Cheese News February 2013

2103OregonCheeseFestEvents & Festivals  The 9th Oregon Cheese Festival is coming on March 16, 2013. The Festival takes place in Central Point, Oregon at Rogue Creamery. General admission is $15 with an additional $5 fee for wine tasting; children under 12 can attend for free. If you'd like to make it a weekend, consider the Cheesemaker's Dinner on Friday March 15, which takes place at the Ashland Springs Hotel, featuring special guest Chester Hastings, chef, cheesemonger and author of The Cheesemonger's Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 75 Recipes. Tickets for the dinner, which are $95/person can be purchased here. Also on the topic of festivals, California Artisan Cheese Festival will be happening in Petaluma, California the very next weekend (that's March 22-24th, 2013). For industry types, the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference will be held in Sonoma, California from Feb. 23-25 - more here. Cheese Club, Crowdsourced  Cyril's in Portland may be among the first cheese shops to try selling cheese via social media. As cheesemonger Sasha Davies explains, a wheel of cheese can be a prohibitively expensive purchase for a small cheese shop. She proposes solving that problem by developing what is in essence a subscription service, where those interested support that month's Kickstarter Campaign, then receive a share of the cheese wheel in return. Sign up for this month's cheese, a 2 year old L'Amuse Gouda, on the Kickstarter page here.

Washington Cheesemaker Seeking Funding  Willapa Hills Cheese Co. is in the midst of raising funds via Indiegogo - a growing trend in the cheese world that I wrote about previously here. They want to raise $75,000 for a variety of facility improvements and to develop a new aged cheese, Ewe Old Cow (gotta love that name). The deadline is March 3rd....see their page here and donate if you can.

More Nutrition in Milk and Cheese  A new study by Oregon State University showed that cows which were fed flaxseed as a part of their diet gave milk that was significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in omega 3s. Dairy products made from the milk, including cheese, were more nutritious as well. Perhaps we'll be seeing more on this in the future...

Cheese Videos Starring Steve Jones  Cheesemonger Steve Jones of Cheese Bar in Portland is featured in a series of cheese education videos on about.com. I haven't yet been able to uncover an index but if you start here you can access them, on topics ranging from cheese rinds to pairing advice.

Tall Talk Dairy

[This is part of an ongoing series about the history of cheese and cheesemakers in the Pacific Northwest. Click here for previous entries on this topic.] Harlan and Esther Petersen of Canby, just outside of Portland, were among the earliest of a new wave of small cheesemakers that began emerging across the nation in the 1990s. They operated Tall Talk Dairy on an 8 ½ acre farm outside of Canby starting in the early 90s, first selling raw goat’s milk and then later branching out into cheese. Their products, sold under the brand name Willamette Valley Chevre, included feta, fromage blanc in a variety of flavors and a mild jack style cheese. They later added goat’s milk yogurtDSCN1329 to their product lineup.

According to longtime area dairy goat farmer and cheesemaker Mary Rosenblum, who helped the Petersons develop their cheesemaking operation, marketing goat’s milk cheese at the time was a real challenge. “At the time, stores would bring in imported goat’s milk cheeses that had a really short shelf life, and no one would buy it because it would smell of ammonia. It sure didn’t make people want to buy goat cheese of any kind.” The Petersens sold their property and herd in 1997, reportedly under less than ideal circumstances, leaving area goat’s milk aficionados scrambling for fresh goat’s milk dairy products. As we know now, it was not long before goat's milk cheese began to dominate local cheese production in the Pacific Northwest.

Seattle Cheese Festival Calls it Quits

Seattle Cheese FestivalThe Seattle Cheese Festival is no more. In an announcement posted on the festival website, Pat McCarthy of DeLaurenti's said "Over the last couple of years the Festival has become kind of like Yogi Berra’s quote 'Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.' Attendance by cheese makers and distributors has fallen off sharply." Ironically, the Seattle Cheese Festival was in many ways a victim of its own success. While I can't think of any better place to hold a festival of any kind than at the Pike Place Market, the very popularity and accessibility of the Market proved to be the Festival's undoing. Literally thousands of people flocked to the Seattle Cheese Festival, turning the experience of attending into a harrowing experience of battling crowds rather than enjoying and/or learning about cheese. Few small local cheesemakers would even consider going to the festival . . . can you imagine sampling out your products for free to 35,000 people? In the end, even the big distributors like Peterson's and DPI that had come to dominate the festival started backing out.

I'm sorry to see the Seattle Cheese Festival go, but Washington's cheese enthusiasts still have something to look forward to:  the Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival, which is slated to hold its second annual event in October of 2013.

Interview: David Bleckmann, co-author of The Cheesemaker's Apprentice

Cheesemaker's Apprentice The Cheesemaker's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Homemade Artisan Cheese is a new book that represents a meeting of three great minds: Sasha Davies, author of The Guide to West Coast Cheese; David Bleckmann, avid (he would say "obsessed") home cheesemaker and keeper of the blog The Joy of Home Cheesemaking; and Portland, Oregon based photographer Leela Cyd. Together, they have created an informative, gorgeously photographed book that will inspire you to take your home cheesemaking to the next level...or make a great gift for someone who enjoys experimenting in the kitchen.

At the heart of the book are recipes for a range of cheeses ranging from fresh ricotta to more challenging cheeses such as gouda and cheddar. The recipes are interspersed with inspiring interviews by a range of cheese professionals including Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm and French affineur Herve Mons. David Bleckmann, who created the cheese recipes featured in the book, was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk the ins and outs of home cheese making and the process of writing the recipes for the book. Warning: his enthusiasm is infectious!

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First, tell us how you got into making cheese in the first place?

I have always been fascinated by how food is made and love to take on the challenge of making something from scratch that one would normally buy at the grocery store Some of my past endeavors include making marshmallows, bacon, and birthday candles shaped a roman numeral ‘X’ for my wife’s thirtieth birthday. Over the years I worked my way through numerous culinary crafts such as brewing beer, preserving fruit, curing bacon, and roasting coffee. In 2009 my wife Caroline surprised me with a cheesemaking class, and I was hooked. Turning milk into cheese seems a magic process when you see it take place, and behind that magic is a lot of really interesting food science. I was compelled to learn all about the process. My goal was to write about home cheesemaking to try to explain what is going on in the milk and cheese when cheesemakers practice their art.

What was it like writing the recipes for this book? You must have been making cheese for months!

Creating and writing the recipes were a big challenge. In the span of four months I had to develop 16 recipes and make the cheeses enough times that we could photograph all of the stages of the make process, including aging which in most cases took nearly three months. It involved weekends preparing cheese at home followed by full days of photography. I am proud to say that nearly all of the photographs that accompany recipes were of cheese that I made for the project (we did have to use commercial cheese a few times). It would not have been possible without the support of my wife, Caroline, who put up with our kitchen being taken over weekend after weekend with vats of coagulating milk and curds draining in the sink.

A lot of people think making “real” cheese at home is beyond their capabilities. Are they wrong?

It is extremely easy to make fresh cheese at home like cream cheese, mascarpone, or fresh chèvre. You simply ripen the milk until it is thick like yogurt and drain it in cheesecloth until it is thick. Creating aged cheese like cheddar, gouda or gruyère is more challenging, and the new home cheesemaker should be prepared to have a few failures while they are learning. In fact due to variables that are difficult to control in the home kitchen, even if you follow recipes perfectly it is likely you will not get the cheese you were trying for over 50% of the time. This is part of the process, and with practice your success rate will improve. I have learned to embrace the inconsistencies. If I make a gouda-style cheese that turns out a bit too acidic and perhaps has caught a bit of blue mold from a neighbor in the aging cave, I might rename it a “blue cheddar” and enjoy it anyway. So I would say it is very easy to make real cheese at home (especially fresh cheese), but it takes some practice, patience and luck to make good aged cheese.

You cover a lot in this book,  with recipes from fresh cheeses to blue cheese to bloomy rinded cheese. Where should a newbie begin?

I recommend people start with fresh cheese. Even if you only make fresh cheese, it is delicious and you can impress friends with your culinary skill when you serve it with pride. The first recipe in our book is for cream cheese and requires only one or two items that may not already be in your kitchen. The same recipe also can be used to make chèvre, mascarpone and fromage blanc, whose recipes immediately follow.

Many people think they can’t make good cheese at home because they don’t have an aging cave like the pros. How do you solve that problem? And does it really work?

An aging cave is an environment with a controlled humidity and temperature. Depending on the style of cheese, the temperature is between 45°F and 60°F (8°C and 16°C) and the relative humidity is between 70% and 95%. Wine refrigerators maintain the temperature in the perfect range, but unfortunately they often have circulation fans that dry out cheese if it is not sealed in wax or plastic. A much better solution is to obtain a second hand dorm style mini refrigerator and attach an external thermostat (available online and at homebrewing suppliers) to maintain the proper temperature. These refrigerators often have no circulation fans and by placing a pan of water or damp towel inside the proper humidity can be achieved. I wrote an article on my blog at joyofcheesemaking.com that outlines the process of retro-fitting a refrigerator (see that article here). And yes they do work. The cheeses shown in our book were all aged in one of my three caves in my basement!

Do you think it’s helpful for people to learn about the various cheese styles, (fresh, bloomy rinded, aged, etc.) before making their own cheese at home?

I think it works the opposite way. By making cheese at home you learn what makes each of the various cheese styles different. You can explain how the cooked curd process contributes to the texture of gruyere or emmental to someone, but I think it is much easier to understand how the “cooked curd” process differs from any other process when you have gone through the steps of cheesemaking yourself.

How do home-made cheeses typically compare to their [commercial] counterparts? For example, how would your home produced blue stack up to familiar brands like Maytag Blue or Oregon Blue?

As I mentioned previously, there are a lot of variables that are hard to control in the home kitchen and it is a challenge to get every wheel of aged cheese to turn out perfect. That said, the first blue cheese I ever made was a stilton style from raw cow milk. The final cheese had a distinct yellow paste and was riddled with internal air spaces that had filled with blue mold. It had a strong mushroom flavor but also had rich, smooth mouth feel. I would have proudly put it up against any commercial blue. Unfortunately, though I have made many delicious blues since that first one, none have really matched that success. But I am still trying to figure out exactly what I did right that first time to get those results, and I am having fun trying.

I am also fond of pointing out that I enjoy cheese much more now that I make it myself, and I am willing to pay $30-$40 per pound for a product I now know requires great craftsmanship to make well consistently. I know cheese made in my kitchen and aged in a homemade cave in my basement won’t always be as good as the cheese I can buy, but when it is I feel pretty proud of myself.

What cheese have you made at home that you are most proud ?

It is a tie between the stilton style blue I mentioned above, and the muenster I made for The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice that appears on the cover. Muenster is a washed rind cheese, which is the most difficult style to master. When the rind turned bright orange and the center was soft and pudgy, I knew I had a winner.

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The Cheesemaker's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Homemade Artisan Cheese, Taught by the Masters by Sasha Davies, recipes by David Bleckmann photos by Leela Cyd Quarry Press  176 pages   $24.99 paperback

Full Circle Creamery

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rXKOblR_Pc A new generation of artisan cheesemakers are beginning to make their mark in the Pacific Northwest. Among the newest is Full Circle Creamery, located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Cheesemaker Brian Humiston, a graduate of Oregon State University’s Food Science Program, worked for Willamette Valley Cheese Company for several years before starting Full Circle Creamery along with wife Kate in 2010. They were among the first to take advantage of OSU’s innovative cheesemaker pilot program, which allows aspiring cheesemakers to use the college facilities for several months as they start out, testing recipes and working on their business plans.

After their time at the pilot plant, Brian and Kate worked out a unique partnership with Noris Dairy in Scio. Noris has run an organic dairy in the Willamette Valley for many years and also produced cheese for some of that time. Instead of buying a farm or constructing their own plant, the Humistons were able to lease the existing facilities at Noris Dairy, and after installing additional equipment they are now making cheese there year-round. “We don’t know how to be dairy farmers,” says Kate. “Just making cheese, marketing and distributing it takes all of our time. Were happy to leave the dairy farming to those who know what they’re doing.” During the spring and summer, they make cheese using milk from the Noris Dairy’s herd of Jersey cows, and during the winter they bring in milk from Lochmead Dairy in Junction City (the Noris herd is milked only during the spring and summer months). Brian keeps busy handling the cheesmaking end along with help from Justin Rhoads and Lisa Parker, and Kate runs the sales and marketing aspect of the growing business with Bonnie Parker.

The Humistons were deliberate in choosing what types of cheese to make. Realizing that no one was making fresh mozzarella locally, they began with that. Their instincts proved correct, and mozzarella continues to be one of their best sellers. Full Circle Creamery is also making raw milk cheddar cheese as well as cheese curds in a variety of flavors. You can find their cheeses at a number of markets around Oregon, including New Seasons in the Portland area, Cheese Bar, Market of Choice, People’s Co-op and more. Check the website – which is updated often - for additional information, sales outlets and events.

Full Circle Creamery PO Box 13298 Salem, OR   97309 503-990-7325

Cheese News November 2012

@@  Nancy Leson of the Seattle Times wrote a glowing piece recently about Meghan McKenna, cheesemaker at Washington's Mountain Lodge Farm. I recently visited the farm, tucked into the foothills of Mt. Rainier east of Tacoma, and I have to agree, this cheesemaker is one to watch! @@  Christine Hyatt has produced a series of outstanding videos about a number of Oregon's cheesemakers. Her latest covers Liz Alvis of Portland Creamery (see here).

@@ Now open in Portland - Clay Pigeon Winery and its associated wine bar, Cyril's at Clay Pigeon. This project is the brainchild of Sasha Davies and Michael Claypool; Sasha is well known in cheese circles as an expert cheesemonger and author of The Guide to West Coast Cheese and the new The Cheesemaker's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Homemade Artisan Cheese, among many other things. Michael and Sasha's Cheese by Hand project chronicled their 2006 trip across the country visiting dozens of artisan cheese makers.

@@  Bandon, Oregon used to be famous for its cheese factory. The factory struggled financially though, and in 2002 the Tillamook County Creamery Association purchased the factory, later closing it. Now plans are underway to revive the legacy of cheesemaking on the southern Oregon coast - Face Rock Creamery hopes to be open by Summer 2013.

@@  It's what they call "Cyber Monday," and don't forget that you can also order cheese online as well as iPads and Xboxes... A number of the Pacific Northwest's cheesemakers offer online ordering, including Rogue Creamery, Mt. Townsend CreameryBeecher's Handmade Cheese, Tumalo Farms, and Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese. You can also order cheese online from Oregon State University (the new Beaver Classic) and Washington State University (Cougar Gold plus several other styles). Other cheesemakers, including Little Brown Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington and Briar Rose Creamery in Oregon's wine country, host on-farm stores if you're in their area. Don't forget local cheese for the holidays!

@@  Speaking of Beecher's Handmade Cheese, word is that they're producing a new cow's milk cheese at the New York plant called Dutch Hollow Dulcet. I guess we can't really consider this a new Northwest cheese, since it's made from New York milk in a New York facility...can we?

Registration Open for 2013 WSU Cheesemaking Short Courses

I've said this before but it's worth saying again - If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of how cheese is made – and especially if you have an idea that you’d like to start making and selling cheese – Washington State University is the place to go. I especially recommend the Basic Cheesemaking Short Course for beginners…more than just an average how-to, this course demonstrates the intricate complexities of the cheesemaking process. Many, many current professional artisan cheesemakers in the Pacific Northwest have taken a WSU courses at one point in their cheese careers.

Basic Plus Cheesemaking  February 19-21, 2013 in Chehalis, WA

Intended as a beginning course for those interested in making and selling cheese; serious hobbyists are welcome as well. Includes lots of hands-on activities as well as tours of local cheese plants. Cost is $529, additional charge if you register after Feb. 5th.

Advanced Cheesemaking  March 5-7, 2013 in Pullman, WA

Designed for experienced cheesemakers, managers and/or plant supervisors. Instruction provided by leaders in cheesemaking and dairy community. Includes hands-on cheesemaking at WSU Creamery. Cost is $739, additional charge if you register after Feb. 5th.

Pasteurization Workshop  April 3-4th, 2013 in Pullman, WA

Covers vat and basic HTST pasteurization systems, with additional discussion on other types of systems. Designed for plant operators, suppliers and those who supply milk to the industry; includes hands-on instruction at WSU Creamery. Cost is $289, additional charge if you register after March 3rd.

For more information and to register online see the website here, or contact Cathy Blood at blood@wsu.edu.

Green Goat Dairy

Jillian Greenawalt discovered her love for goats while she was living in Bremerton, Washington, with husband Jeremy, who was then stationed at the Naval base. Greenawalt went looking for raw goat’s milk and became inspired by a goat dairy she found near Shelton, Washington. As it happened, Jillian’s mother-in-law, who lives in Idaho, found an article about Laura Sluder of Blue Sage Farm in Shoshone, Idaho. At the time, Sluder was sending sheep’s milk from her herd of milking ewes to nearby Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese, and the Ballards were making cheese for Sluder at their facility. Why not work something out with Sluder? Jillian and her husband moved to Idaho and eventually, a cheesemaker was born.

Greenawalt has since developed a unique cooperative working relationship and cheesemaking system with Sluder. Greenawalt maintains her own herd of about 20 goats, a mixed herd of La Manchas and Alpines, at her place about 10 miles from Sluder’s farm. When her does freshen in the spring, she takes them to Blue Sage Farm, where they’re let loose to graze with the sheep. The goats are milked daily along with the sheep. Sluder converted her bulk tank room to a cheesemaking room, enabling her to produce cheese on the farm rather than having to ship milk to the Ballard's place….. and now Greenawalt keeps busy making cheese from the sheep’s milk, which Sluder sells under her Blue Sage Farm brand, and from the goat’s milk, with Greenawalt sells under her own Green Goat Dairy label. “Things definitely get tight sometimes, when both the sheep and goats are milking and I’m making cheese almost every day,” says Greenawalt., “but we have developed a good system. Laura takes care of the animals and I make the cheese. It has worked out well for us.”

Greenawalt makes a variety of fresh and flavored chevres (word is that her lavender fennel chevre is amazing) as well as feta and goat’s milk soap. While Green Goat Dairy cheeses are currently only available in Idaho, those outside the state can console themselves by ordering soap from her website here. Greenawalt says she’s hoping to experiment with blue and mixed sheep/goat’s milk cheeses next year, so that will definitely be something to look forward to.

You can find Green Goat Dairy's cheeses at the Capital City Public Market in Boise, the Boise Co-op, Rosauers in Meridian, Wood River Farmers Market in Ketchum and on the web at Idaho’s Bounty.

Green Goat Dairy PO Box 516 Gooding, ID  83330

Bonus track: here’s a recent interview with Greenawalt that aired on Radio Boise in October of 2012.

[update: in early 2013 Blue Sage Dairy announced that it was merging with Green Goat Dairy as the Greenawalts were leaving Idaho to move to New York. Blue Sage Dairy will now be making both goat's milk and sheep's milk cheeses.]

Oregon State University Debuts Beaver Classic Cheese

The Oregon State University Creamery is up and running again, and making cheese! After an over forty year hiatus, Oregon State University released a new cheese in September. Dubbed Beaver Classic, the cheese is a rich, nutty, alpine style cheese resembling Comte or Gruyere. Best of all, Beaver Classic is now available for purchase. If you're in the Corvallis area, you can stop by Weigand Hall on Fridays from 11am to 1pm and purchase the cheese. Beaver Classic is also available at home football games (see schedule here) and word is that fresh cheese curds are available at games as well. Those of us outside the area can also buy Beaver Classic online here. Stay tuned for additional styles and flavors of cheese from the creamery.

Oregon State University is the second regional university currently making cheese - you may already be familiar with Washington State University Creamery in Pullman, Washington, famous for its Cougar Gold cheese packaged in cans. OSU Creamery operated on the Corvallis campus for many decades but closed in 1969. Food Science Professor Lisbeth Goddik has revived the creamery in recent years and it now serves as a teaching facility for Food Science Program students as well as an incubator for prospective cheesemakers looking for space to test recipes and techniques. Marc Bates, industry consultant and former creamery manager at Washington State University, is also part of the new OSU creamery management team.

Kickstarting Artisan Cheese

Now trending in the world of artisan cheese: Kickstarter. That is, the social media funding platform that allows entrepreneurs of all kinds to fundraise by tapping into the wallets of essentially anyone on the internet. There are actually a number of these funding websites (Indiegogo, etc) but the premise is simple - they allow you to raise money by tapping into the power of social networking. Dozens, even hundreds or thousands of people give amounts as small as $10 or $20 and it all adds up to funding for your project. This method has risen to prominence in recent years as independent people without easy access to venture capital or other big pots of money look for ways to fund their ideas. And for many, it has worked: the creators of the Pebble E-Paper Watch raised an astounding $10,000,000 on Kickstarter to support the development of their product. In the food world, a number of cheese-based businesses have successfully attracted funds using this method, for example, Portland's Cheese and Crack Food Cart and Mission Cheese in San Francisco.

Artisan cheesemakers are just starting to take advantage of this trend. Vicky Brown of Little Brown Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington recently raised over $20,000 to add a cheese cave and a space where she can hold classes. Hawaii's Naked Cow Dairy successfully raised $18,000 to start a cheesemaking operation on their dairy farm on the island of Oahu. Others, it must be said, have tried and failed (see here and here).

Cheesemakers who choose to attempt raising money this way seem to be doing it a little differently than your average tech entrepreneur. Most of the time the cheesemakers using Kickstarter, et. al. already have a customer base and are known on some level in their communities or regions. Thus, they presumably have a ready source of supporters who are already interested in supporting local farmers. Rather than dazzling you with a shiny new toy like the tech guys, they are essentially sending a message that says - support local food, local farms and help us grow.

This type of social media funding holds great potential for entrepreneurs of all kinds, including cheesemakers as well as cheesemongers and other types of food purveyors and chefs. Still, there can be pitfalls. The latest buzz about social media funding (see, for example, this article) asks the question - what happens when a recipient of Kickstarter funds doesn't do what they said they were going to do with their money, or despite their efforts, the idea fails? Those who use the platform to tap into a pool of supporters can easily alienate those supporters. This could create a difficult situation for a cheesemaker that relies on community support to sell their products.

It will be interesting to see how -and if - this trend continues to develop within the artisan cheese world in the next year or so. Stay tuned!

Feeling in the mood? Here are two cheesemakers on Kickstarter RIGHT NOW who could use your help!

Bonnyclabber Cheese Co.  Pine Top, VA  (update: did not succeed in raising desired funds) Marfa Maid Dairy   Marfa, TX  (update: success!)