Chef Jasper Mirabile Jr. shares highlights from his dairy-filled day at Shatto Milk Company—and a recipe for macaroni and cheese.
Story by Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr.
I always say: I have to be the luckiest chef in Kansas City.
First of all, the great team at my family’s restaurant allows me to travel to experience food adventures both here and around the world.
Second, I get to host a radio show every Saturday morning where my cohost Kimberly Stern and I talk food for one hour, highlighting everything local in Kansas City. We also talk to national chefs, food artisans, cookbook authors, television personalities and magazine editors such as Lidia Bastianich, Bobby Flay, Adam Sachs (editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine) and Alton Brown of the Food Network.
Finally, I take private tours and have back-of-the-house adventures and hands-on experiences with local farmers, food artisans, distillers, wine makers and chefs.
This past May, KC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Stern and I took a day off our city work to drive into the country to Osborn, Missouri, and visit our friends at Shatto Milk Company.
Leroy, Barb, and Matt Shatto promised our job at the acclaimed dairy farm would be easy. We would milk a few cows in the morning and assist Leroy in making artisan cheese.
Although I traveled to Parma, Italy, three years ago and watched farm hands milk cows, I didn’t get to participate in milking. The milk was taken to a local cheese producer where my group watched them make famous Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. And as Wisconsin Chef Ambassador from 2009 – 2011, I helped make cheese in the great dairy state with artisan producers—but didn’t milk a single cow.
Finally, with the Shatto visit, this activity could disappear from my bucket list.
Barb and Leroy greeted us with steaming mugs of fresh-brewed coffee with just-made cream. They chatted about Shatto Milk’s history and its daily operation. Facts started coming fast and furious: 400 cows lived on the farm and they require milking twice—and sometimes even three—times a day. Most Shatto cows have a name—Fitch, Abigail, Lucy.
Shatto Milk is known for its flavored milk and I’m obsessed with it— seriously, who doesn’t love cotton candy, strawberry, chocolate, apple pie, root beer or cookies-and-cream-flavored milk?
Leroy ushered us into the barn to see the cows as they jockeyed for position in the clean, modern-equipped milking room. They were excited and disciplined while waiting in line to be milked, and Kimberly made friends with Abigail, a shy cow.
Kimberly and I were lucky to be taught by the master on how to milk the cows the old-fashioned way: by hand, without the pumping machines. Pretty cool for a couple of city kids skipping work for the morning.
After milking, we went to the bottling room where cotton candy and banana milk were coming off the line. I was in heaven—I wanted to grab one of the squat little bottles and drink it right there. Shatto is known for not only their flavored milk but also for their signature glass bottles. For some reason, drinking fresh milk out of a glass bottle just makes me feel like a farm boy.
Did I mention that the dairy also produces some delicious iced tea, summertime lemonade and fruit punch?
We made our way back to the production room to help Leroy whip up some cheese. Two hundred gallons of milk were resting in the cheese production tanks at 90 degrees as he added rennet and culture. Within an hour, it was time to cut the squeaky curds and make Shatto’s signature cheeses such as Lily Premium Cheddar, Smith Fork Cheddar, Winstead Reserve Havarti, Perrin Port Salut, Plattsburg Gouda, raw milk Osborn Gouda, Keystone Havarti and Turney Port Salut.
While the cheese rested, fresh butter turned in a portable electric churn. Cream of the crop milk transformed into a world-class butter is outstanding.
Next came labor-intensive work. As Leroy cut the curds he constantly checked the pH. Separating the whey from the curds, it was time to place 40 pounds of curd into forms to make blocks of cheddar. The weight was actually about 60 pounds because they were still wet with whey that needed to drain.
As Kimberly and I stood on the sidelines and observed Leroy, it was obvious: cheesemaking at Shatto, like everything they do so well, is a labor of love.
Ever the curious journalist, Kimberly asked Leroy how he became involved with the dairy. “Marriage,” he replied. Actually, it was Barb’s ancestors, the Winstead’s, who started the dairy in the late 1800s.
In the mid 1990s, the farm could no longer sustain itself and the Shattos talked about a new way of life. Barb and Leroy refused to give up on the farm and knew there was a solution.
In 2001, Leroy and Barbara began to investigate the idea of bottling the milk from their small herd of cows and providing people in the Kansas City and St. Joseph areas with the freshest and best-tasting milk on the market; milk straight from their local family farm.
In 2003, the couple’s dream of saving the farm came true. On June 4, 2003, Shatto Milk Company was born, with the first delivery of fresh milk in glass bottles to grocery stores and restaurants.
Our afternoon at Shatto ended with a delicious lunch catered lunch by Goldie’s Farmhouse Restaurant, just down the road in Stewartsville. Lunch ended with thick slices of a homemade rhubarb pie served with generous scoops of Shatto ice cream. Of course, Kimberly and I shared some curds fresh from the cheese room.
Driving back to our obligations, Kimberly and I reflected on our cheesy encounter at Shatto, eating curds and sipping milk all the way home.
Road trips always serve as inspiration for new dishes, or twists on traditional ones. One taste of the fresher-than-fresh Shatto cheese curds and I immediately grabbed my go-to mac and cheese recipe and revised it to include the dairy’s artisan deliciousness.
JASPER’S FARMHOUSE SHATTO CHEESE CURD MAC & CHEESE
Serves 4 – 6
1 pound macaroni
1 pound Shatto cheese curds
2 tablespoons Shatto butter
1/2 cup Shatto milk
1/2 cup Shatto cream
1 spring onion, minced
2 tablespoons cream Sherry
Salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup breadcrumbs
To make the mac & cheese:
Boil macaroni in salted water until al dente. Drain. Shred cheese curds. Cover bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with food release and then with a layer of macaroni, a layer of cheese, bits of butter, green onion, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Continue layers until all ingredients are used, ending with a cheese layer. Whisk milk, cream, egg and sherry together, pour over the top, cover with bread crumbs, and bake in a 350° oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until browned.
Jasper’s Experience: Shatto Milk Company, Sept. 21, 2015
Mark your calendar for one of Jasper’s Experiences when he welcomes Shatto Milk Company with a dinner showcasing the dairy’s award-winning products. For more information or reservations ($45 per person plus tax/gratuity; does not include alcohol; begins at 6 p.m.) call 816-941-6600.
Kansas City’s unofficial Cannoli King is at the helm of his father’s 61-year-old restaurant, Jasper’s, where authentic Sicilian-style Italian dishes are served. Follow Mirabile on Twitter: @JasperMirabile; Facebook: Jasper Mirabile; Instagram: JasperMirabile. You can hear him on LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen, his weekly radio show on KCMO 710/103.7, where he and his co-host, KC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Kimberly Stern, welcome local, regional, and national chefs, restaurateurs, food artisans, cookbook authors and television personalities. Visit jasperskc.com for information on Jasper’s Experiences and other special events.