The Driftless Folk School Cheese Making Class

April 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had a real epiphany yesterday. I watched how, after a short period of agitation, cream turned into butter. It was nothing short of magic. The goodness of fresh, living, made in small batches food that has entirely by-passed the behemoth of our complicated, highly scientific food system is like nothing else. Just look:

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Freshly churned butter swimming in buttermilk.

I am so having a Little House in the Big Woods moment here. Linda Conroy, the class teacher, said that storebotten buttermilk is no longer made in this way – it’s a different product, made out of whole milk and a special culture that’s added to it.

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Butter from pastured cows. It’s so very yellow. Now this yellow quality is important to me – it means that the cows were on grass, basked in sunshine, took caratenoids in with their food, and carry vitamin D in their milk. Naturally. And did I mention how yellow it is? That’s sunshine, pure and simple.

I loved the fluffy creaminess of the butter that’s never known the mold. Which is not, in itself, a bad thing, but there’s something more rustic about this.

I can’t wait to try making my puff pastry with it. (While we are on the subject of homemade things, do consider making your own puff pastry – it’s better for you, it’s 1000 times tastier, and it’s ridiculously easy to make. And it’s real food. Don’t be afraid of real food. Whenever you taste real food, you can’t go back. I couldn’t go back).

Note that this butter is cultured with piima culture. I loved the slight tanginess of it, and she said that piima culture added a stabilizing effect to cream which insures that your butter will always turn out. Plus, this makes your butter a naturally cultured product, and naturally cultured products are very, very good for you. All you do is add a couple of spoonfuls of culture to not quite a quart of cream, let it sit on your counter for 24 to 48 hours, shake the jar, and marvel at the resulting butter and buttermilk! Buttermilk is then used in making feta (according to one of the methods).

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And this is feta that has been “cut” and “turned” and poured into a cheese cloth to drip and become a solid chunk.

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And this is the finished feta Linda brought from home (it needs about a week to culture).

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Then she does this interesting thing where she preserves her feta (indefinitely) by submerging it in high-quality olive oil, which cuts off the air access and prevents spoilage. The feta preserved in oil does not need refrigeration.

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And here’s her hard cheddar cheese that’s been aged for several months. This had the taste of real artisanal cheese, which, of course, is what it was. She’ll be offering an Advanced Cheese Making class in August, where she will show how to make hard cheeses, and I am going to take it. If you are interested in taking this class, SIGN UP RIGHT NOW, because, given the Cheese Making class’s immense popularity, it will fill up quickly.

I have to say, taking this class has opened an entire new territory for my cooking adventures. Wow. I will definitely make some of my own butter, cultured cream (which is a relative of creme fraiche and can be used for dips and stuff), and feta. A wonderful set of skills to add to my arsenal!

Thank you, Linda, for teaching a wonderful class, and thank you, Jacob, and other Folk School members for getting this wonderful organization going!! We are lucky to have it in our area.

If you are interested in taking either Intro (Soft Cheeses) or Advanced (Hard Cheeses) Cheese Making class, here’s more information:

Intro to Home Cheese Making with Linda Conroy, July 31, 2010. Location: Viroqua, WI

From Curd to Press: The Advanced Cheesemaking with Linda Conroy, August 1, 2010. Location: Viroqua, WI

Linda Conroy’s business, Moonwise Herbs, where you can purchase a variety of cultures for your adventures in dairyland, as well as get all kinds of interesting information.

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