CSAs say: “Cheese Please”

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In the beginning, there were vegetables. Then came fruit, and it was good. Now, Community-Supported Agriculture programs across the country are partnering with local farmers to include everything from milk and cheese, eggs, flowers, meat, and even locally-grown wheat berries in their members’ shares. This broad expansion indicates that people across the country are clamoring for more opportunities to eat local food, and that the CSA model provides the structural support to make it happen.

Hazon’s Tuv Ha’Aretz Jewish CSA program is no exception. This year, the Long Island Tuv Ha’Aretz program, which is run out of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, partnered with 5 Spoke Creamery to bring their kosher, raw-milk, artisanal cheeses to members’ tables. The cheese share was a first for the Tuv Ha’Aretz community and the company, which had never distributed their products via CSA before.

We interviewed Tuv Ha’Aretz coordinator and The Jew & The Carrot contributor, Eric Schulmiller, as well as 5 Spoke Creamery owner, Alan Glustoff to find out how the partnership panned out. If you’ve ever read The Onion’s Point/Counterpoint segment, the dual-interview below is kind of like that – except replace the biting sarcasm with earnestness and a passion for all things cheese.

eric.jpgEric Schulmiller
Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA Coordinator
Cantor at the RSNS, Long Island

Why did you decide to add a cheese share to your Tuv Ha’Aretz?
Our relationship with Garden of Eve Organic Farm via Tuv Ha’aretz helps us articlulate our contemporary understanding of the value of Kashrut as “conscious consumption.” Certainly this idea is not limited to produce (or even food, as Rabbis Arthur Waskow and Zalman Schachter- Shalomi have made so clear in their creation of the “eco-kosher”
concept).

By offering our members an opportunity to partner with a cheesemaker that upholds the highest ethical standards in how they raise their cattle, while also creating an artisinal product that is kosher according to traditional Jewish law, we are furthering the goal of spreading the knowledge that Jews can eat sustainably, deliciously and observantly without any compromise to their standards as Jews and as human beings.

How have members responded to the cheese share?
Rave reviews. Plus, it makes our CSA experience feel that much fuller, because of the increased diversity of foods now available to our members.

What’s been your favorite cheese that you received?
In the first batch, I was hooked on the Colby. It was so snackable, and yet way more sophisticated than your typical hard cheese. In the latest batch the magic of the Tumbleweed really took hold in our house.

What’s one thing that you’ve learned about kosher, or artisanal cheese through the experience?
It would be great for our group to take a tour of 5 Spoke, or see a presentation by Alan, because there is indeed a lot to learn about the cheesemaking process in general, and the kosher, artisinal process in particular.

If you were a type of cheese, what would you be, and why?
A wonderfully-complex goat cheese called Bucheron. Buttery and soft on the outside, a little drier with more depth near the middle, and a bit flaky at the center. Also, it’s my favorite cheese, and you are what you eat, right?

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alan.jpgAlan Glustoff
Owner, 5-Spoke Creamery

Why did you decide to get your artisanal, raw-milk cheeses certified as kosher?
I decided to make certified kosher artisanal cheeses because as someone who became strictly kosher as an adult, I could not find any kosher cheeses that were as good as the cheeses available to the non-kosher community. And, as someone with a background in dairy technology (my degree is in food science) I know that it is possible, although very difficult and costly, to make fantastic cheeses that just happen to be kosher.

How have your cheeses sold within the kosher market as a whole, as compared to the secular market?
Within the kosher market, the first people to embrace our cheeses were those looking for either raw milk cheese or artisanal cheese, reflecting their understanding of the health benefits of raw milk cheeses and/or the environmental benefits of artisanal/farmstead cheeses. In fact, we get requests via our website from consumers across the country looking for great kosher, artisanal cheeses. While we are sold in many of the area kosher markets (SuperSols, Glatt Express, Mazur’s, etc.), the secular market is responsible for the bulk of our sales, and are not even aware that we are kosher!

What’s the most rewarding thing about delivering to a Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA?
The most rewarding aspect of delivering to a Tuv Ha’Aretz CSA is knowing that the members look forward to be receiving our cheeses, that they really appreciate and “get” what we are doing.

We were particularly pleased that the initial pre-Pesach delivery, which included 23 Pesach-only shares and 9 full season shares, turned into 21 full season shares. This type of support gives us the motivation to continue to make our cheeses kosher, despite the difficulty and expense in doing so. Moreover, meeting people at the CSA wine and cheese tasting and hearing their comments firsthand makes all the long hours worthwhile.

What’s the most challenging thing?
The most challenging thing about delivering to the CSA’s? Honestly, it’s been a pleasure! There were a few kinks to work out in the beginning, mostly related to delivery dates and the number of months we would be delivering.

If you were a type of cheese, what would you be and why?
To me this is a serious question, because I often notice that whether a professional chef of a neighbor – the things people prepare and the way people cook mirrors their personalities and other traits. So, being a cheese says a lot about who I am.

That being said, it’s a toss up between a stinky washed rind French cheese (like an Epoisses) and an aged Gouda. Of course the Gouda with its caramel, butterscotch sweetness wins out because it takes me back to when I lived and worked in Delft, Holland and bought fresh cheese and bread almost daily. The sights and sounds I experienced riding my bicycle to the town square added a dimension that can’t adequately be described. I’m hoping that as I age, proper exercise, rest, great friends & food will keep me in gouda shape.

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One Response to “CSAs say: “Cheese Please””

  1. Julie Steinberg Says:

    Fantastic post! We will look into this for our CSA. Thanks so much for the details.

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