Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Murray's Cheese

Have you been to Murray's Cheese?  Do you live in New York City?  If you answered "no" to the first question, and "yes" to the second question, then please stop reading this post and immediately go to Bleeker Street.  As a former cheese-hater, I give 95 percent of the credit to Murray's Cheeses for changing my cheese-hating ways.  Growing up, I would not eat anything with cheese on it.  I would rip the cheese off pizza until I was in college, where it was socially unacceptable to do so.  I would send back salads that had a sprinkle of cheese.  The smell of my mom's cheese dip, still makes me gag as I pass by the crock pot, but Velveeta isn't cheese right?So please prepare for a lengthy post, confessing my love and alliance to Murray's Cheese.  At the end of it, there will be a recipe, I promise.

I have only been to the original Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleeker Street, but there is also a shop in Grand Central Station.  The store has a large cheese counter of course, and also has a charcuterie section, as well as special products such as honey, pickles, and gourmet ice cream.  Behind the counter you will find friendly cheesemongers ready to help you and answer any questions you have.  But the best spot in the whole store is the class room just in the back and up some steps.
Fritz on left and Garrett on right.
My first class was a gift for my birthday a couple years ago.  It was a beer and chocolate pairing class, taught by Fritz Knipschidt, owner of Knipschidt's Chocolatier, and Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery.  After my first class, I was hooked, and I have taken many more classes since.  Some of my favorites include Perfect Pairing of Wine and Cheese, the Mystery of the Cheese Caves, and most recently, the In A Pickle class.  Each class is set up with long tables placed in a u-shape, with the instructor up front.  At each seat, there is a plate filled with the cheese, or chocolate, or any other gourmet food you are learning about, and usually some wine and water.
Oh, and besides the food you are learning about, there are fresh baguettes, dried cherries and apricots, walnuts, and my favorite - Marcona almonds.  Along with your delicious plate of food is a packet that has information on everything you are trying for the night, as well as a space for you to take notes.  Another staple for each class, is the education and events coordinator, Sascha Ingram.  Sascha has a genuine and upbeat personality, which helps loosen everyone up at the start of the class, as she introduces the instructor and tells us what is to be expected for the night.  She also teaches a few classes here and there too.  I highly recommend saving a bit of your dough (classes range from $50-$75 usually), and signing up for a class.  It is well worth the money, and it a fun way to learn more about cheese, etc. from someone who really knows.  Every instructor I have had is passionate about the products, and want you to like them as much as they do.  Click here to view their class list for the fall, and sign for one - their classes fill up pretty quickly, especially the classic Cheese 101 class.

So my recent class was taught by the dreamy Bob McClure, of McClure's Pickles.  Bob is young guy (actor, writer, and pickler), living the dream with help from his brother (who is co-owner of McClure's Pickles), and support from the rest of his family.  Bob has been making pickles with his grandfather since he was six years old, and his has been using his great grandmother Lala's recipe for his pickles.  That night we snacked on pickles (love the McClure's Spicy Pickles), cheese, and a jam and mustard, and then got our hands dirty and made some classic garlic dill pickles.  This week I opened my jar, and I was thrilled to have the crunchiest pickle I have had in my life.  Besides the crunch, which is of high importance to me, the flavor was great too.  Bob emphasized the importance of getting the freshest ingredients you can, encouraging us to go to the farmers market, get some kirbys, and throw them on some ice (do not freeze), until ready to use - which should be as soon as possible.

Here are the ingredients for Bob McClure's Garlic and Dill Pickles:
-6 pounds small pickling cucumbers
-12 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved (Bob recommended Christopher Ranch peeled garlic, if you are making a lot of pickles)
-1-2 bunches of dill
-3 cups water
-3 cups of distilled white vinegar (vinegar should have 4-5 percent acidity so it can keep the bacteria out of the jar)
-1/4 cup pickling salt (Kosher salt can be substituted)

1.  Wash cucumbers, and place in a large deep bowl with ice.  Cover and put in fridge.  Let cucumbers soak in ice while you prep other materials.
2.  Wash dill thoroughly and trim off roots (if any remain).
3.  Place peeled garlic in a small bowl and pour hot vinegar over garlic.  Let stand for 1 minute then pour vinegar out.  The hot vinegar inactivates an enzyme that turns the garlic blue when you pickle it.
4.  Fill a large pot with water.  Place a har in the pot and make sure the water is at least 1 inch above the top of the jar.  Remove the test jar ad bring water to boil.
5.  In another large pot, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt.  Bring the brine to a rapid boil.  Stir the salt to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of pot.
6.  While pots are getting up to a boil, take cucumbers out and quarter them.  Then take 1 spear, grab your mason jar and place inside the jar.  Make sure cucumber stands 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the rim if the jar.  Trim your cucumbers to this size.  (Keep the little bits too for later).
7.  After water is boiling, submerge mason jars in pot and sterilize for about 90 seconds.  Remove jars carefully with jar tongs.
8.  In each jar, place 2 halves of garlic, one small handful of dill, then enough cucumbers to fill the jar, making sure cucumbers are below the "neck-line."  (If using pint jars, double the amount of dry ingredients in each jar).  Be sure to pack the jars tight enough that the jar could be flipped over and nothing would fall out.
9.  Place 2-piece lids in boiling water for 90 seconds, then carefully remove and place in a bowl.
10.  Fill jars with hot brine, leaving about a 1/4 inch of space.
11.  Cap and seal jars.  Turn them over to make sure you have an adequate seal.  Repeat until all jars are completed.
12.  Place jars back in boiling water pot.  Process sealed jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.
13.  Wait a week to two weeks before eating.  Refrigerate after opening.  Pickles will keep for up to 1 year if stored in a cool, dry place.
I would definitely make these again if there are any Kirbys left from the season...otherwise I am thinking of using my green beans from my CSA for pickling.  I think they could be pretty delicious too.

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