Cheese-Making At The FamilyFarmed Expo

March 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

[Editor’s Note: The Local Beet’s very own Keighty Alvarez moderated a panel at the recent FamilyFarmed Expo on “Home Cheese-Making.” You can read about Keighty’s cheese-making endeavors at The Local Beet, where she teaches people how to make cheese and recommends her favorite local cheeses. Most recently, she wrote about controlling spoilage in making homemade cottage cheese.]

First off, thanks to everyone who made it out to our cheese-making workshop at FamilyFarmed! And thank you to FamilyFarmed for giving us the opportunity to talk about cheese at their great Expo! I thought it went really well. There were a lot of great questions asked, and a lot of information discussed. Here is a brief recap, just in case you missed it.

Our panel discussion started with an educational discussion from Chef Michael Staver. He is a professor at Kendall College, where he teaches many classes, including those on fermentation, vegetarian cooking, and of course, cheese-making. He and his wife own an organic farm in Stockton, Illinois, where they grow flowers and produce. (Ed. Note: Chef Staver also holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biological Science.) Chef Staver talked about the logistics of making cheese, from rennets, to the easiest cheese to start with, which, by the way, is ricotta. He suggested that the audience check out websites to find everything they need to make cheese at home.

Next up was an independent cheese and butter maker, Al Bekkum. Al is one of the founders of Nordic Creamery, the award winning artisanal cheese company in Westby, Wisconsin. With over 22 years experience in cheese-making, he was a great source of information for the amateur cheese-maker. He recounted how he got into the business of cheese-making, and gave us some tips about cheese presses—it turns out that you don’t need a fancy expensive model to press your cheese; a big piece of PVC pipe and a brick can work, too.

And the last, but not least, speaker was George Rasmussen, the owner of Swan Creek Farm, where he raises grass-fed animals. He is also very passionate about raw milk. He talked about the importance of good milk when making cheese. He talked extensively about where raw milk could be sourced legally. He also discussed the healthy properties of non-pasteurized dairy and, on a lighter note, the adorableness of his Jersey cows.

All in all, it was an awesome workshop, and I am so grateful for the people that were able to make it. If you’d like more information about cheese-making, don’t hesitate to post here, and I’ll do my best to help you out.