Yesterday I went to the first day of my cheesemaking workshop. The workshop took place the Learning Center of Angelic Organics, a working farm in Caledonia, Illinois, a reasonbly stress-free two hour jaunt up the Northwest Tollway, I90, from where I live in Chicago.
I don’t know if everyone feels this way or it’s just a product of my upbringing but I find getting out into the countryside good for the spirit. A little time in the rolling hills, the forests, and the fields really revives my soul.
The first session of the workshop covered soft, unaged cheeses. There were eleven of us in the class and we divided into teams. Each team made one or more different kinds of cheese: chevre, fromagina, queso blanco (AKA “farmer’s cheese”), paneer, ricotta, and mozzarella. I volunteered to be one of the two members of the team making mozzarella because the process included more steps than any of the other cheeses and I’d never made it before. The whole process of making mozzarella took a good two hours which I think I could have compressed a bit working in my own kitchen with a stove with which I was familiar and over which I had more control. Making mozzarella requires a half hour of gentle cooking at 108°F, something difficult to achieve quickly on an electric range.
I also had the opportunity to walk around the farm a bit, pick some herbs and vegetables from their kitchen garden (the kale I brought home was fantastic), and milk a goat.
At the end of the workshop each of us went home with a sample of each of the cheeses we’d made with some fresh fruits and vegetables as a lagniappe. Today I’ll go back for the second session, this one concentrating on making hard cheese, aged cheeses.
I’ll post some thoughts about the cheesemaking process, the second session, and recipes in later posts.