Needless to say, grilled cheese is a Cabot farmer favorite. It is not unusual to find farm families in which each member has his or her own preferred combination. To wrap up grilled cheese month, we talked with one such family in Cambridge, New York. Stuart Ziehm is the youngest of a trio of brothers who make up the fourth generation of Ziehms to farm just outside of Albany. Their Tiashoke Farms was named after a Native American word meaning “meeting of the waters.” Stuart’s wife, Jessica, also grew up as the fourth generation on another dairy farm in the area.The @cabotcheese farmers know how to do #grilledcheese. Are you surprised? Click To Tweet
Jessica’s favorite grilled cheese celebrates both Cheddar and the region’s many apple orchards. Her Tiashoke Farm Girl’s Fave is a classic pairing of Extra Sharp Cheddar with sliced tart apple. She prefers to use Empire apples, developed in her native Empire state, and adds more fruity flavor with a generous layer of apple butter. Her husband goes in another direction. A fan of hot and spicy foods, “Stuart drinks pickled jalapeño juice straight out of the jar,” says his wife with a chuckle. He loves his grilled cheese made with a spreadable cheese mixture of ¼ cup shredded Hot Habanero Cheddar with 2 teaspoons of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of that pickled jalapeño juice. He adds more heat by layering on pickled jalapeño slices, creating a fiery sandwich not for the faint-of-palate. Jessica often does an appetizer twist on Stuart’s Spicy Special: toasting baguette rounds on one side and then spreading them with the cheese combo and popping them under the broiler until bubbly. About half will get a pickled jalapeño ring, while the other half remain unadorned for the less heat-loving.
Their two young children, Jessica says, are purists, for now at least. For them, “it’s plain, old grilled cheddar,” which they love to dip into tomato soup like generations of children (and grown-ups) before them. Mom always cuts their sandwiches in triangles. “Franklin insists on five triangles,” Jessica explains, “because he’s five years old and is in love with the number five.” His little sister Phoebe clamors for three triangles because she’s three, of course.
Stuart and Jessica both have very fond memories of growing on up their family’s farms and they are thrilled to be able to offer that same kind of childhood to their kids. “Every day was a new adventure; we’d get home from school to a new project with the cows, the fields or the buildings. We couldn’t wait for summer to get here, to get into the barns and get into the fields, to be outside all the time,” Stuart recalls. “I feel like there’s lots of opportunity in agriculture. It’s kind of what you make of it. As farmers, we get to live on the land we farm. I can’t think of a better way to raise a family.”
Unlike her husband, Jessica did not think she wanted to become a farmer. “I was really proud of our farm and loved the animals,” she shares, “but I wanted to get out, get off the farm and meet people.” She found a great way to support dairy farmers and meet people after she got involved in the dairy princess program as a teenager and learned the ropes of education and outreach. The couple speaks with pride of the careful work Tiashoke does to minimize its environmental impact and about partnering with the local agricultural stewardship association to conserve 500 acres of their land. “There is a need to advocate and promote what we do,” Jessica explains. “The family farm is one of the last industries that makes its living from the land. It makes me extremely proud. Really, we’re the lucky ones.”
Cabot farmer expert grilled cheese tips:
- Think Thin: Don’t use bread slices that are too thick or the cheese won’t melt at the same rate as the sandwich browns. Standard sliced bread works fine. And for best cheese melting, use thin slices or shred it.
- Butter is Better: For optimal crisp exterior, spread the outside of each piece of bread with softened butter, like Jessica Ziehm does.
- Go Slow: Jessica also recommends cooking grilled cheese slowly over medium-low heat to ensure the outside doesn’t burn before the inside melts.
More creative grilled cheese flavor combos:
- Chutney and Cheddar: spread bread with a mixture of 2 Tbsp. mango chutney and 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise, add Seriously Sharp Sliced Cheddar and thin slices of apple or pear.
- Pizza Grilled Cheese: spread bread with basil pesto mixed with a little marinara sauce, add Mild Cheddar or mozzarella and a pinch of garlic powder.
- Buffalo Chicken and Pepper Jack Grilled Cheese: sprinkle garlic bread with shredded Pepper Jack and chopped roasted bell peppers, add diced cooked chicken drizzled with melted butter and hot sauce.
You can also sign-up for our Newsletters.
Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).