Each year I get concord grapes in my CSA share, and I never know what to do with them aside from just eating them fresh (I once tried pickling grapes—never again). This year I decided to expand my solo repertoire with these intensely flavored and deeply purple fruit bombs and try making a lacto-fermented whey soda with them. I am happy to say, it was seriously tasty.

For my culture, I used the whey I collected from making yogurt cheese—this kind of cheese is basically the result of hanging plain yogurt (full fat without stabilizers, pectin, or gelatin) in butter muslin for a day or so. They whey drips out and what remains is a thick and tangy spreadable cheese. The whey contains cultures that usher along the lacto-fermentation process. Here’s a shot of the delicious cheese hanging with the whey at the bottom of the container.


To start, I washed and picked all the grapes off their stems, discarding any that were overripe, damaged, or in generally bad shape; firm, ripe, and unblemished grapes were what I was looking for. In the end, I had 6 cups of grapes. I added 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup organic sugar to the grapes and brought it all to a boil, and let that simmer for about 30 minutes. I cooled the mix and then put it through a sieve, discarding pits and skins; what was left was a thick juicy liquid.  Continue reading…


Yogurt cheese, perfect for a beginner like me.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a day of cheesemaking workshops with David Asher, a cheesemaker who runs the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking, a “traveling cheese school” with origins in the Gulf Islands region of British Columbia. The folks from Slow Food organized these workshops and a reception the Friday evening before. After having had a look at Asher’s remarkable book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, they were so impressed with the knowledge within, they felt compelled to invite David Asher to come to NYC and teach classes on his unique style of cheesemaking.

A big part of this book asserts that you do not need to buy freeze dried cultures to make cheese, and that it can all be done with kefir, which contains most bacteria needed to culture milk for cheese; using raw milk is encouraged for the most part, too. Rennet is also employed in making many of the cheeses, while a simple acid—lemon juice, vinegar, or kefir—is used in a small number of cheeses to separate out curds and whey. Bottom line—industrial practices and ingredients are unnecessary to make delicious, flavorful cheeses.


The building that houses Crown Finish Caves. The light was beautiful that evening.

I chose to attend the reception and take the first day of workshops. The reception was quite nice, and took place in one of the tunnels at Crown Finish Caves, a cheese aging facility located three stories below street level; originally the space was a brewery. Because it is so far below ground and the walls are so thick, it keeps a relatively constant temperature, perfect for affinage, or, aging cheese. A number of farms create their cheeses and age them here.


The tunnel in which we attended the reception and heard David Asher talk about kefir and cheese.

At the reception, which took place in one of the tunnels, David talked a lot about kefir, his love for it, and its usefulness in making cheese. Before the talk there was traditional music played by a small band, a little local food and drink, and lots of cheese afterwards. David even passed out kefir grains to anyone who wanted one (they were quite large). I put mine in dead (UHT) milk and it fermented it! The magic of kefir.

The next morning I returned to Brooklyn for a day of making simple cheeses—yogurt cheese (and yogurt), paneer, and chevre. Each of these is created differently—to make yogurt cheese, you hang full fat yogurt in butter muslin (or a du-rag) until the whey drips away; for paneer, you boil milk and add acid, which creates curds and whey; and with chevre, you add kefir and rennet, and hang the cheese like yogurt cheese, or you can ladle it into forms.  Continue reading…

For the Love of Ground Meat

by Meg Cotner on August 18, 2015


Larb, one of my very favorite ground meat dishes, and something I cooked early on here on the blog.

When I started eating meat after 13 years of being a vegetarian, I began with fish (ironically, it was raw fish—sushi—that enticed me off the wagon), moved to chicken (skinless, boneless breasts), and about three years into my omnivore status, I decided it was time to try “the hard stuff”—beef and pork. I found early on in that phase that I gravitated toward ground, minced, or shredded meats, something that still appeals to me to this day. Perhaps it was how those muscle cuts were so obviously animal flesh, with all their explicit fat, bones, muscle fibers and tendons, something I was still apprehensive about, and the grinding and shredding of meat helped mask that reality.

It was also easier to eat, not to mention that when I cooked it, ground meat was, and is, usually much more forgiving, especially when it’s loose; it takes a certain set of skills to cook a steak, a leg of lamb, or a pork chop and not have it turn out tough to inedible. That said, nowadays I do feel comfortable roasting whole chickens, cooking strips of bacon, and cooking an entire filet of salmon in parchment. But I still prefer to cook ground meat, even after 17 years of omnivorous living.

During the quiet months of this blog, I tried a number of ground/minced/shredded meat dishes and found some pretty delicious recipes from fellow bloggers and food sites. When I tried them out, I posted pictures of some of the outcomes to my Instagram account, but it’s worth collecting them here in one place. Here are four that I really enjoyed.

Spicy Garlic Pork and Ground Pork via Two Red Bowls


This is the most recent ground meat dish I made and is the one I’m the most excited about. It combines the classic pairing of eggplant and pork, surrounded by a well-balanced mix of savory, spicy, and sweet notes, creating something that is pretty addictive. Ever since I made it my mind keeps wandering back to it. I suspect that its uniquely memorable flavor has to do with the time the pork sat marinating in soy sauce, sesame oil, as well as the high-quality pastured pork I used. It also has what I consider to be a lot of garlic cloves but in the end the garlic was not overpowering and was just right. I also loved the inclusion of ginger.  Continue reading…

Eat the Web, August 8, 2015

August 8, 2015

Summer perfection—peach and cucumber salad Welcome back to Eat the Web, the intermittent collection of links that have caught my eye. I often post them piecemeal to twitter, but it’s nice to have them in one place. Here are some choice links from this summer: My, how you’ve changed, watermelon [Vox] Delicious grilled cheese sandwiches […]

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Foraging For Juneberries and Mulberries Close to Home

June 9, 2015

This morning I was perusing my Twitter feed and came across this tweet by Leda Meredith, a food preservation expert and forager here in NYC—she mentioned juneberries: If you went on a foraging tour with me last month in #NYC, you know where the juneberries are. Go. Now. They are… — Leda Meredith (@ledameredith) […]

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CSA Season Starts Again – My 10th Year With the Hellgate CSA

June 4, 2015

Our first share of the 2015 Hellgate CSA season, in a rad new space. This week marks my tenth season with the Hellgate CSA, a community supported agriculture organization that I helped establish up in northwestern Queens. A little history: it was originally called the Ravenswood CSA, based in the Ravenswood Houses senior center, and as CSAs […]

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The Joy of White Moustache Yogurt

April 22, 2015

For a little while now, I’ve seen this fancy-looking yogurt in specialty shops in NYC—White Moustache brand. It comes in glass containers, has a hip look (moustaches are big in NYC these days), and is made Persian-style, which is a thick, strained-type yogurt (think FAGE). While shopping at Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker Street, I came […]

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