Friday, 10 April 2009

Seedy Red Fife Crackers & Monforte Cheese

I first heard about Monforte Dairy almost exactly one year ago at Taste of Woolwich. Ruth Klahsen, Monforte's founder, was there with some samples of her wonderful sheeps milk cheeses. Since then, I've occasionally picked up some of their cheeses at the 100 Mile Market in Meaford. The selection is getting slim though, because Monforte Dairy has not been producing any cheese since mid-winter.

For 4 years, Monforte was based in rented premises. This was not an ideal situation and even before the rent went up Ruth Klahsen was looking for an alternative. However, when the rent went up, she was unable to continue. She is now working to raise enough money to build her own dairy - a very pricey proposition. There's a lot more information about it on her website.

One creative solution that Ruth Klahsen has come up with is to market her dairy as a Community Shared Agriculture venture. You can buy a share now - for $200, for $500 or for $1000 dollars. Later you have a choice of receiving store vouchers to be exchanged for Monforte cheeses over a five year period, or having cheese baskets delivered twice a year for five years. In either case, you will reap a lovely dividend; you will receive $300, or $750 worth of cheese depending on your investment. (You can't get the baskets with the largest share because of shipping costs; you will have to take $1500 worth of vouchers.) Monforte made a wide range of sheeps milk products (and some goat milk products) so you would actually be able to get quite a variety.

We're planning to buy a share, although we will have to figure out which one we can afford, and when. I think it's a brilliant idea, and the cheese is fab. Meanwhile, there is to be a "Town Hall" meeting in Stratford mid-May, and a ground-breaking event in June. I'll post dates as I get them.

Above are two kinds of Cheddar; one plain and one smoked. There are also a number of flavoured Cheddars. I'm partial to the one with garlic scapes. The other cheese is Bauman's Smoked, which is Monforte's version of Oscypek, a Polish cheese. Halloumi, alas is long gone - I never did get my hands on any. Well, next year.

And, oh yeah, I made some crackers to go with our Monforte cheeses. Crackers are amazingly easy to make. Baking and cooling them is the most time consuming part, and even that doesn't take long. Store any leftovers in a tin, so they stay fresh.

40 to 48 crackers
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time

2 cups red fife flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup poppy seeds
2/3 cup filtered water
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit 2 large baking trays.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and seeds in a bowl. Add the water and sunflower seed oil, and mix well. I generally give up on the spoon about when it's about three-quarters mixed, and use my hands.

Once the dough is well mixed and all the seeds and flour absorbed, form the dough into a ball and cut it in half. Roll out each half on one of the pieces of parchment paper, in a rectangle as evenly thin as you can get it. Use a pizza cutter to score it into crackers. Poke it all over with a fork. Sprinkle the crackers with a little more salt. If you expect to serve them with cheese or cold cuts, I would suggest you use the lower amount of salt.

Bake the crackers for 15 to 20 minutes; it will vary according to how thin you were able to get them. They should be stiff and just lightly browned around the edges. Let them cool and break them apart. They will get crisper as they cool.

Last year at this time I made Scottish Potato Scones and Maple Cream Puffs.


Money Funk said...

I didn't realize crackers were so easy to make! Can you use wheat flour as a substitute?

And the cheese... i loved smoked cheese. I think buying a share is a great idea! :)

Ferdzy said...

Red fife is a specific kind of wheat; I think any whole wheat flour would work well.