April 7th, 2010
A recent class at the Boulder gem, the Culinary School of the Rockies had me making cheese. It was the ultimate mini "staycation" on a Saturday. The school is bright and airy. The chef and urban homsteader, Teresa Brown was a great teacher.
We started the class by making cultured butter, which at first I wasn’t that thrilled about. I’ve inadvertently made butter by over whipping heavy cream back in the day as a budding young chef. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun she made it.
First of all by adding cultured buttermilk you increase your butter yield. We also got to taste true buttermilk once the butter came together. It was really very good. She brought her antique butter churner, pictured above and and also a Mason jar. We made butter both ways with the preferred method being to use Teresa’s butter churner.
This antique piece is not only functional but beautiful. These types are expensive but newer ones can be bought for under $20.00. An antique churner is on my wish list.
Aside from butter we made a few other basics: lemon cheese using fresh goat milk from Teresa’s herd of goats, mozzarella and whole milk ricotta. The ricotta was by far my favorite and I will be hard pressed to buy it anymore as a result. I’ve noticed a few Italian restaurants here in Boulder like Alba and 4580 offer fresh ricotta instead of butter with bread service now too.
The mozzarella was fun but I feel like it will take a few times to master it. If you pull it too much it become tough or more like Armenian cheese, which is good but not what I was after.
Draining off the whey.
Above all else I learned that the quality and freshness of your milk is essential. This is as good a reason as any to seek out local dairies for your milk. The ultra-pasteurized, hormone and antibiotic laden stuff they call "milk" in grocery stores will not work. And if you can find un-homogenized milk, even better.
It is safe to say that even though I consider myself a seasoned chef, I learned more than a few things from Chef Teresa. I brought home a bit of the whey that you pour off when making mozzarella as Teresa says folks use it as a cooking liquid for beans. Stay tuned for the results.
She provided us with a great resource list. A true find is Lehman’s where you can buy the basic essentials for starting your cheese making. I am looking forward to more classes. If you don’t live in Boulder but would love to come visit, the Culinary School of the Rockies offers great classes geared towards the traveler too. There’s a Dim Sum class May 13th!