Destination: Cheese Class
Combine your next road trip with adventures in cheesemaking
Those longing to learn basic cheesemaking skills can also enjoy a getaway when they book themselves into small cheesemaking classes at farms, inns, and specialty venues across the country from Hawaii, to Maine. Here’s a sampling of current offerings in some vacation-worthy locales.
A spectacular view of Pikes Peak is a perk of the cheesemaking workshops Lindsey Aparicio hosts at her 1.6-acre urban farm on the west side of Colorado Springs. The self-proclaimed Goat Cheese Lady—who tends to four milking does—likens her program to a homesteading experience. “Participants learn everything from how to milk a goat to how to make mozzarella, ricotta, and chèvre,” Aparicio says. “Everyone gets to eat and take home samples of all the cheeses they make.”
Weekend classes (8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) $75, including supplies and materials, morning coffee, and a farm-fresh brunch; limited to four participants. Group rates and customized schedules for adults and/or children available; a modified three-hour cheesemaking program without milking is $53.
Just 20 miles from the dazzling sugar-white sands of Siesta Beach, renowned as one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the world, Rick and Melissa Stusek teach an Introduction to Cheesemaking class at their ten-acre Heart of the Garden Farm in Sarasota. Using milk from the couple’s three registered Jersey cows, each session features one hard cheese and one soft cheese from a repertoire that includes farmhouse cheddar, garlic-pepper Jack, Gouda, cottage, Colby, mozzarella, and ricotta. “Our mission is to encourage others to do what we are doing,” Rick explains. “We want to share the wealth of dairying on a small scale, and all its benefits.”
Saturday classes (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) are typically held monthly and also upon request; limited to six participants. $85, including supplies, materials, and passcode to access the course video online. Materials are also available online for $20.
941.313.9895, heartofthegardenfarm.com, cheesemakingcourse.com
Cutting curds in a tropical paradise is not a far-fetched dream: two or three times per year, Vicki Dunaway teaches a one-day cheesemaking class at various venues on Hawaii’s Big Island. Aspiring cheesemakers learn to make a variety of cheeses during these four- to six-hour workshops, using cow’s and goat’s milk, and sheep’s milk when it’s available. Participants are then invited to join a private e-mail group for continued support in their cheesemaking efforts.
$80 to $125, including supplies and materials, a packet of how-to handouts, and catered lunch; limited to 12 participants. Contact Dunaway directly for class schedules.
When they’re not busy producing award-winning cheeses for local farmers’ markets, stores, and restaurants, Brad and Caitlin Hunter offer cheesemaking workshops at their five-acre midcoast farm, Appleton Creamery.
The Hunters feature a one-day Goat Cheese 101 program, using milk from their herd of 40 registered Alpine goats. “We cover basic chèvre, feta, ricotta—and milk chemistry, cultures and rennet,” says Caitlin, the primary instructor. “We also discuss why goat milk is different from other milk, and why certain cheeses are better made from goat milk.”
The two-day Home Cheesemaking workshop covers Jack, feta, yogurt, lactic cheese, quick mozzarella, ricotta, and butter and concentrates “on basic cow cheeses using grocery-store milk but also delves briefly into goat cheese,” Caitlin explains.
Monthly December through April; limited to two to seven participants. Goat Cheese 101 (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) is $125; two-day Home Cheesemaking is $225, or $425 per couple; $50 nonrefundable deposit per person required. Prices include supplies and materials, a resource list, basic recipes, and lunch.
Ricki Carroll, author of Home Cheese Making (Storey Publishing, 2002), has been teaching cheesemaking for 32 years. Each fall and spring, she offers six daylong Cheesemaking 101 Workshops at her home in Ashfield, tucked in the scenic foothills of the Berkshires—and they always sell out. Each hands-on program draws 42 participants who collaborate in small groups to make a farmhouse cheddar as well as soft cheeses, such as queso blanco, fromage blanc, whole-milk and whey ricotta, and mozzarella. Most cheeses are produced using whole milk Carroll purchases at a local grocery store. “I want to show participants who don’t have access to raw milk,” she states, “that they can make delicious cheeses at home.”
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $175, including all supplies, materials, a copy of Carroll’s Cheesemaking 101 DVD, and lunch.
A Quaker community offers one-day cheesemaking workshops during spring and fall weekends as part of the Pioneer School of Homesteading at the diverse 40-acre Quaker Hill Farm in Harrisville. The three cheeses made during each class vary but may include queso blanco/paneer, chèvre, fromage blanc, Sainte-Maure, mozzarella, feta, and yogurt cheese, all made with fresh goat’s milk. Classes are taught by community members; guest instructors are invited occasionally.
$65, including supplies and materials, refreshments, and lunch with a cheese course; $35 nonrefundable deposit required. Limited to six participants.
In the quaint Blue Ridge Mountains hamlet of Bakersville, Dwain Swing and Cynthia Sharpe offer a one-and-a-half-day Beginners’ Cheesemaking Workshop at their OakMoon Farm & Creamery. The hands-on seminar, typically held in April and October, focuses on simple chèvre and other goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses and covers milk flavor and composition, milking strategies, milk sources, basic equipment and sanitation, use of rennets and cultures, shaping, draining, and aging.
$175, including supplies and materials, coffee/tea, and snacks; $85 deposit required. Limited to 12 participants.
Imagine a beautiful five-acre farm in the heart of wine country: Jersey cows graze on a lush green pasture outside of the farmhouse kitchen where you are feasting on a generous selection of tasty local and imported gourmet cheeses. That’s reality for the folks who attend cheesemaking classes led by Chrissie and Koorosh Zaerpoor at their idyllic Kookoolan Farms near Yamhill, about 35 miles southwest of Portland.
On most Saturday afternoons (1 to 4 p.m.) in February through November, local cheesemakers share their skills with up to 20 aspiring home cheesemakers, many of whom travel from out of state to learn about various hard and soft cheeses.
$65, including supplies and materials, a generous sampler plate of cheeses, and a $10 coupon toward the purchase of any products sold on the farm; reservations required.
All are welcome at Brazos de Dios (“Arms of God” in Spanish), a peaceful 510-acre farm in Elm Mott, located between Dallas and Austin. Operated by the Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture, the educational branch of the Brazos de Dios Christian community that embraces Anabaptist traditions, the farm showcases time-honored sustainable agriculture and crafts. Soft and hard cheesemaking for home production are just two of the many classes that draw participants from around the country.
Once a month, a two-day offering includes a soft-cheese class on Friday, a prerequisite for the hard-cheese class on Saturday. The soft-cheese class features instruction for making butter, cultured buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, herbed cheese, feta, ricotta, yogurt, labneh (a spreadable yogurt cheese), 30-minute mozzarella, and more. The following session includes production of aged cheeses such as cheddar, Colby Jack, Parmesan, pepper Jack, and Gouda.
The new Advanced Cheese Making class showcases techniques for provolone, Swiss, mold-ripened cheeses, and an ash-covered chèvre using goat’s milk. Participants also learn how to braid, marinate, stuff, and smoke mozzarella and about aging methods such as bandage and leaf wrapping. Workshops conclude with an optional gourmet meal ($35) using cheese in each dish.
$135, including supplies and materials, a recipe book, and the cheese made in class; lunch may be purchased at the café on-site. Advanced Cheese Making, scheduled monthly or by request, costs $200, including lunch and a candlelit fireside dinner in the community’s restored log cabin.
“Cheese Camp” is what Steve Shapson calls the one-and-a-half-day workshops he conducts five times per year at the Inn at Lonesome Hollow, a bed-and-breakfast nestled in a valley surrounded by rolling hills near the villages of Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills. Up to 20 students make Camembert, blue, chèvre, feta, mozzarella, and ricotta from cow’s and/or goat’s milk. The author of a popular e-book on cheesemaking, Shapson also conducts custom programs throughout the country and at his home in the Milwaukee suburb of Mequon, including a two-hour Camembert intensive.
Written by Linda L. Leake
Photos: : Ricki Carroll; Courtesy Oakmoon Farm & Creamery; Courtesy Kookoolan Farms; Ben Owen; Courtesy Lindsey Aparicio; Caitlin Hunter