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Connoisseur's artisanal sheep cheese and yogurt: Missouri's Green Dirt Farm

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When putting together a cheese plate or a special hors d'oeuvres plate for company or yourself, it's tantalizing to have some unexpected flavors. Not many people are familiar with sheep cheese, or they think it's only available from Europe. That's why I was happy to be hosted to by Green Dirt Farm to experience their sensational -- in all the meanings of the word -- sheep cheeses and yogurt!

Fortunately for us, this award-winning Missouri cheesemaker sells products online. Here's some information about their farming practices:

We do not use synthetic chemicals, hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. We use antibiotics only when necessary to treat sick animals. We never use sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics or other growth promoters.
We don't use pesticides or herbicides on our pastures.

We practice management-intensive grazing by moving our animals to new pastures every 24 hours. This practice means our sheep receive the best nutrition possible. In addition, soil fertility is constantly improved and soil erosion is virtually eliminated. We are firmly committed to the idea that a foundation of healthy soil is the key to growing nutritious grass, happy animals, and satisfied customers.

Their Just Plain Sheep's Milk Yogurt is made from the milk of grass-fed ewes. It's tangier and more liquid than commercial cow's milk yogurt that sometimes even has gelatin added for consistency. It still has a rich mouth feel, though. I added some Crown Maple syrup, which has a better mixing texture than honey. That was a great snack!

Their Fresh Cheeses come in several flavors. They have a creamy, yet slight crumble, to their texture. Their base flavors are mild and have a richness to them. Nettle is an unusual herb for food seasoning; I first learned about it many years ago in a nutritional book I read. It's supposed to be good for hair! At any rate, it has a bit of a green onion mixed with parsley flavor. Great on crackers! Garlic and Peppercorn is mild enough to be still social, with the peppercorn giving a noticeable bite.

This is how they describe Dirt Lover:

(It's) styled after classic ash-dusted French farmhouse cheeses like Selles-sur-Cher and Valençay. It has an edible white bloomy rind that reveals an underlying layer of vegetable ash. When cut, it shows a lovely black border created by the ash just under the white rind. This ring, and our love of the soil, is the inspiration behind the name.

It's in a timbale shape, with thin ash layer. It's a softer white cheese, with edible, powdery rind. It looks a little like a Morbier cheese. It has a clean, buttery flavor, quite accessible.

If you check out the cheese carts at the finest restaurants, nowadays, they almost always feature a Tomme cheese. According to Cheese.com, "Tomme is a generic term for a group of cheeses produced mainly in the French Alps and in Switzerland. Usually, Tommes are cheeses produced from skimmed milk after the cream has been removed to make butter and full cream cheeses. Consequently, they are low in fat." Green Dirt Farm's Prairie Tomme has a firm rind. I ate it; it's spicy and very grassy. The ivory/yellow cheese is firm, cut in wedges from a circle. It's got a slightly sweet, nutty flavor. The sheep flavor gets more pronounced as you continue holding it in your mouth.

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