Actually my neighbor Sheila of Dell Farmstead started her cheesemaking workshop at 9 am! Fortunately, she included a beautiful lunch in the day’s schedule. By the end of the day we had made: chevre, a goat cheese; 30 minute mozzarella; feta; cheddar; creme fraiche, soft goat cheese, and a Tomme unique to Dell Farmstead.
We learned that all cheese begins with separating the curds from the whey – with the help of additives like citric acid, and starter cultures including rennet that are different for each type of cheese. Animal rennet is extracted from the 4th stomach of a calf, but vegetarians can use a rennet made from plants like thistle flowers and stinging nettles. We also learned that whey, the liquid that is left after the milk solids are removed is considered a pollutant. That means it cannot go down the drain into a septic system or sewer system. Sheila feeds the whey to her hens or dumps it on her garden where it does no harm.
The very first step is to warm the milk. How hot it needs to be and for how long depends on the type of cheese being made. A cheese thermometer is vital because it gives small increments. All utensils were stainless steel and very clean. No oil or soap residue can be left behind.
When the whey has been totally drained, the curds can look like this. I’m not sure if this is the ricotta or the chevre. Both look very similar.
We didn’t make any cajeta which is a Mexican caramel made from goat milk, but Sheila had some ready for us to sample. She also made dark chocolate covered goat milk truffles which you can see us tasting, while one devoted member of the group was deputed to keep his eye on the thermometer.
The truffles did not ruin our appetites. We sat down to a wonderful lunch of paillards of chicken with a creme fraiche (that we made) sauce over rice and a lovely green salad. Sustaining.
Feta cheese is not really feta until it has been brined. for three days.
I couldn’t believe it only takes 30 minutes to make mozzarella. It uses the magic of a microwave, and some taffy-pulling technique. Most of the cheese we made used commercial milk, but only Guida and Our Family Farms milk because these two are only pasturized, not ULTRA pasturized which would have killed every single bacteria. You need bacteria, good bacteria, to make cheese.
We only made one cheese that will end up in Sheila’s ‘cave’ which made use of an old cistern in her basement. She lives in an old farmhouse. Many of the cheese recipes we used are in Ricky Carroll’s book Home Cheese Making. Ricky is known as the Cheese Queen and everything you need to make cheese is available through her website. Sheila took Ricky’s workshop nearly 30 years ago – and has been making cheese ever since.
Hoegger’s Farmyard is another company that sells cheese making equipment online.
If you’d like information about a cheesemaking workshop contact Sheila at firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, by the way – we all got to take some cheese home with us.
PS – Don’t forget that tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 14 is the great Winterfare in Northampton. Fresh produce, workshops, soup cafe, and lots of fun all around.