While the Fabulous Beekman Boys label their farm life "A shared experiment in seasonal living," some of their more fabulous experiments have come in the realm of food. Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge made their first artisanal cheese in 2010, Beekman 1802 Blaak, which quickly became the object of cult adoration. I was lucky enough to be gifted with a chunk of it around the holidays (thanks, Sid and Marcelle!) and can attest to why it's been so popular. If you like a mild goat cheese that's semi-hard, not a chevre, Beekman Blaak would be right up your alley.
On their blog, the Beekman boys write that soon after they obtained their first goats, they tried simple cheesemaking (Farmers' cheese from milk, lemon juice and salt) and then advanced to trying many soft cheese recipes and obtaining bacterial cultures and rennet via mail order. Some were successes, others failures. "We'd open up the old refrigerator we were using as a makeshift cave the next weekend and marvel at the results. Sometimes we'd have perfect pyramids of chevre, and other times there were unrecognizable grey furry mounds," they write.
Ultimately the pair became interested in making more sophisticated cheeses. Beekman 1802 Blaak is an Italian-style semi-hard cheese made from a 60 percent raw goat and 40 percent raw cow's milk, aged for four months in the caves of the neighboring Cooperstown Cheese Company, and coated with a black vegetable ash. The ash aids in ripening, adds a slight smoky flavor, and looks nice edging the cheese when it's presented. In fact, it lends the cheese its name ("blaak" is Dutch for black).
It's a seasonal cheese, and it's not available right now. (If you're looking for a mild aged Wisconsin goat cheese, try Saxon Creamery's Evalon, which, although it lacks the black ash, is a good example of the style.)
Another goat milk product from Beekman 1802 is a goat's milk caramel, a dulce de leche-style sauce called cajeta after the goat's milk version found in Latin American countries. Handmade from Beekman goat milk with pure cane sugar and vanilla beans -- and no preservatives -- 9 ounces sells for $12 on their website. They also make a spicy version spiked with steeped habanero peppers they've also grown themselves. Either sauce is good on cake or ice cream, as a dipping sauce for fruit, or whatever you can dream up.
Their Blaak onion jam is made with onions, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, and functions as a kind of a chutney -- alongside cheese, on crackers or a baguette, or even in an omelette. This too is sold via the Beekman website (9 oz./$10), but Kilmer-Purcell also provides the recipe if you feel like trying it from scratch.
In fact, there's a whole section of the Beekman 1802 website devoted to recipes, fun stuff like chipotle ketchup, elderflower fritters, dark chocolate hazelnut chip cookies with orange, and plenty of cocktails.
Josh and Brent will speak at the 2011 Isthmus Green Day on Saturday, April 16 at Monona Terrace.