The lovely Louise May (she of chicken-at-city hall fame) taught a cheese-making class at The Food Studio on a recent snowy Tuesday night, and I was privileged to attend.
Louise has a herd of goats on her farm that she milks herself, and she demonstrated making cheese from commercially available (i.e. pasteurized) local goat’s milk, licensed under the Manitoba Dairy Act, as well as raw milk from her farm, which is not.
The Manitoba Dairy Act prohibits the sale of raw dairy in Manitoba, which is very unfortunate for those of us who would prefer it. A farmer may use it for themselves or their dependants, but can’t legally give it away to anyone else, let alone make a living from it. There are many reasons to consider raw milk nutritionally superior to pasteurized milk, which is heat-damaged. While I understand the public health concerns, it seems to me that a good inspection policy should be able to shut down any farm that operated in unsanitary conditions. It seems insane that fast food is legal in Manitoba but raw milk is not. This is definitely a campaign to consider once Louise is done with the urban chickens!
In any case, we learned how to make chèvre, ricotta and feta, all of which turn out nicely with commercial milk, and mozzarella, which in general does not. We were able to compare the milk-curdling capabilities of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice (the vinegar won in terms of flavour). We learned about mesophilic starter culture and vegetable rennet.
The queen of cheese making (and source of all the recipes we learned) is Ricki Carroll, founder of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. She was mentioned in Barbara Kingsolver’s wonderful book (and the beginning of my journey into making stuff rather than buying it) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.
Ricki’s recipes are available online, but also neatly compiled into a book, Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses.
Because nothing is ever perfect, I did have one complaint — I would have liked Louise to have given us a handout. With so many different kinds of cheese on the go, it became quite confusing to keep track of what goes into what. While I intend to acquire the book (and Louise’s recipes are available at http://aurorafarm.ca/recipes/), it would have been easier to make notes on a handout while they were fresh in my mind.
A lovely time was had by all and there was much laughter and discussion as well as some serious learning. If you are interested in artisanal cheese, Louise’s classes are a great way to get into it.
Hadass Eviatar is a West Kildonan-based writer.
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