What’s at the market: Cow’s milk blue cheese, sheep’s cheese, fresh ricotta, fresh yogurt cheeses from Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese at the Tacoma Broadway Farmers Market, which opens its season Thursday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Broadway, between Ninth and Eleventh streets; www.tacomafarmersmarket.com.
Who are the farmers? Stephen J. Hueffed and Amy Turnbull of Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, a 146-acre farm in Doty, west of Chehalis. The couple bought the farm in 2005 and live there with their three children, Willem, Lucas and Lillian. Hueffed’s mother, Marilyn, assists with cheese production and other grandma duties. They make cheese from sheep’s and cow’s milk. They tend a herd of 140 Lacaune-East Friesian cross ewes.
Why cheese? “Steven wanted to make cheese, but we didn’t want to do it in an industrial complex in a business park” with milk trucked in from somebody else’s farm, Turnbull said. They wanted the farm immersion experience and the ultimate quality control of milk – by tending the sheep themselves. Both were city(ish) kids – Turnbull grew up in Bainbridge and Hueffed on Seattle’s Capitol Hill – with zero farm experience. She’s a naturopathic physician; he commutes to his job with the Catholic Archdiocese in Seattle.
They spent the first few years learning how to care for the animals. They began cheese production last spring, but sheep lactate seasonally, so it was a short season that ended when the sheep milk dried up for the winter.
This is their first real year of production. Right now, they have fresh and younger aged blue cheese available.
Later this season, they’ll have more mature aged blue cheeses ready. They specialize in sheep/cow milk blue cheeses.
What will be at the market this week?
• Little Boy Blue: “An aged cow milk blue cheese, it is fairly mild. It’s what I think of an entry-level blue. Even if people don’t like blue cheese, often they will like it because it’s not too strong. It’s got a nice creamy consistency,” Turnbull said.
• Willapa White: “This is a lactic-style cheese. It’s a similar recipe to what you’d make a chevre (soft goat’s cheese) from. It’s got a fresh, citrusy tang to it. It’s made from 100 percent sheep’s milk.”
• Fresh With Ewe: “Also, a fresh lactic cheese, but we’ve added a blue culture to the (sheep) milk when it’s still in the liquid phase and we’ve allowed that to bloom on the outside. It has a blue rind and a fresh cheese on the inside. … As it ripens, the flavor profile changes. Every day to day it changes. As it changes, it gets a more creamy consistency as it ripens, but that’s to be expected. It’s still delicious; I find it more so as it gets a little riper.”
• Whey Fresh Ricotta: “We make the ricotta from whole (sheep and cow) milk and hand ladle it into the forms. The flavor has more flavor than what your typical ricotta has. It has some sweetness and nuttiness to it, some caramel overtones, but still very mild. As far as cheeses go, it’s mild, but for a ricotta, it has more flavor. It’s thicker than a store ricotta. It’s firmer; you can cut it and it has some consistency to it. For cooking, I would suggest more savory dishes, stuffed shells or lasagna.”
• Fresh yogurt cheeses: “These are fresh yogurt cheeses. We’ll have honey, herbs, chive and plain. It’s good cheese for a cheesecake recipe.”
Other markets: Right now, Willipa Hills Farmstead sells at the Gig Harbor Saturday Market and the Tacoma Broadway Thursday market. They plan to sell in other markets, too. They also sell cheese through their Web site. Their cheese also is available at Metropolitan Market Proctor.
Contact the farmer: 360-291-EWES or willapahills.com. Soon, the farm will open for Saturday visits from the public. Check the Web site for details.
Willapa Hills Farmstead Ricotta Flapjacks
Yield: Serves 4
FOR THE BLUEBERRY COMPOTE:
18 ounces fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves (optional)
FOR THE FLAPJACKS:
1 cup Willapa Hills Whey Fresh Ricotta
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 cup all purpose flour
11/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
About 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Butter for serving
To make the blueberry compote: Combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook for 2 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. (Don’t let the berries cook too long or they will become mushy and lose their shape.) Remove from heat. Gently stir in the chopped mint if using. Keep warm.
To make the flapjacks: Whisk the ricotta and the egg yolks together in a large bowl; then whisk in the buttermilk. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the ricotta mixture. Stir with a whisk until just combined.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and sugar in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites through the batter in two batches. Gently fold the fresh blueberries into the batter.
Melt some butter on a hot griddle pan over medium-low heat. Ladle the batter onto the griddle and cook for about 3 minutes per side (or until flapjacks puff, become golden brown, and are just cooked through.) Transfer the flapjacks to plates. Spoon the warm blueberry compote over the flapjacks and then top with a pat of butter. Serve immediately.