I’m going to start this post with a cliché, a big no no. But clichés are clichés for a reason. At the end of July, I went on the Stonyfield Farm Tour. It was life changing. (There’s the cliché.) If life were a video game or card table with a 500 piece puzzle on it, I feel like I just collected a couple important puzzle pieces to move on to the next level. Do you have those times in your life? When you’re waiting on something, not exactly sure what. And when you find it, or in this case, experience it, you know it’s going to be life-bending.
This post is sponsored by Stonyfield and Blue Apron. As always, these are my opinions and experiences. Thank you for supporting the brands that I support.
This trip was that for me. I hope you’ll stick with me on this one. It’s a long one, and I’m not sure how to tell it another way. This post is not about the yogurt, though we’ve been buying their whole milk plain yogurt for 4.5 years (ever since Hal was 6 months old), after trying every one in the cooler. This is a story about Gary, an organic evangelist. It’s a story about the dirt and our future. Oh, and it has a delicious ending—Homemade Yogurt Ricotta, a recipe from Blue Apron (see discount code at the end of the post).
This is Gary.
You might have heard him on Guy Raz’s podcast, How I Built This. If you haven’t, I highly recommend the episode. It’s the same story I was able to hear on this trip, a story about the very humble beginnings of Stonyfield, founded by two guys named Samuel and Gary (above) who found their way into the organic yogurt business by trying to protect the environment. Gary rode the bus with us backwards, ate with us, and stood with us in the pastures while getting over jet lag. He’d just flown in from New Zealand, where he’s helping the organic movement move. He’s not what you’d expect from a co-founder of an extremely successful company, but what you’d hope for—down to earth, relatable, passionate, and really smart. Over a couple days, he told us countless stories about the word organic and what it can do for our earth. I’ll retell them in my own words below.
Side note: as a designer, I now understand why “organic” is just as large as their name in their logo. Scale communicates meaning. I’m pretty sure they’re trying to communicate something.
This is the part about the dirt and the future.
First, let’s start with the word organic. What is organic? It’s what you’d think—an organic strawberry or carrot. That’s the end product. But an organic strawberry begins in the dirt. To be honest, I never even considered the dirt before. Organic dirt grows organic things, like organic grass that feeds the cows. It is free of synthetic, genetically modified (GMOs), toxic persistent pesticides, and fertilizers and full of the naturally occurring real stuff.
The earth came with its own set of rules, and I think we’re learning this ancient set of rules the hard way right now, not unlike the way I’ve learned most things in life. Applying synthetic “food” to the earth’s skin has made it sick. We can see it in the temperatures around the globe, in the health of the cows, our children, and on the surface of our lakes.
Brent, a dairy farmer who slowly converted his land to organic, saw the spring on his land, once covered in algae from pesticide runoff, clear up. He watched his cows, who were previously treated with antibiotics to maintain health, no longer need them when fed a diverse, organic, grass fed diet.
The use of toxic synthetics doesn’t end over the corn field. The earth is big and huge. But our ecosystem is small and efficient. It recycles like I do every Tuesday morning. What we put into the earth not only nourishes and grows our food, but it provides rain puddles for Hal to splash in and a snow hill for her to speed down come winter. Organic is more than a strawberry. It’s an ecosystem.
Mother Earth. We call her Mother for a reason. She cares for us in a thousand ways we don’t realize. She lets her kids make poor decisions, sometimes with big consequences. She trusts the process of learning. And, like a mother she is forgiving. Gary says organic is not only preventative medicine to our bodies, but it can heal global warming to the point of forgiveness.
I know, I know. This is a lot of information, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg (another cliché, but gosh is it fitting). To read more about this topic, read through Organic 101 on Stonyfield’s site and watch this video about organic soil. It’s quite amazing.
Now on to the delicious ending.
We spent our last night of the trip enjoying dinner hosted by Blue Apron’s Culinary Team in a beautiful home on Philo Ridge Farm. The farmhouse had been recently preserved, upholding its original design with a modern tone, a reflection of the organic conversation. The food was delicious, thoughtfully prepared, and locally sourced alongside some of Blue Apron’s favorite suppliers. For the main course, they served hand rolled cavatelli covered in pesto, dotted with a yogurt ricotta made right in front of us. Making ricotta is a patient, magic process of coagulation (say it out loud with me: co-ag-you-lation), where the pale whey separates slowly from the dense, milky curds, until you’re left with fresh yogurt ricotta.
It’s made from the simplest of ingredients—milk, cream, yogurt, lemon, salt, and patience. Blue Apron let me share their recipe with you. Try it on a weekend when you have a little time to slow down. Serve it savory, dotted atop a pasta dish or sweetened with honey beneath a pile of peaches and a sprig of mint.
PS—Blue Apron is offering $60 off the first 3 boxes for new customers. Redeem with this special code. Head over to instagram for a chance to win free 3 months of free Stonyfield yogurt!
This Yogurt Ricotta recipe is from the Blue Apron Culinary Team. It’s light, creamy, and delicious, unlike anything at the grocery store. Special equipment needed: Cheese cloth, Thermometer, Ladle (or large spoon).
8 c. organic whole milk
1 c. organic heavy cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup Stonyfield Organic Plain Greek Yogurt*
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Line a large colander with cheesecloth set over a large pot. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, combine the milk, heavy cream, and salt. Heat to 185°F on medium, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching.
Add the yogurt and lemon juice. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring slowly and constantly until curds begin to form, then stop stirring.
Once the surface is covered with curds (about 5 minutes), carefully ladle most of the curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander (this allows for the larger curds to remain intact). Pour the remaining mixture through the strainer into the pot.
Let the curds drain for 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. The strained liquid (or whey) can be discarded or saved for later use.*
The ricotta is ready to be enjoyed warm. Alternatively, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days (the ricotta can be also enjoyed cold).
*I used Stonyfield’s Plain Whole Milk Yogurt in place of Greek with great results.
Blue Apron Test Kitchen Tip: We like to use whey in place of buttermilk in pancakes and biscuits, or as a braising liquid for meat and vegetables.