The centuries-old tradition of cheese making has been somewhat of an alchemy. Most of us who love to indulge in gourmet cheeses have wondered at one point or another: Exactly how does the molded milk of a sheep, goat, cow, or maybe even a yak become something so fantastically delicious? And many of us really have no idea what goes into the art of cheese making. So why not find out?
Master cheese maker, Jonathan White will tell you that that gorgeous flavor starts with happy cows. At Bobolink Dairy, a farm owned by White and his wife, Nina, in Vernon, NJ, cows graze on 200-acres of grassy land. White firmly believes that his popular cheeses sell so well because his cows eat grass — not grain. White has been avidly trying to spread this message to local farmers and with patrons that buy products from his farm and take his very popular cheesemaking classes.
Many farmers resort to feeding their animals grain because it boosts the amount of milk each animal produces. White argues that the quality of cheese that is produced from animals who graze naturally is far better than cheese made from an animal that is eating something it was never meant to eat. It’s also a more healthful choice for consumers, so White hopes that his customers will see the value in what he is doing by paying more for a better product.
It can be difficult to find cheesemaking classes in your area, so some farms such as Black Mesa Ranch in Arizona are offering a long weekend worth of classes and lodging for an intensive cheesmaking getaway. The three-day workshops are offered as a package with lodging included.
When choosing a class, it’s also important to be aware of which will provide “at-home” methods and which will simply teach the alchemy of the magic cheese maker. In other words: are you looking for application or appreciation? Some of the longer, more intensive classes may include DIY instruction along with more advanced techniques that require special equipment.
If you’re lucky enough to find a farm that holds classes nearby, the most important thing to remember is that you will be participating in something rare. And if you’re someone who appreciates the work of artisans and the centuries of history that fall behind this beautiful art, hopefully you’ll make the choice to support local movements and the small businesses who are reviving carefully, beautifully and safely made products.
For a list off cheesemaking classes throughout the U.S. please visit smalldairy.com
Photo by: Into Somerset/Flickr