Saturday, July 7, 2012

Impress-ed are the cheesemakers

I'm having one of those weeks where I forget stuff. So far, I've left home without my daughter when I was supposed to be driving her to a friend's house, gone to pick up my son at school 15 minutes after he left with his carpool, and taken a call this morning at 11am from my dog's physical therapist to see if were actually planning on showing up for his 10:30 session*.

I'm pretty sure it's because f*%#ing 4th of July was on a Wednesday**.  I'm all screwed up now.

That's why reminder emails are so helpful.  Like this one:

Hi All,

Our second Can It! Foodsteader class is only days away and we have a wonderful afternoon planned for you on Saturday, June 30. Please come prepared to work with milk and to visit with some adorable goats. Stephen Rudicel of The PressMariposa CreameryThe Institute of Domestic Technology will be your teacher for the day and will be giving us the inside scoop on all things dairy. We will have coffee and scones in the morning and provide light snacks as the day goes on. Please eat breakfast, wear comfy shoes and pull your hair back. We will be sending you home with recipe cards and samples but feel free to bring a notebook and pencil if you plan to take additional notes. Please arrive by 10am and expect to stick around until 2pm. This class is sold out so there will be no room for additional guests.

Right! Because of course I had completely forgotten about signing up for this class, and had planned to be in Santa Barbara picking up my daughter from camp that day at the exact same time.   After working things out with my husband and my daughter***, I drove out to the Zane Grey Estate in Altadena, unsure of exactly what was in store for me, but happy at least about the prospect of scones.

Here's what I found:

They weren't kidding about the goats.  Stephen, the owner of the estate, the goats, and the rapt attention of our group of students, took us into the cavernous, light-filled creamery and immediately began instructing us about the finer points of milk.

First up, a blind tasting. Crap. I totally hate drinking milk. I wrinkled my nose, took tiny sips, and jotted down my notes.  The rest of the class swigged away with relish.

As did this little one.

Divided into groups, we began making cheese under Stephen's watchful eye.  It turns out that the process is all about temperature and bacteria, and that curds and whey are real things. Our ricotta was a 96 degree situation, with a lot of stirring, a little acid, tiny little rice-like clumps, and a big old dripping bag of cheesecloth.

We made chevrĂ© the same way, but with a lower temperature and a different active agent.  The gouda was a whole different thing: milk heated to 110 degrees, turned into a gelatinous blob, sliced and diced, reheated until it formed (literally) squeaky curds, then pressed, using an oddly beautiful contraption, into molds.   

Showing us some four-month old gouda from the fridge.  Ours will need to age 9 months before it is ready to eat

In between, there were interviews...


...and butter making!!! (Oh yeah!)

I packed up my take-home containers of fresh cheese and butter, said good bye to the goats, to Stephen, to Meg, the wonderful organizer of this class, and my fellow cheese makers. I walked through the organic garden to my hot car, drove to the nearest fast food restaurant for a big caffeinated ice tea, and went home to wait for my daughter.

If you want to make your own cheese, Stephen recommends this book to get you started.  I recommend buying cheese from a local cheese shop, and just making butter instead.  It's way easier.

Homemade butter
Please refer to the photos, above, for step-by-step illustrations.

1 quart heavy whipping cream
sea salt, to taste

Pour cream into a food processer.  Process for several minutes, as the cream will first become thick, then incredibly thick whipped cream, then eventually begin to break down and separate.  Stop when the fat has become buttery yellow and clotted, with a thin liquid around it, but before you have processed the liquid back in and have whipped butter on your hands.

Scoop the butter into a large bowl lined with cheesecloth, and allow any remaining liquid to drain out.

Fill a smaller bowl with ice water.  Gather the butter in your hands, place into the ice water, then pick it up again, pressing together to get additional liquid out and compress it.  Dip back into the ice water from time to time to prevent the heat from your hands from softening the butter too much.  When you feel you've got it right, place the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

At this point, you can salt the butter to taste with sea salt, working the salt in with your hands using the ice water as you go just as before, or you can leave it unsalted.   Form into desired shape, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

I am going to be making this all the time now.  So easy!

* Answer:  No.
** If not, the only possible explanations are a) I'm a total ditz or b) I was really distracted by stuff at work and became a tiny bit insane as a result.  Neither of which are good options.  I'm going with the stupid calendar.
*** These were the text conversations:

Me:  Do you want me to come up and see your game on Saturday before you come home?  I'd love to!
Her:  It won't be that exciting. Pretty boring actually.

My husband: What time should I be there on Saturday?
Her:  Come early! It's going to be awesome!
Him:  Should mommy come, too?
Her:  No.

**** Where I realized I was clearly out of my element.  The other students were all discussing their personal approach to backyard crop rotation.  I decided not to mention that I had recently hired someone to grow tomatoes for me.

P.S. In case you missed the reference in the title of this post:

No comments:

Post a Comment