The Cabot Creamery Cookbook
By Melissa Pasanen with Cabot Creamery
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery by the Book podcast, with me, Suzy Chase.
Melissa P.: I'm Melissa Pasanen. I'm a Vermont-based food writer. I do a variety of writing, including a most recent book project I worked on with the Cabot Creamery Cookbook.
Suzy Chase: The Cabot brand is a familiar sight in most grocery stores. Melissa, give us a little background on Cabot Creamery, and how did you get involved with this cookbook?
Melissa P.: Yeah. The Cabot Co-op has been around since the very early 1900s. It was started by a handful of dairy farmers in Cabot, Vermont, which is central Vermont. Got together to make cream, butter, and then eventually cheese, with their milk.
Today it has grown to about 1,200 member farmers in the co-op who are all over New England and New York state. They have, as you noted, a really strong brand, a great product line of everything from cheddar to yogurt to whipped cream in those spray cans ... but it's all real whipped cream.
They were approached by a division of Time Inc., Oxmoor House, who were interested in doing a cookbook with them. The Oxmoor House folks brought me on to write the pieces of the cookbook that needed to be written and to manage all of the recipes, to figure out which ones we would use and to test.
Suzy Chase: Included in the cookbook are profiles of different Cabot Creamery farm families. Can you give us an overview of a couple of those families?
Melissa P.: Yeah, that was my most favorite part. There is nothing I love better than going out to actually visit farmers of all kinds. It was a real treat. I visited 16 different Cabot farmers around New England. Obviously, I can't pick a favorite. They were all so interesting and different. But just to give you a sense of the range, there were the [Cutchers 00:02:07] in [Missisquoi Valley 00:02:09], which is up in northeastern Vermont.
They are an older couple. They also run a bed and breakfast. They are just warm and lovely. They have French-Canadian background. They're milking around 130. You know you've heard of barn cats? Well, they have a barn duck. They were really fun.
Then there were a few really small farms. I think they're one of the very few dairy farms left in Rhode Island. Ocean Breeze farm in Westerly, Rhode Island, which people may know as a beautiful resort town. There we had the [Pancereas 00:02:44] of Italian heritage. They're milking just 25, [inaudible 00:02:51] helped by his grown daughter. That was really different.
Then another wonderful farm ... as I said, they were all wonderful ... in eastern Connecticut, the [Coimes 00:03:03], and that is a multi-generation farm. They have their young family members in their 20s have come back to join the parents at this point. They are milking a few hundred, so a little big better.
They're also so ingenious, which most of these dairy farmers have to be to make it all work. They also make something out of the processed manure from their cows. They make what they call CowPots, that are basically built-in fertilizer seed starting pots, that have been on Martha Stewart.
Suzy Chase: Oh, that's so smart.
Melissa P.: Yeah. That's just an example ... three really different ones, but they were all just so unique and different.
Suzy Chase: In this day and age of huge corporations taking over our food and farming, do you have a local near you in Vermont that you go to?
Melissa P.: The closest [inaudible 00:03:55] farm, I think, to me, is actually one that's in the book. They're in a town called Richmond, which is just south of me on the freeway. That is the Conant farm. That's also multi-, multi-generation. I think it's eight generations? They have a wonderful farm in the summer. They grow sweet corn and they're famous for it.
Suzy Chase: I like how in the cookbook, some of the recipes are directly from the farm families.
Melissa P.: Yes, yes, which was a little bit of a challenge sometimes. Farm families don't do is write down their recipe.
Suzy Chase: Yogurt is the perfect quick breakfast meal, but what else can the home cook do with yogurt?
Melissa P.: Oh, I love yogurt. It has always been one of my favorite things to cook with. I was really very, very happy ... not that I don't love cooking with cheddar and other cheeses, but it was actually really nice to have yogurt as an ingredient to work with.
I mean, what can't you do with yogurt? It's kind of amazing. There's a whole chart in the cookbook of different kinds of dip, which was really fun to pull together ... also it's a different savory dips that you can make by mixing things into yogurt.
One of my favorite quick recipes came from a woman on one of the other farms, Richardson Family Farm down in southern Vermont ... a quick yogurt curried shrimp. I love to use yogurt with curry spices to marinate almost anything ... chicken, lamb ... and this was a great one with shrimp.
Then the yogurt featured prominently in a lot of the dessert recipes, and some of those are really awesome. There's a wonderful really easy chocolate fudgy cake from another one of the farms, Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, Vermont, which is super simple. Like a single-bowl chocolate, which uses yogurt.
Suzy Chase: On the Cabot Creamery Instagram page, I saw a gorgeous peach paired with a sharp cheddar. What are your favorite Cabot cheese pairings?
Melissa P.: Well, I will say I don't tend to eat peaches with cheddar, although I'm sure it would be fine.
Suzy Chase: I know. It looked lovely.
Melissa P.: Being a Vermonter I tend to eat apples with my cheddar, which I think is awesome. There's another whole thread in the cookbook of great cheese pairings, and also a particular list of different kinds of apples, and which ones go better with extra sharp cheddar, or like the habanero cheddar, which Cabot is famous for.
There's also some good condiment, quick condiments. There's a great tomato jam recipe which is super easy, and at the height of summer, is an awesome thing to do if you have any extra tomatoes. But frankly, I'm a serious cheese head. I always have been. I adore cheddar. I'm just as likely to grab a hunk from the fridge and pair it with a few nuts and a slice of apple. To me, that's basically a great lunch.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, that's perfection right there. Cabot has won every major award for taste, including the world's best cheddar. Now here's the age old question ... why are some cheddars white, and some cheddars yellow?
Melissa P.: This question has a deep history. It goes way back to farmers trying to make their cheddar look like it was something better, because traditionally, the richer milk from certain breeds had more of a yellow-orange tint to it. Nowadays, of course, nobody's doing anything related to pretending they're something they're not. But that developed a regional preference for cheddar to be more orange-y in some places.
Naturally, it's the white that most of the Cabot cheddar especially, is the New England and New York region is. They do use ... as do many other cheddar makers ... a natural seed called annatto ... to make some of their cheddars orange. The taste isn't changed at all, and it's not a weird additive. That's the story.
Suzy Chase: I assumed that all dairy had lactose in it. How can Cabot cheddar be naturally lactose free?
Melissa P.: Yeah, isn't that interesting?
Suzy Chase: That is.
Melissa P.: I learned that myself several years ago. Pretty much all aged cheeses are lactose free, because the process of aging basically consumes the lactose. In Cabot's case, almost every cheese ... because they do have some other cheeses ... is lactose free. There are a couple of mozzarella products that they do that are not, but they have a label on their products that tells you for sure whether it's lactose free.
Suzy Chase: Last night for dinner I made the broccoli salad with cheddar, fennel, and bacon, from page 163.
Melissa P.: I love that recipe. I'm so glad you chose that one.
Suzy Chase: It's the prefect summer meal in this heat.
Melissa P.: So good. I love all the different textures and flavors I it.
Suzy Chase: What is your favorite recipe from the cookbook?
Melissa P.: You know better than to ask that. Like, which is my favorite child?
Suzy Chase: I know.
Melissa P.: There is some really great desserts, a lot of them that feature the yogurt. There's a wonderful dark chocolate ginger yogurt ice cream. There's also a really wonderful fresh lime and roasted banana pie that I kind of pulled out of the database. It wasn't on my original list, and it's really awesome. It's like an island in your mouth.
Yeah, those are a couple of fun dessert ones. Then I have to tell you another one that's been sort of a sleeper hit. It's super easy. It's the black bean cheddar spirals. You basically are mashing up some black beans with lime juice and cumin, spreading that over a big lavash or a big whole wheat tortilla, then some shredded cheddar, rolling it up, chilling it, and then slicing into little spirals. That has been a huge hit with everyone from teenagers to sophisticated adult cocktail party types.
Suzy Chase: Yeah, I was actually going to put that in my eight year old's lunch. That's a great lunch idea.
Melissa P.: Yeah, and actually, it's really funny, the things that you figure out after the cookbook's gone to press. I realized afterwards, unfortunately ... it's not in there ... but I will tell your listeners, a really great dip for that is to take salsa and plain Greek yogurt ... like Cabot's Greek-style yogurt ... and mix those together. It makes sort of a creamy salsa dip that's really awesome.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you and Cabot Creamery on the web?
Melissa P.: I am on Twitter at @tasteofvermont and Cabot is also on Twitter and Instagram, and they have a great website with lots and lots of different resources, more recipes, facts, tips, and so that's the best place to go and find all of their different handles. That's cabotcheese.coop. They have a really robust ... it also has lots more stories of farm families.
Suzy Chase: Yes.
Melissa P.: If the 16 in the cookbook aren't enough, there are lots more up there, but it's really an awesome group of people. It's really fun to be able to bring the folks who are making that wonderful food to life, through both the cookbook and through the website. They have a beautiful Instagram. It's a really fun mix of adorable cow pictures and recipes, and sharing ideas, and that kind of thing.
Suzy Chase: Thanks, Melissa, for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.