Saturday, May 19, 2012


With my recent shift back to Sacramento (after the end of my internship milking goats) I was on the look out for ways to continue my dairy and cheese making education. Lucky for me, the Sacramento valley is a food producing mecca, with a blossoming interest in all things "foodie" related. The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op is about 6 blocks from my home and offers a wide variety of cooking classes, including one or two a month on cheese making. (You can even get 1/2 the fee if you offer to help setup or clean up).

Australian native Sacha Laurin instructs  many of the cheese making classes at the Sac Co-op and at the Davis Co-op as well. She shared her practical, easily understood home cheese-making knowledge with us while we made Camembert with milk from the Straus jersey cow dairy. Camembert is a classic, satiny cheese with a "mushroomy" taste and was first made in Normandy, France in the late 18th century.

Cheese-making can be done with many pots and utensils already in your home

 See the separation of the cut curds and the whey?

Filled cheese molds, whey draining from the curds.

The next day, the cheese has reduced to about 1/3 of what we started with

Within the next seven to ten days the cheese will "bloom;" it will grow a white mold (which we added to the milk when making the cheese) which forms a rind on the cheese. Then I will wrap it in cheese paper and let it continue to age in the fridge for a least a month.

Now, this was a Camembert cheese-making class but it was interesting to find out that the recipe to make Camembert and Brie can be exactly the same. What makes them different is the kind of mold (or basket or cut PVC pipe) you put them in. Brie is thin with a large circumference; this is going to make the cheese ripen more quickly. Smaller molds are used for Camembert and there is less surface area for oxygen to penetrate, thus it ages at a slower rate. All cheese ripens from the outside in due to mold growth and oxygen. Brie will be at its peak tastiness within two weeks of being made; Camembert will take four to six weeks to get there.

Cheese-making - a highly satisfying and continually interesting pursuit!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The end of something special

Like a fleeting summer in Alaska, my six month internship at Toluma Farms goat dairy has quickly come to an end.

Towards then end of my internship I felt ready to move back to my fiance in Sacramento, ready to drive less, ready to go on to the next experience. But literally as soon as I arrived back in Sacramento with my car packed full of my most necessary belongings, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness...a very special and unique life experience was decidedly over.

There are some things that I won't miss much...chickens who wake up at 5am, having only an open air kitchen with frozen pipes in the middle of winter, being so far from my family.

But there are many more things to miss...fresh eggs everyday, almost no noise pollution, beautiful scenery, working with a small crew of tightly knit people, being in the center of an exciting, growing cheese and dairy belt. And, remarkably, the goats.
True, I often felt sick of goats, hated goats, despised their very goaty natures. But now that I don't have to chase escaped goats around five days a week or fend off a pointy-horned beast with a hose, I find a warm fondness for them (but no desire to own one). I feel I didn't say a good enough goodbye to the Toluma Farm goats who were often comical, quirky and affectionate, but I have an open invite to visit and find this closure with them, ha! I now realize how much I enjoy working with and learning about animals, it is an essential contribution to my happiness.

So bring on the sheep! This Sunday it is sheep shearing time again with Flying Mule Farm. I helped out one day last year and have the opportunity to do so again, so I will take it! Flying Mule is offering a two day Wool Handling class, which includes on day in the classroom and one day helping with the shearing. If you are interested you can let me know and I will send you the details.