Every year I travel to Massachusetts one or more times on what I call my "family obligation vacation". For most trips I try to plan something special to do while out there (click here for an example). This year the trip managed to coincide with Cheesemaking 101 workshop offered by the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. and taught by the Cheese Queen herself, Ricki Carroll.
(Sorry for the poor quality of these photos - I was the photographer, my cell phone the equipment.)
While my SO rambled about the area near Ashfield, doing his thing, I spent the day with 30 other apprentices, learning how to make five different cheeses. I have been dabbling in cheesemaking for a while, but it really helped to watch an expert at work. Ricki was very generous with her knowledge, much of which will help me improve my technique and results.
The only "hard" cheese we made was a farm house cheddar, which gave us the opportunity to become familiar with the cheese press in the first photo; since cheddar requires aging, we did not get to taste the results of our labor. The other cheeses were fresh cheeses, including 30-minute mozzarella, all of which I have made myself. Regarding the latter, it's one thing to follow directions in a book and another to see how stretchy and shiny the final product can be.
All the cheesemaking books I have referenced talk about how important it is to use pasteurized milk, so I was quite delighted with Ricki's acknowledgment that raw milk usually produces the best cheeses because, even if the carton does not say "ultra pasteurized", the milk may still have been heated too high for cheesemaking. She also ranted a bit about buying food from local farmers. (I think we are soul mates, except she is much more artistic than I am - her house is a work of art in itself).
Ricki started the workshop by saying this was going to be her last one for a while, maybe forever, but by the end, she was recanting, evidence that she loves what she does. If this is the last one, I am extra glad I attended. Now all I need is a cheese cave.