Artisan Profile: Bittersweet Plantation DairyBorn in St. James Parish, John Folse’s roots stretch back to the eighteenth century when his German ancestors arrived in Louisiana. These German migrants brought their sausage-making skills and by importing cattle, developed a dairy tradition. During his creative career, Chef Folse has worked to celebrate and nurture the culture and history of the seven nationalities that made Louisiana-Native American, French, Spanish, African, German, English, and Italian.
In 1978, he opened his first business, Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant in Donaldsonville, La. Twenty years later, a fire destroyed the Viala Plantation and the restaurant. Undeterred Folse a year later transformed his Donaldsonville home into the new Lafitte’s Landing Restaurant at Bittersweet Plantation. Over the past two decades, he opened a number of different businesses, each aimed to advance and promote Southern Louisiana foodways. To help insure the future of this rich culture and cuisine, he established the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.
Bittersweet Plantation Dairy, opened in 2002, reflects his commitment to preserving and nurturing the state’s small-scale dairies through value-added products. For example, he worked with several dairies to improve herds of LaMancha, Nubian, and Saanen goats and contracted to buy their milk. He hired Dimcho and Petrana Dimov, husband and wife cheesemakers from Bulgaria, who brought years of experience to the young dairy.
To expand the operation, Folse wants to encourage the establishment of new local dairies; currently, Bittersweet buys Holstein and Jersey cows’ milk and in 2008, plans to introduce Guernsey products. Beyond the obvious benefit of ensuring access to fresh milk, he understands how Bittersweet Plantation and his other enterprises can stimulate and support the local agricultural economy. Next year, the company plans to expand production in a new creamery to support these businesses and supply more retailers.
Folse celebrates Cajun and Acadian culture with names like Fleur-de-Lis, Vache Santé (Holy Cow!), and Evangeline and Gabriel from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the exile of the Acadians from Nova Scotia to Louisiana. Equally reflective of this rich heritage, many of Bittersweet’s cheeses are triple-cream, both fresh and aged types. For example, the four ounce cylindrical Evangeline is a soft ripened bloomy-rind goat triple-cream cheese, aged three to four weeks that develops a runny texture and tangy, yet sweet flavor.
The Feliciana Nevat, a blend of Jersey cow and mixed goat’s milks, is patterned after a similar cheese from Spain. Nevat comes from a Catalan word for snow and refers to the powdery rind and mountain-like shape. Bittersweet Plantation Dairy named its version Feliciana, Spanish for “happy land,” in honor of the Feliciana parishes, named by Don Bernardo de Galvez, a governor of Spanish Louisiana. Both the American Cheese Society and the World Cheese Awards have recognized the consistent excellent quality of Bittersweet products. We applaud John Folse and Bittersweet Plantation Dairy for their commitment to small-scale dairies and artisan foods.
This profile was contributed by Jeffery Roberts, author of the Atlas of American Artisan Cheese. To find out more about the atlas visit: www.chelseagreen.com/2007/items/artisancheese.
All Things Organic Expands in ChicagoThe 2008 All Things Organic Conference & Trade Show, to be held April 26-29 at McCormick Place in Chicago, will look at specific hot organic market segments through a series of new product showcases, special features and events on the trade show floor. Presented by the Organic Trade Association in partnership with Diversified Business Communications, this year’s event teams with two other trade shows-the Spring Fancy Food Show, and the U.S. Food Export Showcase-in an event billed as “The Global Food & Style Expo”.
This year’s trade shows will all be held on one level for easy access to all exhibits. Trade buyers will find an abundant array of the latest organic grocery items, specialty foods, American-made items for export, non-food products such as clothing and personal care products, ingredients for organic production, and a large selection of produce...all featured in one show over three days.
Four special new product showcases at the trade show highlight specific niche categories across the organic industry: “New Product Showcase,” “Organic for Kids,” “Private Label Showcase” and the “Fiber & Personal Care Showcase.” Two additional segments will be highlighted in the “Organic Spirits Pavilion” and new “Culinary Demonstrations.”
Visitor and Media Registration for the 2008 conference and trade show are available at www.organicexpo.com. All attendees registered for the All Things Organic™ Trade Show will have access to all three Global Food & Style Expo events and Keynotes.
Fiscalini Farms Building Methane DigesterFiscalini Farms and Fiscalini Cheese Co., Modesto, Calif., have broken ground on the construction of a methane digester that will reduce the 530 acre farm’s carbon footprint by recycling manure, whey and feed waste into electricity.
By summer, the methane digester will handle the fresh manure generated by Fiscalini’s 1,500 Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss herd. In addition, whey from their cheese making facility plus any feed waste will be pumped into the digester tanks and composted at 100 degrees. The digester itself is kept warm by radiant heating using 1-inch plastic tubing.
The methane will power a generator located near the cheese plant producing sufficient electricity to power the dairy barn (which holds 54 cows at one time) plus the 88,000 sq ft cheese plant. The heat from the system will also help pre-warm the water for the plant’s heat exchangers.
Fiscalini Farms also announced recently that it has received status as a Certified Responsible Producer for its farming practices and procedures in animal welfare, working with Validus Services, an Iowa-based, independent third-party certification entity.
Cow Pies to Clear Skies at Crave Bros.The Crave Brothers Dairy Farm and its cheesemaking enterprise, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, Waterloo, Wis., have constructed an anaerobic digestion system that generates electricity-enough to run their rural Wisconsin farm and cheese plant and power up to 120 homes. The digester runs on organic waste from the farm’s 750 pampered and productive Holsteins. On 1700 acres of rich, rolling land an hour west of Milwaukee, the Craves grow soybeans, corn and alfalfa to use as nutritious feed for the herd.
Each cow produces about 28,000 lbs of milk per year (about 3,300 gallons).
The fresh milk is piped from the dairy across the road to the 6,000-square-foot cheese plant, where cheesemakers use a combination of modern-day equipment and Old World techniques to craft the award-winning Crave Brothers Farmstead Classic Cheeses. These include Mascarpone, Fresh Mozzarella, and their own creations, a European-style cheese called “Les Frères” (French for “the brothers”), a parchment-wrapped 2½-lb. wheel, and Petit Frère, an 8-oz. wheel of Les Frères, packed in a wooden box.