Summer Classes: Peninsula-Here-I-Come & Underground Cheese and Wine

In honor of my move, a pic of one of the cheeses I served at my favorite peninsula winery (but that’s technically in Santa Cruz)… Ridge Montebello!

Silicon Valley seen from Montebello hills

Big news: I’m moving to the peninsula at the end of this month!

Which…. may mean more for me than you. Since, you know, I’m the one calling the movers and all that. And San Francisco and East Bay cheese lovers and friends, don’t worry. I’m moving just 35 minutes from the city. I’m not leaving you; I’m just moving to a place with more trees and parking. My business continues to be mobile.

But peninsula friends, I’m excited to start teaching more public and private classes near you! Know a place where you’d like to see me  teach? I’d love to hear about it.  August and September public classes follow. As always, classes fill up fast- consider reserving your spot early. If interested in a private class for your friends, party, or employees, please email me directly.

Summer Classes

Pennyroyal’s Velvet Sister making an oozing appearance at the Ridge Montebello release

 

 

Mozzarella Stretching & Cheese and Wine Pairing

Aug 15th, Tuesday 6:00-9:00pm, Los Gatos, Cafe Enoteca

Kirstin Jackson is back by popular demand to teach another cheese making class here at Enoteca! This installment will feature and in-depth and hands on course on stretching Mozzarella curds, making shaped and marinating them. After the cheese is made we will then have a wine pairing session featuring 4 Italian selections from Girasole Imports and 6 cheeses. Each ticket is good for the course, wine pairing and a portion of fresh cheese to take home. Please be ready to get your hands dirty and alot about 3 hours for the entire class. Tickets are extremely limited so get yours immmediately!

 

Basic Cheesemaking: Chevre, Marscapone and Ricotta 

August 20th, Sunday 11- 2pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

Chevre, mascarpone, and ricotta are the cheeses that make appetizers and main courses sing. In this hands-on class, cheesemaker Kirstin Jackson will teach you how to make the cheeses that will become staples in your fridge for many more meals to come. You’ll try your creations in class and bring some home to share, or not.

 

California’s Unsung Cheeses and Wines

August 23rd, Wednesday 7-9pm, San Francisco, 18 Reasons

With its trophy cabernets and castle wineries, Napa draws more tourists than Bi-Rite Creamery’s lines on a summer’s day. Down a winding road (or two) is Sonoma and Marin – home to the legendary creameries that put our state on the dairy map. Past the shiny surfaces of these celebrated regions, bottles, and wheels, you’ll find a California that, while less glittery, is packed with gems that make wine and cheese geeks swoon.

 

Mozzarella & Burrata

August 27th, Sunday 11-2pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

Mozzarella on nearly every aspiring home-cheesemaker’s to-do list. Yet, it’s not easy to get it right. Why won’t your curds form a ball? When you do get the ball to form, why is it hard enough for a game of hacky-sack? These are the mysteries of mozzarella. In this class, your instructor, who is also a cheesemaker, will not only demystify the mozz, but also get you on the road to making perfect ovalini and bocconcini just in time for all that wonderful summer produce. But wait! There’s more! We’ll use our curds to make everyone’s favorite cheese, burrata.

 

Cheesemaking: It’s Not You, it’s BRIE

Sept 6th, Wednesday 6-9pm, San Francisco, 18 Reasons

Smooth, rich and decadent, bloomy-rinded cheeses like brie engage senses in a special way. They also lend themselves to a wide variety of pairings and cooking methods. And you can make them at home! In this hands-on class, author and cheesemaker Kirstin Jackson will teach us to inoculate milk with a culture and how to proceed through ripening, churning, and draining the curds. She’ll cover aging conditions, breathable wrappings, vegetable ash, and ripeness. After we sit down to a light meal (made with brie, of course!), we will each leave with a freshly made baby brie wheel to age at home.

 

Cheesemaking: Fresh Cheeses with Leaves and Flowers 

Sept 10th Sunday 11-2pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

Few of the new year’s pleasures are greeted with as much joy as the wobbly legs and little sounds of baby animals and the first bright blooms in the garden. In this class you’ll learn to make queso fresco, fromage blanc, and ricotta from scratch, then marinate each in its own springtime bouquet of leaves, herbs, and flowers…..

 

Italian Wine & Cheese Pairing

Sept 12th, Sunday 6:00-7:30pm, Albany, Solano Cellars

Take a guided trip to Italy with the help of Sommelier Kyla Knox and cheese guru Kirstin Jackson. Learn about a handful of delicious wines from all over Italy and how to pair them with selected cheeses to experience the ultimate in Italian delight.  This class is capped at 25 participants. Tuesday, September 12th 6-7:30PM!  Hope to see you there!

 

End of Summer Reds 

Sept 13th, Wednesday 6:30-6:30pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

While white and rosé wines typically hold court in summer, there’s no need to banish red wine. In fact, light-bodied reds can be a delicious pairing for cheese. In this class you’ll meet four light red wines perfect for late summer sipping and the cheeses that love them. Author and wine and cheese pairing master Kirstin Jackson leads.

CheeseCon 2017: ACS Winners, News, Highlights, and, Seaweed

Alto Valle. Its curds are formed by using the thistle flower- seen on right. Served at the cheese conference’s Meet the Cheesemaker event.

CheesecCon 2017 —otherwise known as the annual American Cheese Society Conference—wrapped up this Saturday night in Denver, Colorado with a bang (or, puff, for some, thanks to local, legal dispensaries). The weather was right, the people were right, and the vast amounts of cheese were oh so right.

A few common reactions I get when telling people I’m heading to a cheese conference:

“I’m sorry, I thought I heard you say ‘cheese conference…'”, “Did you say a peace conference?”   Then… “Do you just eat cheese all day?”

Yes! And more (photos are of cheeses I loved tasting at conference events)!

The Boston Post cheese crew. A newbie creamery with must-try cheese.

Tulip Tree’s Trillum: triple-creme at the cheese conference.

Tulip Tree’s Hops. Beer mixed in with the curds. Gorgeous.

Before the awards there are the educational sessions. Some of my favorite topics and titles this year were: Teaching the Trade, The Evolution of Artisan Cheese in America; I Got 99 Problems, But a Bicyclic Monoterpenoid Ain’t One; Small Ruminant Deep Dive: Sheep, and Far Out! Unconventional Cheese Pairings. Spoiler- I was part of the panel on the last one.

In between sessions you drink coffee, hit up local breweries, eat vegetables when possible, visit out-of-town friends you haven’t seen since the last conference, friends that only live 10 miles away from you that you still haven’t seen since the last conference, network, and, wait to hear about all the awards and winners whose names are announced Friday night. They make you wait until the end to hear the Best-in-Show.

 

This year all of us were smitten by the Best-in-Show winners. All farmstead, all east coast this year!

 

ACS 2017 Best-in-Show

1. Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise Reserve, Vermont- Enough good things could not be said about this fantastic creamery and non-profit. The Alpine style that took gold is a piece of grass-fed, sweet, crystal flecked, aged cheese heaven. This is the second year in a row it placed in the best-of-show category.

2. The Farm at Doe Run’s St. Malachi Reserve, Pennsylvania- Kind of an Alpine style, kind of a gouda style, this wheel is beefy, buttery, sweet, brittle, and addicting. This is also the second year in a row it placed in the best-of-show category.

3. Cellars at Jasper Hill’s Harbison, Vermont- Creamy, oozy, and made with inspired milk in Greensboro, Vermont, Harbison could be Jasper Hill’s most beloved creation. The wheel is wrapped in spruce bark from the farm in the Jura style and is best consumed soft, at room temperature, spooned straight from the wheel. Again, the second year in a row Harbison placed in the best-of-show category. Seeing a theme?

Find a full list of the winners here.

 

I got to see Louella Hill, SF Milk Maid, a cheesemaking teacher mentor of mine!

Yes. This is all butter. No filters, it’s that yellow- butter from grass-fed cows.

Because, Colorado beer.

 

More Winners:

The Daphne Zepos Teaching Award Winner was Vince Razionale, the Director of Cave Program and Sensory Analysis at Grafton Village Cheese, formerlly of Jasper Hill. HIs project will be on exciting cheddar graphs. Interview to come.

Cowgirls Peggy Smith & Sue Conley were awarded Lifetime Achievemen Awards on behalf of the ACS. Makes sense. Not only did two cheesemakers help spearhead a much-needed project preserving farmland in Marin County, they’ve served as mentors and role models in the cheese world. They’re great bosses, according to their employees who do tai chi with them once a week in Petaluma during the work break. They’re wonderful people.  And they make damn good cheese.

 

Red Head creamery always impresses.

Oils, cheese, and beer from the 99 Problems session. Hello, turpines.

Mystic Cheese Cheesemaker Brian Civitello and his wheels.

 

Other highlights & news:

Landmark Creamery:  won awards. Not that they needed it, but it probably made them and their Kickstarter supporters feel pretty good ($28,887 pledged of $25,000 goal). I love these ladies.

Briar Rose won once again! Cheesemaker Sarah Marcus is one of the best goat’s milk craftswomen in the country and I’m always smitten with what she’s doing. I tasted through her line when I recently visited and considered myself very lucky.

Ruggles Hill turned heads at the awards too! They’re the tiniest farm making the tiniest batches of cheeses that I will probably never get to try out of the conference unless I move to the east coast. Where it snows way….. more than it does in California, so. If you like near Hardwick, MA, you’re golden. If you have a change to get your hands on their wheels, do it. As fast you can. They’re blessed.

 

News:

Mystic Creamery is moving from Pod to Creamery. After making cheese all over the country and in Europe, Brian launched his own creamery in a pod- aka cheese trailer. There he made oozy soft cheeses, and fresh wheels that chefs adored cooking with. Now he’s moving to a permanent space also in Connecticut.

Tia and I at Far Out Pairings

My Session- Far Out Pairings:

Alongside Tia Keenan, Leigh Friend and Rachel Perez, I presented a session on unusual cheese pairings. Par for the course, I picked the drinks. Not par for the course was the nori seaweed Rachel paired to Camembert Fermier. Amazing. Tia paired a pickled, smoked brussel sprout to Challerhocker, and one of my pairings was Egyptian licorice tea matched to the same Alpine cheese. I was proud to be part of this amazing group talking about such a fun topic. More to come.

 

Until ACS 2018!

Summer Classes: Burrata Saturday & Ricotta 3 Ways w/ Feastly

Cheesemaking: Ricotta 3-Ways Recipes with Feastly

This Saturday, make burrata (otherwise known as mozzarella & cream dumplings) in Berkeley

Because summer isn’t summer without hand-stretched mozzarella and burrata to slice over heirloom tomatoes, I’m amped for this weekend’s class in Berkeley. We’ll make quick-set mozzarella, stretch our own fluffy curds, then make decadent creamy burrata while sipping a glass of bubbly! There also might be a mini artisan cheese plate involved. A couple spots are still open for this creamy cheese class- registration closes tomorrow.

 

Stuffing burrata

A couple other events I’m excited about are July’s Ricotta & 3 Recipes with Feastly (photo of what we’ll make heads the blog post) and California’s Unsung Cheeses and Wines at 18 Reasons in August. In the first we’ll make our own whole-milk and cream ricottas, then turn our cheese into 3 summer-friendly recipes like herbed pea and ricotta crostini in a short 2-hour class. In Unsung Heroes, I’ll reveal some of my favorite under-the-radar wine and cheesemakers of the Golden State, and introduce you to some of the most exciting cheese made in our state today- it’s a good time to be a Californian (there’s a lot to discover out there and I’m happy to do the dirty work).

July and August public classes follow. As always, classes fill up fast- consider reserving your spot early. If interested in a private class for your friends, party, or employees, please email me at [email protected]!

Summer Events and Classes

 

Mozzarella & Burrata By-Hand

July 8th, Saturday 2-5pm, Berkeley, Potliquor

In this delicious 3-hour class, learn how to make decadent mozzarella and burrata by-hand! After a splash of cheesemaking science, we’ll make quick-set mozzarella, then transform it into burrata- mozzarella’s cream filled cousin. We’ll end the class by enjoying the cheese we just made together with a glass of bubbly. Good for beginners and advanced cheesemakers both.

 

Cheesemaking: Ricotta & 3 Summer Recipes

July 22nd, Saturday 11am-1pm, Russian-Hill San Francisco, Feastly

If unimpressed by grocery store ricotta, prepare to meet an entirely new cheese. In this small, 2-hour class, “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” author and cheesemaking teacher Kirstin Jackson will teach you how make rich ricotta worthy of an Italian grandmother’s lasagna, or just eating with a spoon.   After a breezy cheesemaking lesson and ricotta tasting, you’ll make your own cheese with whole milk & cream, then turn it into 3 easy dishes perfect for summer parties! Expect a lively, delicious class.

Rosé & Cheese Pairing

July 24th, Monday 6:30-8:30pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

Not to be confused with the jug wines of yesteryear, the beauty and delightful flavor of pink wines can be enchanting. Wine and cheese expert Kirstin Jackson will explore how rosé is made and discover the flavors of strawberries, minerals, rose petals and cocoa powder that characterize the very best of this style. Pair the pinks with carefully selected cheeses and you have the perfect formula for outdoor summer entertaining.

 

Basic Cheesemaking: Chevre, Marscapone and Ricotta 

August 20th, Sunday 11- 2pm, San Francisco, The Cheese School

Chevre, mascarpone, and ricotta are the cheeses that make appetizers and main courses sing. In this hands-on class, cheesemaker Kirstin Jackson will teach you how to make the cheeses that will become staples in your fridge for many more meals to come. You’ll try your creations in class and bring some home to share, or not.

 

California’s Unsung Cheeses and Wines

August 23rd, Wednesday 7-9pm, San Francisco, 18 Reasons

With its trophy cabernets and castle wineries, Napa draws more tourists than Bi-Rite Creamery’s lines on a summer’s day. Down a winding road (or two) is Sonoma and Marin – home to the legendary creameries that put our state on the dairy map. Past the shiny surfaces of these celebrated regions, bottles, and wheels, you’ll find a California that, while less glittery, is packed with gems that make wine and cheese geeks swoon.

 

Mozzarella & Burrata

August 27th, Sunday 11-2pm, San Francisco, 18 Reasons

Mozzarella on nearly every aspiring home-cheesemaker’s to-do list. Yet, it’s not easy to get it right. Why won’t your curds form a ball? When you do get the ball to form, why is it hard enough for a game of hacky-sack? These are the mysteries of mozzarella. In this class, your instructor, who is also a cheesemaker, will not only demystify the mozz, but also get you on the road to making perfect ovalini and bocconcini just in time for all that wonderful summer produce. But wait! There’s more! We’ll use our curds to make everyone’s favorite cheese, burrata.
Hope to see you around!

 

La Dama Sagrada, the Franco Regime & Spain’s Cheesy Comeback

Spain has long been celebrated on the cheese board for its sheep’s milk Manchegos, marcona almonds, and its sycamore leaf-wrapped Valdeon. The tiny prodcution Dama Sagrada, howeverjust hit California around 2 years ago.

Arriving late to the cheese party isn’t unusual for an artisan Spanish cheese.

French’s fromage has more love letters written to it than Catherine Deneuve. Parmesan graces more fridges than the number of well-dressed men leaning against espresso counters in Italy.

And Spanish cheese? Well? There’s The Telling Room (4 to 5 stars), then… blanks. No TV shows about the goats that pounce the hills of Catalan who provide the milk for Garrotxa cheese. No musical break-out hits declaring eternal love for the thistle-rennet queso of Extremadura.

The reason why reads like a movie script.

During the Franco Regime from 1939-1978, artisan cheesemaking was banned. If you couldn’t make top-selling Manchego or didn’t have an industrial creamery that would, in Franco’s view, drag Spain into modernization, you weren’t allowed to make cheese. This meant that if you crafted tiny wheels from ancient or family recipes, you were torn from your calling. Some cheesemaking families went underground, but more stopped making cheese altogether. Many recipes were lost.

After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain’s revival, and the cheesemaking revamp was slow. There was little support for Spain’s countrymen or its producers. Luckily the industry slowly regained its footing.

And ten or so years ago, Spanish artisan cheese once again started stealing hearts. La Dama Sagrada cheese is one that’s won mine.

The Sacred Lady, otherwise known as Buy it When You Can, is made in La Mancha. It is robust, spicy, sweet when young, and peppery with age (or if you loose it in your fridge for a month, ahem…). Made with goat’s milk in Manchego territory, La Dama Sagrada would have been impossible to sell abroad during Francoist Spain because it would have drawn attention away from the wheels that earned the country $$$, like Manchego.

In fact, La Dama Sagrada cheese is small production (I got mine through Food Matters Again distributors in Berkeley Via Forever Cheese) that if you spot a wedge of one, it’s like sighting a Spanish cheese unicorn- a sign of good luck.

 

Dama Sagrada cheese with honeycomb

This goat’s milk wheel is worthy of a cheese board or being shaved over summer’s salads or grilled red peppers or peaches. Try with honey, honeycomb, or if thinking wine, pair with something equally peppery and bright like a Garnacha or Verdejo.

Il Canet: Introducing the Funk with Alta Langa Washed-rind

Though cheesemongers might hold “stinky or bust” signs while behind the counter, and some turophiles feel unless they open their fridge and a gust of cheese wind rushes out that’s so fierce it knocks them over, the dairy object inside doesn’t really count as cheese, washed-rinds are not for everyone. In the beginning anyhow.

I know because my boyfriend sticks the strong ones I bring to his house in tupperware containers even after I’ve wrapped them in wax paper, and when tasting a new stinker at the farmers market, can appear as shocked as a child handed a lemon slice to taste for the first time. My mother on the other hand, would douse herself in Limburger if she could.

But I have hope for the non-washed inclined inclined and so should you. If you want to encourage a loved one or yourself to go for the funk, start with delicate, starter washed-rinds like goat and cow’s milk Il Canet from Alta Langa in Piemdont, Italy. 

 

What is a washed-rind cheese?

The beautiful Durrus washed-rind aging, not for the faint of heart, from Cork Ireland.

A washed rind cheese is rubbed down with a brine as it ages. The brine is often a combo of water and salt, and often a splash of booze like whiskey or beer. Il Canet’s brine is a combo of water, salt, and annatto (more on A later).

“Washing,” rubbing the rind with brine as the cheese matures, encourages the growth of tasty bacteria like B. linens bacteria. As B. linens break down the cheese’s proteins, they turn the rind orange, the smell funky, and the inside very, very sweet.

Legend has it that a Benediction monk created washed rinds back in the day when he rubbed a monastery cheese he was making with some nearby monastery liquor because he thought it would help heal cracks that formed on the rind. It worked.

Alta Langa’s Il Canet (the cane)

Il Canet is a subtle washed-rind. Its tangerine color is partially from the salt-water washing, but also because orange-hued annatto powder is added to the brine. From the achiote plant, annatto is the same natural coloring that’s used to make some Wisconsin farmhouse cheddars like Roelli’s Dunbarton’s Red Rock orange. In Il Canet’s case, the annatto makes the rind look like a cheeto even though it hasn’t been washed as much as the really funky ones. Because fewer B. linens are busy working its rind, the flavor is more gentle, than, say, Époisses.

The result is a wheel that melts on your tongue and tastes like fresh, salted cream drizzled with meyer lemon. With a touch of funk. And its damn cute on a cheese plate. Did I mention Il Canet is made from both goat and cow’s milk cheese in Piedmont Italy? Mmmmm….. A perfect starter for soon-to-be stinky cheese lovers. If you want it funkier, keep it longer 🙂

Other gentle washed-rinds to try are Mouco, Red Hawk and Willoughby (when young), and Quadrello-di-Bufala

 

Il Canet Wine Pairing:

Alsatian Rieslings, dry Gewurztraminers, Muscadets (Melon de Bourgogne not Muscat) from the Loire, Fiano de Avellinos, or non-citrusy, steely whites!

Nettle Meadow’s Sappy Ewe: A cheesemaker, curds and maple syrup walk into a bar…

Though Sappy Ewe might sound like the punchline of a foodie joke, its real, new, and surprisingly delicious.

Sappy Ewe is Nettle Meadow’s newest cheese.

The first time I heard about the savory-sweet Sappy Ewe was when rustling through a box of samples at Cheese & Sundry, a new cheese and tasty-things distributing company in Berkeley. My friend Emiliano and I were hanging out in their walk-in fridge (about the size of Mariah Carey’s closet) when he introduced me to the cheese. I had just eyed the 80-pound wheel of Rodolphe le Meunier’s Comté and decided it was too big to stash in my coat and run when Emi picked up the tiny Nettle Meadow wheel. Distracted by the 80-pound cheese, I only heard maple syrup, sheep and cow, and Nettle Meadow.

“Do you want to try it?”

I raised my eyebrows at him and nodded.

Going back to the post title. What happens when a cheesemaker, curds, and maple syrup walk into a bar? If you guessed a spiked cheese-curd pancake party, you might not be wrong depending on the day. But in this case, a gorgeous regional cheese. 

 

Nettle Meadow takes sheep and cow’s milk cheese curds (the curds of milk that’s been firmed to a thick-custard texture) and drizzles them with maple syrup from Adirondack mountains. Then they fill the curds into crottin-style molds to age. The cheese has a brie-like, bloomy rind that before shipping out, they dust with ash from local black pine trees. It’s a New York cheese all the way.

The result is a rich, small sliceable cheese that tastes like brown butter, fresh hazelnuts, and maple ham that knocks the idea out of the water that cheese is always better left alone. Though the list of ingredients might give the impression of sweetness, Sappy Ewe is mellow, subtle, and fit for a cheese plate before or after dinner. 

Wine: Before dinner, pair with a yeasty Champagne or rich Viognier. After, pair with something tawny, spicy and sweet like a sweet sherry or vin santo

 

After dinner? Amazing with chocolate. Tazo’s stone ground vanilla-bean chocolate offered a crunchy bite to the silky cheese.