Cheese Making Classes
a fun and totally out of the ordinary activity
Do you like cheese? If you do, maybe you’d enjoy learning how to make cheese. There are cheese making classes available all over the globe. Cheese making is an ancient art and is perhaps the oldest of ‘processed’ foods. It is a wonder how so many varied cultures managed to discover the complex process of making cheese.
American culinary tastes have expanded way beyond the Velveeta experience of the 1950’s and 60’s. We as a nation now serve and enjoy a variety of cheeses that twenty years ago we probably could not even pronounce let alone recognize or appreciate.
When you learn about the cheeses of a region, you are learning about the history, culture, agricultural legacy and even the geography of that area. Cheese is deeply linked to the environment because it literally takes on the air and the bacteria of a specific locale. It acquires its characteristics from the animals that give the milk, through the creation process and finally the aging. Where and how you age cheese can result in totally different tastes and quality. Cheeses with identical processes and ingredients produced in two different regions will each be unique. Many cultures have at least one signature cheese.
Cheese making classes will introduce you to an art that is as much science and organic chemistry as it is cookery. The process of making cheese can be simple and straight forward or precariously delicate and complex. Cheese is cultured with a bacterium much like you find in yogurt but it requires an extra ingredient, the rennet that gets the cheese process started with an enzyme action. Rennet typically comes from the stomach of an animal but some non-animal rennet has recently become available. Cheese making essentially mimics a process that occurs naturally in the stomach of a living animal.
In a cheese making class, be prepared to absorb a lot of information. During our cheese making class at Three Shepherds Farm in rural Vermont, we learned
Bullet unordered list
- Which cheeses require aging and why
- the different types of rinds, coverings or washes
- how the fat content of different milks alters the chemistry
- good and bad cheese molds
- critical temperatures at the various stages of cheese making
- and many other details too numerous to mention.
During our cheese making class we made many different kinds of cheeses from well tested recipes.
We learned the particular processes and sensitivities for each recipe as well as how and when to separate the curds from the whey.
The class that we attended was in a rural area near Waitsfield, Vermont and taught by a husband and wife team, Larry and Linda Faillace. Their operation and farm, ‘Three Shepherds’, produces a wide variety of cheeses. Larry holds a PHD in microbiology with which he applies a deep understanding to the cheese creation processes.
There are many lodging choices in the area as Waitsfield is a popular tourist destination during ski season, but had plenty of vacancies during late September when we arrived. We engaged in three days of intense learning from a loose-leaf text that the Faillace’s had prepared along with lectures and hands-on experience. The bulk of our time was spent in the cheesemaking facility clad in white aprons, hair nets and white rubber boots.
Larry and Linda made sure that we thoroughly covered and understood the processes and distinctions for creating a wide variety of cheeses. During the noon break, we gathered for lunch in the Faillace’s restored 18th century farm house around a large common table where we enjoyed a healthy home-cooked meal and were served (what else ,but) the many varieties of their delicious cheeses.
If you like cheese you will not be disappointed in the fun and learning you will experience by seeking out and participating in cheese making classes when you travel. Certain areas of the United States and Europe are noted for their cheeses.
The experience will teach you about the cheeses of the area and sometimes how and why a particular cheese became the specialty of that region. Some cheeses acquire their unique characteristics because of their aging methods, like those aged in caves. Other cheeses achieve distinction based on the bacterium and climate of the area where they are made. Frugal farmers learned how to make cheese and use the whey (a byproduct of the cheese making process) to make additional cheeses or incorporate it in their cooking.
Three Shepherds Cheese
108 Roxbury Mountain Road, Warren, VT 05674
Dr. Larry and Linda Faillace offer 3-day cheese making classes on their farm in Warren Vt. Classes are held spring through late summer and early fall. They take place in their cheese making facility where they produce their cheeses sold at farmer’s markets and other markets in the area.
Their aging cellar is a straw bale constructed building, which is a lesson in modern natural building all in itself. The class does not offer accommodations on the property but there are various bed and breakfasts and small hotels nearby. Lunch is provided in their farm house and of course includes a sampling of various cheeses some of which were made that day during class. Saturday morning includes a trip to the farmers market, if you so desire, since classes begin later on farmers’ market day.
During the winter the Faillaces also travel and teach classes throughout the country, primarily in Texas and Maryland.
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