label, walnuts, and almonds.

As we toured the facilities and tasted the multitudes of award winning oils and balsamic vinegars, it was evident their knowledge and experience have elevated the science to an art.  The Lucero Olive Oil companhas won more acclaim for it’s Extra Virgin Olive Oils than any other producer in North America with over 100 awards.

The Lucero family owns about 500 acres of olive trees and purchases additional olives from other growers to meet their production demands. The mill is certified organic though the growers have no need to spray their crops for pesticides as there is no need (few pests feed on the evergreen tree) and the arid soils and climate in the northern Sacramento valley are perfect for the tree native to the Mediterranean and thus they require no fertilizers.

Two types of trees are used in the production of the the olive oils produced here … Seviano trees, which require hand picking to harvest the fruit, or alternatively, laying a tarp below the tree and shaking the fruit loose and Arbequina trees which can be harvested mechanically as the limbs are more flexible.  The harvesting machine essentially drives over the top of the trees and with rubber fingers extracts the fruit from the branches and drops it to a conveyor belt. Extra Virgin Olive Oil by definition is pressed only once, heated no higher than 78 degrees, and with an acidity less than 0.5.  Proudly, Lucero’s oil has never been higher than 0.2, surpassing even imported olive oils.

After our tour of the facilities, we sat down to enjoy a tasting of the many varieties and blends of olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  We learned to first warm the oil by cupping it in our hands.  We then brought it to our nose to smell the various fruity and nutty aromas. We then sampled by sipping and slurping – the kids got a kick out of that!

Upon the conclusion of our tour, we enjoyed sampling additional blends and foods available only at the store or by mail-order including mustards, olive tapenades, and to our delight vanilla ice cream served with chocolate infused extra virgin olive oil and strawberry white balsamic vinegar.  I can not wait to share our local discovery with my friends and family and to try out some of their delicious recipes.

November 20, 20126

The holiday season is upon us.  A time when family traditions come to life. Customs and beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next and celebrated each year.  In our home, the traditions of Scandinavia are most evident. Today, I share with you our Scandinavian holiday traditions.  Perhaps you will wish to add a few new traditions to your own.

The Advent Calendar is common in Norwegian homes during the holiday season. Typically, these calendars give you a tasty chocolate surprise for each 24 days leading up to Christmas.

In our home, rather than a confection, the doors conceal a little note on which a favorite holiday activity is noted.  To create our customized Advent Calendar, I used simple Advent Action Cards designed by Ali Edwards.  The activity noted on the card can be simple (read a favorite holiday children’s book) or more elaborate (take a drive to enjoy the holiday lights).  This takes a little pre-planning as the notes are coordinated with our calendar in advance.

In Scandinavia, hand-made ornaments are traditional and our family tree is adorned in a similar style with paper flag garlands, straw ornaments, crocheted snowflakes, and woven paper hearts.  The woven heart baskets are a great project for all ages and a great decoration for the tree.

It is quite common in Norway to get your julestrømper – Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve morning.  The stockings are packed with candy and small toys.  Children like to enjoy them while watching the traditional Christmas movies and TV shows played for the holiday season. The entire day is spent with the family getting ready for the Christmas Eve meal and relaxing at home with the family.   

Christmas cookies are a must-have for any Christmas celebration and baking them at home is a great way to bring the family together. Some of the popular cookies in Norway that you can try your hand at are: pepperkaker or gingerbread, krumkaker (waffle cookie curved in a cone shape), sandkake or sand cakes that are simple short cake baked in molds and filled with jelly, and fattigmann (poor man), a recipe that dates backs to over 100 years ago.

For more delicious cookie recipes, check out my series 5 Favorite Nordic Christmas Recipes

Another annual tradition in many Scandinavian homes (at least in the United States) is to make Lefse.  My mother and my grandmother before her would make lefse every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We now continue this tradition on our own as well as with our extended, lodge family. 

Try mixing up your Christmas meal with a different recipe. Different parts of Norway indulge in their own traditional Christmas Eve meal. In Østlandet (Eastern Norway) it is common to have ribs and pork sausages with potatoes. In Vestlandet (Western Norway), pinnkjøtt lamb with rutabagas and potatoes are the dishes of choice. While in Nord Norge (Northern Norway) lutefisk, peas, bacon, and potatoes are prepared.

Try mixing some of these foods into your holiday meal. A few years ago, I came upon an article in Sunset magazine, Christmas in the Rockies, have since began to adapt many of these recipes for our own tastes.

Follow up your Christmas meal with a delicious, traditional dessert! The popular riskrem (rice pudding) is eaten in almost every Norwegian home on Christmas Eve for dessert. The simple yet tasty dessert contains rice, in almost pudding like texture with cream or milk and sugar added. Top it off with raspberry sauce and it is ready to eat. Try it the Norwegian way by hiding an almond in the recipe before dishing out each serving. Whoever uncovers the almond in their rice pudding wins a marzipan pig, another popular holiday treat in Norway.

These are just a few of the Scandinavian traditions we honor in our family. How do you your do Christmas in your homeschool?

November 12, 20124

Sweetie and I took part in a wonderful outdoor seminar and nature walk earlier today.  Led by a local Wintu elder, we learned about the acorn from harvest to food source.  We were invited to take part in grinding the acorns on a stone with some of the same materials the natives would have used.
Once ground, the acorn meat was put into a jar with hot water to soak over night to help leach out the natural tannins.  The following day, the liquid would be drained out but reserved for use as a Poison Oak remedy.  The acorns after two consecutive days of soaking, would eventually be ground to a flour and then used in cooking.
The Wintu elder brought several dishes to share with us that he had prepared:  acorn candy (roughly ground acorns combined with honey and molasses), acorn muffins (acorn flour with Oak ashes substituted for baking soda), and an acorn bread.  To accompany the breads, he also had butter, local honey (which he preached of its natural healing abilities – in lieu of hydrogen peroxide), blackberry jelly, and manzanita syrup.  In addition, he had prepared a White Fir and Honey tea.
Everything was very tasty – though not as rich and smooth as what you would buy in a store.  After the talk, the elder led a short walk to point out to us some of the native plants and to share with us their uses for food and/or medicinal purposes.  I was proud that most of the plants and their uses we already knew.  I know I could certainly survive if circumstances forced me to live without the comforts we’ve come to rely upon.

Submitted to the Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenges November Carnival.

January 4, 20122

One of the biggest worries I had prior to our relocation last year was in finding a native speaker of Mandarin to continue my daughter’s lessons.  I posted an inquiry on the local homeschool board hoping another family could recommend someone.  My query resulted in only one option – can you feel my anxiety?

I gave him a call shortly after we moved and made arrangements to meet.  Both Patrick and I were very impressed and agreed to continue our studies with him.  Phew!  In addition, not only would Geneva be continuing her lessons (two 1 hour sessions each week) but Jeffrey would begin as well (two 30 min sessions each week).Exploring Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food

The other major difference was that the lessons would take place in his home.  One of the greatest advantages of this is that it enabled us to take part in regular cultural lessons, specifically cooking.   Over the past few months, we have had three cooking lessons – each very different:   饺子(jiaozi),  热干面 (règānmiàn),  and  毛豆 (máodòu).

“For me, cooking is an expression of the land where you are and the culture of that place.” ~ Wolfgang Puck

Each dish has been wonderful and the kids and I have been able to recreate each a few days later to share with Dad.  It has been a delight … and a bit of surprise.  When we were reflecting upon 2011 and discussing our goals for 2012,  Jeffrey stated that his favorite food was Chinese Food (I hadn’t realized this before) and that he wants to get better at cooking.

Exploring Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food

As we have continued to learn how to prepare a variety of Chinese dishes, I have compiled the links to the recipes and lessons below for your convenience. I will continue to add to this list as we progress.