A True Honor

 

Today is a very exciting day for me; one of the posts I wrote for my homesteading blog was featured on the blog of one of my personal heroes today, Gene Logsdon’s blog, The Contrary Farmer.

I am really in awe right now and truly honored. Gene, along with Wendell Berry and David Kline, among many others, notably, Joel Salatin, are such amazing and down to earth (literally, in so many ways) advocates for the agrarian movement. Their writing has inspired and taught me so much. So to have my writing featured on a blog of Gene’s writings is well, just WOW.

Thank you so much to Dave Smith and Gene Logsdon for featuring my post! If you want to follow my homesteading adventures, please check out my blog Got Goats? – we are on facebook too and would appreciate if you could “like” us! THANK YOU!

My First Cheese Opus: Gruth Dhub and Flowery Crowdie

Dedicated to my dear friend Cat, her Granny and all my ancestors before me.

My final project for my Value Added Products class at Sterling College was to…dun, dun, dun…make a value added product!  My initial reason for taking this class was two-fold. The first was to begin my journey to becoming an artisan cheesemaker, by learning some more skills in the dairying process, beyond yogurt, kefir and fresh cheeses all of which I have been making at home for some time. The other was to learn the processes around making age old foods from scratch using traditional methods. I got both of those things out of the class, and so much more.

Over the past year or so, I have really enjoyed exploring my ancestry through food. Food is the cornerstone to all cultures, and by learning what traditional foods are in certain areas, you learn a lot about the people and landscape – what kind of climate they have and thereby the types of foods that were available before our global economy where so much (too much?) is available, as well as what other cultural influences helped to shape the modern food cultures. There are several great cookbooks I have acquired over the past year, and I will likely be sharing some more of those recipes soon. One of them is Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland: 70 (Check!) Traditional Recipes Shown Step-by-Step in 360 Colour Photographs . It is a great overview of key products and foods of Scotland. I knew for this final project I wanted to make something quintessentially Scottish and this book was a good base.

At the time I started thinking about what to make for my project we were in the midst of sausage making. So at first I wanted to make black pudding, something that makes use of some of the less desirable parts of animals, including blood and organ meats. I have enjoyed various versions of blood sausages, in Norway, on the Navajo Reservation and in both Scotland and Ireland and have loved every single bite. I think a love for certain tastes, especially unique tastes are programmed in our DNA, and blood sausage is just one of those things. It is very common in all cultures that raise sheep. Sometimes it is made from pork.  But finding the ingredients to make such a dish was more than daunting. I had also thought of making haggis, but again, getting all the ingredients at this time of year didn’t seem possible in the amount of time I had.  Then I realized how silly I was, a budding cheesemaker, who wasn’t thinking about making cheese for this project? Ridiculous.

Then I read about Black Crowdie, or Gruth Dubh , as it  is known in Gaelic, which is literally translated as “black curds”. I will get into the reason behind the name soon, I promise.

One of my obsessions in the world of food is historic, traditional foods. So when I read about Crowdie, I was spellbound. I had to make this cheese. It was made even more enticing when I did a google search for a recipe and literally came up with NOTHING. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing, but when recipes say things like: heat the milk to blood heat” you just know there is a lot of work ahead trying to make sense of it all. But nothing excites me more than a historic recipe, with very vague directions to get me going! I had to make this cheese! So I first asked around to some of my Scottish friends and Facebook friends to see if anyone had a recipe. The saddest thing is that I got several responses from Scottish friends about how their Granny used to make it, but after she passed the recipe was lost. All the ancestors started screaming in my head : “YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS CHEESE!

Next, I found several companies in Scotland that sold this cheese and on the advice of my friend and fellow online entrepreneur Nikki, contacted them for a recipe. Well, I ended up with the best guide possible into this historic cheese – Rory Stone from Highland Fine Cheeses, an award winning cheese producer, and from my understanding a pioneer in creating Crowdie for the mass market.  Rory and his family have been making cheese in Tain for a very long time, and like me, have been interested in some historic cheeses too – Crowdie and it’s cousin, Caboc as well as a cheese his mother invented, Hramsa, which is basically Crowdie flavored with ramps (wild leek).

See, Crowdie, is a true farmstead cheese, meaning it was made by every crofter, being referred to as crofter’s or porridge cheese because it provided a very practical way of ensuring that nothing was wasted. Crowdie is traditionally a skimmed milk cheese that is the byproduct of butter making.  This uniquely Scottish cheese was even once used as part-payment of rent in the Highlands. But it goes back much farther than that.

(photo courtesy of)

Crowdie making skills were given to the Scots by the Vikings. In terms of my passion and goals, we are 2 for 2, being that I have both Scottish and Viking (mostly Danish) ancestry.  Viking culture greatly influenced that of Scotland, including the cuisine of Scotland between the 8th and 14th centuries and much of that influence is still seen today. Things like blood sausage, smoked fish, and skimmed milk cheese. Similar skimmed milk products are still made in Sweden and Norway, today. Until the early 1700′s most Scottish cheese was made from skimmed milk after butter making, and did not travel well.

To make Crowdie homemakers would preserve the skim, which would naturally sour made by placing a fresh jug of skimmed milk beside the stove to sour and curdle. By keeping it nice and warm, the natural lactobacillus culture in the milk would ferment and set. Next they would scramble it, perhaps add some cream, add some salt and hang it up in muslin to produce Crowdie. The low fat content means it can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration or salting. So the original Crowdie was a raw milk cheese. So at this point in the process I was happy to have a very reliable and trusted source of raw cow’s milk – Applecheek Farm. The Scots were a cattle herding culture, although they do raise sheep as well, it is possible that the original cheese handed down by the Vikings were a sheep milk cheese.

Because the milk is now pasteurized a lactic acid element needs to be added to encourage coagulation. To learn more about cheese and the importance of lactic acid action, see my last post Deep in the Cheesemaking Process. Then, in the making of Crowdie, the curds are heated, mashed, mixed with salt and then hung the traditional way in muslin bags.

Rory was a great help to me. We discussed at length desired taste, and texture when it comes to Crowdie, and we also discussed the process to how it becomes Crowdie – and the main component is that it needs quick lactic acid production. The process sounded quite a lot like making chevre, so I decided to make two different versions by  using  two various cheese cultures commonly used in chevre making – mesophilic starter culture MA 11 and a Fromage Blanc starter and by making a skimmed milk version as well as a full fat version. Although Rory’s recipe for Crowdie includes both starter culture and rennet, I decided to forego the rennet. Really, Crowdie was created before rennet existed as a product. Between that and the fact that Scottish and European rennet is so different in terms of strength from US rennet, I was left a little on my own.  So basically I made up my own recipe for Crowdie , using all the info I got from Rory and processes I had learned during the course at Sterling.

Having never tasted Crowdie prior to my experiments here, I so wish I could have invited my Scottish friends over for a taste test! I plan to make it the really traditionally way soon by allowing the raw milk to curdle naturally as well – and see if there is a  big difference in terms of taste and texture.

So what exactly is Gruth Dubh (Black Curds)? As the legend of the cheese goes, a cattle herder had put his cheese in the same container that he had earlier had his oatcakes in. The cheese got accidently covered in oats because of this. However, he found that he enjoyed this taste and then shared it with others – which is also why this cheese is traditionally eaten with oatcakes. This is how I served them to the class.

What was the result like? Well it was delicious. It was bright, tangy and acidic. The texture was soft, but also more crumbly than chevre, somewhat like a mix of chevre and cottage cheese or ricotta. I made both a full-fat Gruth Dubh and my own version – “Flowery Crowdie” which is the skimmed milk version rolled in Uncle Roy’s Flowers of Scotland

containing: starflower and coneflower petals, heather, thyme, bay, rosemary, tarragon, juniper berries, allspice and salt. Both were delicious, but I have to say I enjoyed the Gruth Dubh the most, even if the Flowery Crowdie looked nicer.

****************************************************************

CABOC – a relative of Crowdie

The MacDonald’s on Skye thought that they should produce something better for their Chieftan – a “white meat”. So they took the skimmed milk and made Crowdie with it but took the cream and matured it rather than churning it into butter. The mature cream was kept in a barrel and then after 4 months again hung to dry. It would then be split and reversed to get more of the moisture out and salted. “Caboc is a hybrid of “Cabag”, Gaelic for a homemade cheese and “Kebbock” which is a Scot’s word or Dorric for a farmhouse cheese and refers to the shape of the product rather than the style as they were all pretty much the same cheese. The shape being a bit like a stilton.” ~Rory Stone.

What did this historic cheese taste like? Well since I have never made it, I will quote a very humorous explanation from Rory Stone: “For some it tastes like rancid butter rolled in oatmeal, some might say nutty, but with that much fat there’s little of any flavour. Selling the cheese is a nightmare as it really is a Scottish specific line, the French say it is butter, the English just don’t get it and so it’s mainly eaten by people with triple heart bypasses and purple noses. At 70% butter fat it’s a kind of heart grenade”.

Sounds like another fine challenge to me!  Here is what is a very simple recipe for Crowdie/ Black Crowdie/ Gruth Dubh looks like. But just know that it took a lot of thought and understanding to get it to this point! So I hope you try it and I really want to give a huge shout out to all those who helped me through this process: Rory Stone and Highland Fine Cheese, Anne Obelnicki, Cat Thomson, Nikki Meisnere Accardi and AppleCheek Farm.

I have to say that creating a standard recipe for a historic farmhouse cheese based on my limited experience was a wonderful and successful challenge. I hope you enjoy making Crowdie as much as I did!

CROWDIE

INGREDIENTS:

1 gallon raw cow’s milk
1 pacakge MA11 or Fromage Blanc starter
3:1 Scottish (pinhead oats) to cracked black pepper for Gruth Dubh and less than one ounce of Flowers of Scotland for “Flowery Crowdie”

METHOD:

Heat milk to 72 F, add culture, let set for about 24 hours, until set like yogurt. Then cook over low heat (curds and whey), until curds scramble like eggs (do not exceed 100 F). Once curds have tightened a bit and look like “just cooked scrambled eggs” drain off the whey. Hang the curd over the sink in a muslin bag or clean pillowcase for about 4 hours, then salt and put in fridge for a few hours to harden up before shaping and adding flavors. Makes about 1 lb of Crowdie.

Deep in the Cheesemaking Process…

Lemon Cheese

That is where I am right now – it is not really a physical place, more of a liminal, metaphysical place. A place with a lot of waiting – but not at all like “purgatory”, because the whole process is deeply moving to the human soul and gratifying. Making things like cheese, yogurt, fermented vegetables and preserving at home harkens back to a time that we all come from, no matter where in the world we are or where we come from. A time when people had a hand in making much of their foodstuffs and worked with their natural surroundings using natural airborne elements, like yeasts, bacteria and molds as well as more physical elements like milk and vegetables to make special foods. This is a time where people had the skills to take care of themselves and could feed their families much by their own hands or the hands of their neighbors.

There is something very meditative about making cheese, all the watching, stirring, simmering and pouring. For me, it is a combination of things – the fact that I get to pull out my special cheesemaking supplies from my special “cultured things” drawer in the kitchen. There is also the use of special elements, like culture and rennet that magically transform milk into what the Scots used to call “white meat”. Then there is all that beautiful, creamy milk, from cows that I know at Applecheek Farm, being poured into large pans and pots. Who can forget cheesecloth, that magical helpmate that strains the cheese and separates the curds from the whey? – my favorite part. Making cheese makes me giddy. Hearing about cheese and the history of cheese has me enraptured – writing about cheese, well, that is fun too!

Cheese Press and Making Petit Brie

For the past two weeks in my Value Added Products course at Sterling College, we have been making dairy products, mostly in the form of cheese. Currently I am sitting at my computer looking towards the kitchen to the cheesemaking process. I am making a special cheese for my final project – something I will share with you next week. I am really excited about this cheese, because I kind of made up the recipe myself based on all the amazing information I have gotten through the course these past weeks. It is a historic cheese, and so because of that, it was pre-rennet and pre-cheese culture. So in order to implement these items, I have had the pleasure of working with a few sources, one is Rory Stone from Highland Fine Cheeses and the other, my instructor Anne. I have been going back and forth with them with ideas for how to make this cheese, and so I have decided to make 2 versions, using two different methods and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Saint Maure, Yogurt Cheese in Herbed Oil and a huge pot of milk (Hi Anne!)
But first I figured it would make sense to share some pictures and show you what we have been making these past two weeks:

Mozzarella Curds (not the 30-minute Mozzarella)
Lemon Cheese with Dried Fruits
Yogurt and Herbed Yogurt Cheese in Herbed Olive Oil
Butter
Ricotta (lots and lots of Ricotta)
Chevre
Queso Fresco
Petit Brie
Cultured Butter and Real Buttermilk

And this is just the group I was in! While we were making all of these, the other group made:

Fromage Blanc
Panir
Crème Fraiche
Butter
Mozzarella
Reblochon
Feta
Cultured Butter and Real Buttermilk
Saint Maure

Making Butter – special thanks to one of my group members – Karen for being my hand model in these photos…

So far, we have tasted the mozzarella, lemon cheese, ricotta and butters and by far my favorite was the lemon cheese. Everyone else seemed to love it too – and the best part is that it was SO EASY to make and the smell in the kitchen when you are making this – OH WOW. I am serious, people. Here are the ingredients: milk, heavy cream, lemon juice, salt, lemon zest and dried fruits. That is it – no special cultures or rennet needed. This cheese would be great as a dessert cheese served with a little glass of limoncello, or as an appetizer – as it is not too sweet.

There are several different ways that cheese curds are formed. I am not going to get all science-y on you – I couldn’t if I wanted to, but I will just say, if you were around in the 90’s and know what a koosh ball is, you are halfway there…an inside joke for cheesemakers.

ANYWAY, curd is formed through an acid – usually in the form of lactic acid bacteria – those friendly bacteria that are in all cultured foods from yogurt to sauerkraut. In the case of lemon cheese, you use lemon juice. What makes cheese really different from one another is the medium you use to form the curds (and various other factors like cooking temperature, size of cut curds and whether external pressure is used) which either leads to a quick acidification or delayed acid production. For example this lemon cheese and a cheese like fresh chevre are both quick to acidify. Whereas Alpine style cheeses, like Emmentaler are not.

So I leave you with these delicious (and easy!) Lemon Cheese and Yogurt Cheese recipes and the knowledge that the students, faculty and staff at Sterling College eat really really well – check out the beautiful platter of lemon cheese that went to the dining hall for lunch!

Lemon Cheese with Dried Fruit
From Garde Manger by the Culinary Institute of America

INGREDIENTS:
3 quarts whole milk – we used cows
1 quart heavy cream
10 fl oz lemon juice, strained and chilled
2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
4 oz chopped dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc)

METHOD:

Day 1:

1) Heat the milk and cream in a double boiler to 100F
2) Remove from the heat and add lemon juice. Stir very gently and briefly until milk and cream mixture starts to curdle and thicken
3) Rest at room temperature for about 3-4 hours
4) Drain the cud for 8-12 hours under refrigeration in a cheesecloth-lined colander or in a cheesecloth or muslin bag set to hang over a bowl

Day 2:
5) Transfer cheese to a bowl and work in the salt, lemon zest and dried fruits
6) Press into a cheesecloth lined mold, top with a weight and allow to rest overnight under refrigeration. (If you don’t have a mold, I would put it back in the cheesecloth lined colander – you will have a round ball shape and the cheese will be more spreadable – as you won’t be pressing any more liquid out, but just allowing it to drain a little more naturally).

Day 3:
7) Unmold and serve. Can be kept wrapped under refrigeration for up to 4 days.

YOGURT CHEESE

An even easier recipe is for yogurt cheese – just get any kind of yogurt and strain it, in the refrigerator, in a cheesecloth lined colander for 12-24 hours. Then you can mix it with salt & herbs and use as a dip for veggies or to spread on bread or crackers!

Oh and if you want to see what our fermented and cured meats are up to, check it out!

Bringing Home the Sausage, Part 2

Delicious Maple Smoked Bacon and Pork Loin

 

Before I get to the “meat” of my post, I want to give a great big THANK YOU to Rachel and the team from ThriftCultureNow.com for featuring me and this blog, as the Thrifty Blogger of the Week . You can follow them on facebook and get their Thrifty Tip of the day, on their facebook page I have to hand it to Rachel for painting me, the blog and our lifestyle in such a wonderful way. So please check out the article, and their website for more great info!

 

So last week, I shared with you a comprehensive post about breaking down a whole pig into useable parts, the genius of my friend Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher (who was also nice enough to give me a shout out on his blog, recently) and the making of fresh sausages.

 

This week in my Value Added Products class at Sterling College, our instructor, Chef Anne Obelnicki showed us about the art of curing, fermenting and smoking meats. We pretty much used up the rest of the pig yesterday. It was a long day – 10 hours of standing, cutting, simmering, mixing, grinding and stuffing in a hot and humid kitchen. I totally lost count of how many times I washed my hands in the first 5 minutes.  When I got home around 7, Roberto had dinner ready. I scarfed it down and went to bed shortly after. Dealing with a whole animal, even when you break it up into two days, is hard work, but it is also FUN. You get such a huge feeling of accomplishment from the whole process! Plus it is really fun working with a few other people feverishly to get it all done!

 

 

Yesterday we hot smoked the maple bacon and brined pork loins we started curing last week. We also smoked the hocks and the bones. Nothing on this pig went to waste. We trimmed the jowls to start curing guanciale and used the second shoulder to make fermented sausages – spicy sopressata and hunter’s loop. We also made another brine for the 2 hams – we injected the brine first and then placed the hams in the leftover brine to continue curing. These products will have to ferment and cure for several weeks, so I am not sure I will be able to taste the outcome. But the preparation was an education in and of itself, and has led to a lot more questions for me, mainly about the use of nitrites.

 

“Pink Salt”, spice blend for spicy sopressata and wood chips soaking

 

I guess it is a good thing that I don’t want to make sausages for a living, as Roberto and I have been avoiding foods with nitrites for several years now. I did a lot of reading this week about charcuterie, and it seems that if you are going to age anything that will not be cooked at some point, nitrites are used.  For example, you don’t need nitrites to cure bacon, since that will be hot smoked once it has cured. But you do use nitrites to make salami, sopressata and various other cured meats that will not be cooked.

 

Apparently nitrites are naturally occurring and can be found in dirt, rocks, etc as well in an abundance of vegetables, most notably beets and celery, which is what some producers of cured meats use in the place of “pink salt” ( “pink salt” is salt mixed with a smaller amount of powdered nitrites that is dyed pink so that you don’t sprinkle it on your eggs by mistake) when curing.  So even “Nitrate Free” foods still contain nitrites, even if it is just in the form of celery juice, because nitrites are naturally occurring.

 

Nitrites do two things when curing – preserves the food and contributes to aesthetics – namely color and taste. It reacts in the meat to form nitric oxide which retards rancidity and suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria, like the ones that cause botulism. However, nitrites react with amino acids in our digestive tract to create nitrosamines, known DNA-damaging chemicals.  Not only that, but you know it is harmful when it is suggested to use gloves when working with “pink salt” and other forms of curing salt. Yes, it is supposed to convert to something less harmful through the aging process, but can something like that ever be truly safe?

 

According to Harold McGee, the author of famed book : On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, “…yet at present there is no clear evidence that the nitrites in cured meats increase the risk of developing cancer…” yet he also exclaims in the same book when comparing the difference in taste between grass and grain-fed beef that “another important contributor to grass-fed flavor is skatole, which on its own smells like manure!” and also, “the saturated fats typical of meats raise blood cholesterol levels and can contribute to heart disease”. So personally, I think I will take his lax attitude towards nitrites with a grain of sea salt.

 

This issue of nitrites is something I definitely need to explore more. Like, is there a difference between naturally occurring nitrites, like celery juice and sodium nitrite which is added to many processed foods.  Luckily we don’t eat much cured meat or any processed foods.  Just bacon once a week…and our favorite prosciutto – Prosciutto di Parma which I also learned in the Harold McGee book,  is cured with sea salt not nitrites.

 

But the fact that an old and revered food art, like charcuterie has a long use of nitrites in its history is a little disheartening and I was pretty bummed to learn about it. I guess you can’t assume just because it is a traditional art, or because it is “natural” it is good for you.  I guess in the case of cured meats, it is the lesser of two evils – botulism or nitrites? I am not sure I like the odds.

 

If you have more information about nitrites, the differences (or NOT) between naturally occurring and things like “pink salt”, I want to hear about it! So please leave a comment.

Bringing Home the Sausage

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that I don’t mince words and I am passionate about local foods, homesteading and knowing where your food comes from. So here it is, in living color. If you are disturbed by these images all I can say is you should be more disturbed about what goes on in your local chain grocery or within the FDA and what they allow to go on in your local chain grocery store or CAFO farms where most of this country’s meat comes from.

For those of you who follow me on facebook, you know that last week I started my studies this week at Sterling College’s Vermont’s Table program. It is a mix of culinary arts, food entrepreneurship and agriculture studies. If you follow my farm blog, Got Goats? you will have read about my thoughts on Whole Farm Thinking and Traditional Farming methods and more on why I want to be a farmer.

Well yesterday was my first all day culinary course, Value-Added Products. It is all day on Thursdays and is a practical skills hands -on course. The day before I read several articles on charcuterie , the glories of sausage making and meat in general – how it is produced, the various muscles and how they develop into meat and primal and retail cuts.

 

Cole Ward

All that reading in no way replaces spending 4 hours with a real expert. Yesterday that expert was Cole Ward aka The Gourmet Butcher and a person that I am honored to know, learn from and be inspired by. Cole knows his stuff. He was recently featured in the book Primal Cuts, published by Welcome Books about the 50 best butchers in America. Cole has been a butcher for almost 50 years. He has seen the changes to the art of butchery over his long years of expertise, and frankly is not at all impressed by the current trends in butchery, especially that of grocery stores. If you haven’t seen his blog, I would suggest keeping an eye on it. He mentioned to us that he is going to be writing many more posts about what goes on behind the scenes in many grocery stores across the country that consumers really need to know about. Let’s just say he wouldn’t feed ground meat from the grocery store to his dog. Everyone who eats and buys meat needs to be informed.

Yesterday Cole was a guest teacher in our class of 5 students. We butchered a 270 lb local, pastured pig. He did the first half through demonstration, and then we, the students butchered the second half. I had the honor of butchering a lamb with Cole this past fall, and it was an unforgettable experience. If you want to learn from this master butcher, you can! He is holding a 2-day workshop at the end of the month . We will be butchering another pig and part of a beef cow. Participants will learn the skills, and the meat will be divided between all attendees. Lunch is included. This is a really great opportunity to learn more about the art of butchery from the best. Cole is immensely entertaining, un-untiringly patient and full of so much knowledge. He is a real integral figure in the local food movement and an ally to homesteaders and small farmers who really need a lot of help learning these skills. Simply put, Cole is AWESOME and deserves all the accolades one can muster.

 

Natural hog casings, ground sausage, pork shoulder with wine soaked cranberries and spices, grinding the sausage

After Cole left, we set up to process a lot of the meat. We were divided into two groups, and each group made one kind of sausage and set up curing another cut for smoking next week. My group cured the pork belly for maple bacon, and made a cranberry-sage link sausage, using natural hog casings. The other group made brine for the 2 loins and made Loukanika sausage, flavored with orange zest, bay and coriander. Next week we will focus on the smoking and make some other products.

 

Cranberry-Sage Sausage and  Loukanika Sausage

Roberto and I had the sausages for breakfast this morning and they were both delicious. We particularly liked the cranberry-sage and feel it complements a breakfast meal, perfectly. The rest of the sausages will be feeding the Sterling College population at their barbecue tonight for dinner. Since I live off campus, and don’t eat my meals there, I get to take home my portion.

We were on our feet for 8 hours, with a 40 minute break for lunch. It was a long day, but very satisfying. I loved the communal labor involved to turn what was essentially a freshly slaughtered animal into a variety of food items, in a short period of time.

One thing we did learn though, is, if you are ever in the market for a whole pig that you plan to butcher yourself, make sure you do not wrap it in plastic, until it has been cut up to your liking and going into the freezer. Our pig was delivered in plastic and because plastic makes the flesh sweat, we were not able to use the skin or the head and many of the exposed bones, because of the moisture, those areas were beginning to take on an unfavorable characteristic. So we had to take extra measures to clean the exposed surfaces of the pig with salt and also soak other parts in a salt water brine for several hours. Not to mention having to throw away nearly 30 lbs of what should have been useable stuff.

Many farms are new to farmshares, and sending out whole animals vs. nicely vacuum sealed pieces to their customers. This is information that years of industrial farming, and consumers buying meat at the grocery store, has allowed our culture to lose. But thankfully demand for whole animals, and on farm buying has gotten bigger in the past few years. This is a GOOD thing. But your farmer may not be used to it, and may appreciate a gentle reminder that whole animals should be wrapped in cheesecloth or paper. They would much more prefer you telling them this, than having dissatisfied customers on the other end.