The Art of Cheesemaking, Part 1

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with goats and have wanted to learn how to make goat cheeses. These last few years have allowed me to spend quite a bit time in the Taurus mountains on the Mediterranean during my teaching schedule there. I have been lucky to spend time with the nomadic villagers who are masters at making yogurt and cheeses as a daily/weekly nourishment practice. With all this practical inspiration regarding goats, I made a commitment and bought a goat share this year, which is the same as a CSA for milk. This has meant that I have been getting fresh, raw goat milk every week since the late spring from my local organic farm, Natick Community Organic Farm, and making my raw goat milk cheeses all summer. I have found that this new skill is engaging all my senses and providing me with an extremely nourishing and creative experience (all-be-it a very intensive process!). This has now become one of my most grounding and meditative practices.

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Even though I have been making weekly goat milk yogurt for many years, this new adventure into artisanal cheese making has taken me deeper into the creative process. First of all there are many different kinds of cheeses depending on temperature, time, season, kind of milk, etc. As my first entry into this process, I wanted to keep it simple. Even with that initial guideline, I realized very quickly that are many variables that make what we call ‘cheese’ have its special taste and texture. After a few mishaps of the cheese not coagulating or my goats not having enough milk because of a virus, I quickly began to get the hang of it. The regular rhythms are very soothing. Stir the evening milk with starter and vegetable rennet and let sit overnight. First thing in the early morning, with the sun peeking through, ladle the formed curds into the molds. Let the whey continue to drain for 2 days in the warmth of the kitchen and/or the fresh summer air (covered with cheese cloth). At this point it can be refrigerated at 55-57 F for one day to one month.

The smell, taste, and texture of raw milk cheese has no equal to the pasteurized versions. I have been experimenting with many different kinds of additions to my raw cheeses. Here are some of my favorites: Chives + Garlic; Dulse; Wild Herbs; Garlic Scape; Purslane; Fennel Seed; Nigella Seeds; Ash; Fresh Feta; and of course Plain, aged 3 weeks at 55F with a gentle rind to contrast with the smooth inside.

The by-product of cheese making is the whey. The raw milk whey has a delicious sweet-sourness to it and this has provided the best nourishment and fertilizer for all my fruit trees. I have had the biggest and best figs and peaches this year. We will see how it affects the plums, apricots, kiwis and all the berries by next year.

For more inspiration and practical applications of cheese making in your kitchen, visit our resources page for cheesemaking.