The family trio, Me, Cousin, and Mom
Pure Luck Dairy hosts workshops twice a year, in the Spring and Fall, and I had my turn at it this past weekend. As our business's name implies, we know cheese from start to finish. Only having witnessed the cheesemaking process, I anxiously anticipated my chance to understand it from experience. As I said on the first day of the workshop, during our introductions, I spend a lot of time with cheese AFTER it is made, but desired to know cheese better from its birth...milk to curd. For this cheesemaking expedition, I brought along my mom and cousin, otherwise known as the Dairymaid Assistants. Unsure of how much fun they would have, I was pleasantly surprised when they showed ongoing enthusiasm to learn more about cutting curd, goat life, and cultures throughout the weekend. It probably helped that the teachers of the workshop, Amelia and Gitana, were such warm and engaging teachers.
Tara and Gitana practicing the "Clean Break Test" on our cheese.
We arrived Friday afternoon to get started on our Sainte Maure and fresh Chevre. These two cheeses start with the same base recipe, but differ in what you do after you scoop the curd into the molds. Sainte Maure takes on a cylindrical form, is then dusted with vegetable ash and salt, then sprayed with a white mold. The spraying took place on the third day, and will take a few weeks for the mold to develop.
That's Tara with her Sainte Maure, pre-mold spores.
On that first day, we also milked goats!! It took me a while to figure out my way around a goat teet, but eventually milk did flow. Believe me, there is a technique involved.
Of all the things I learned during the workshop, there is one thing about cheesemaking I'd like to draw attention to -- it is an art. For example, hand-salting. There are several ways to salt your cheese and hand-salting is one way. It is the riskiest option when it comes to consistency, but Amelia and the cheese crew all have what it takes to do the job well. There is quite a bit of science involved with cheesemaking, but so much art as well. After watching Amelia, the other workshoppers, and myself salt our cheeses, I saw just how varied the approach can be. This is only one aspect of the process. Consider the milk source, the food of the goats, their lifestyle, temperature, humidity, timing....there are plenty of variables in the process that turn this science into an art form. Just as in the kitchen, a recipe is only as good as the cook can make it.
So if you plan to make cheese, I highly suggest a visit to Pure Luck, or any of the other artisan cheesemakers in Texas. Glean all you can, then go make it your own. We'll be here ready to take it to market!
Amelia salting a chevre.