Making Old School Alpine Cheese in Dingle, Ireland – with Seaweed


Some of you probably know of my adoration for Irish cheese.

The pastured cows on small farms that supply the rich milk from which its made. Its bright herbal and floral flavors. The island’s penchant for stinky washed-rinds. The unbelievably beautiful Irish countryside that supports it. And its skilled makers, who though make wheels that rival Holland’s goudas and Swiss mountain wheels, make their cheese modestly, while smiling.

This post is a photo dairy of the time I spent with Dingle peninsula cheesemaker Maja Binder. Born in Germany and trained in the Swiss and Italian Alps, Maja makes gorgeous Alpine-style wheels with an Irish cheese accent.

Washing the cheeses with water and a brush to encourage the growth of B. Linens, which grow naturally off the Irish coast.

Think classic, aromatic, semi-firm wheels of the kind you’d find on Swiss farms- strong, sweet and herbal, but often with a little seaweed caught off the Dingle coast  (which I was around on a warm enough day that I got to swim in!) mixed in to make some wheels like Diliskus.

Visiting Maja was amazing. She’s as charismatic as they come. Energetic- she runs a cheese shop in Dingle in addition making her cheese on her own wheels, Maja is a vibrant cheesemaker who is one of the few people outside of the Alps who make their wheels with curds they gather with a cheesecloth they hold with their teeth. Really.

So she pretty much does everything.

I’m working on a writing project that will reveal more about this skilled cheesemaker later, but its a slow work in progress and I was aching to show you Maja’s work in the meantime. The photos capture the story in color.

 

Gathering the curds with a cheesecloth and wire.

Tying off the curds

Pressing the curds wrapped in cheesecloth into plastic forms.

And then reallllllly pressing the curds under fresh cheese wheels and stones.

Traditional tools used to stir the curds in the vat

The wonderful Binder pup. the liked to chase hurling-balls on the beach mid-game.

Me, stoked, on the Dingle coast.

Thank you Maja for letting me visit!

Burrata, Spring Flowers & Wine: February & March Cheese Classes

Baetje Coeur de la Crème

For spreading  Valentine’s Day fever & beyond.

Happy February! I just returned from a writer’s retreat/lock-down in the Mill Valley redwoods where I spent breaks walking beside streams and ferns, and let me tell you, what just last year used to be just trickles are now full-blown waterfalls. It’s raining. It’s raining a lot. Which means one,… California, we will have water to drink! And… two, it’s cozy time. Time to do warming things.

Like making cheese. And celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Truth be told, any cheese wheel or wedge is a good Valentine’s Day gift for oneself or one’s other. But there’s something about filling mozzarella with cream, ladling custard-like curds into molds, or clinking glasses during a pairing with the person next to you that really spells Valentine’s Day (just move the letters in the word around a little, add a few, then move those around…). Classes make cheese bonding happen. 

Below are my February and March public classes. As always, please be in touch if you’d like to arrange something private for team-members, clients, or in your home. Hope to see you around!

 

Spring cheese plate

February & March Classes and Events

Burrata by Hand

Feb 13th & 15th, Monday & Wednesday, 6-9:30 pm, 18 Reasons

The most exciting cheese on the cheese board needs little explanation: burrata is fresh mozzarella filled with luscious cream and more cheese. You get to make your own in one short night. And eat it too! In this action-packed evening class, you will learn the basics of cheesemaking, including which milk to use, where to find cultures, and options for rennet. You will also leave with a deeper understanding of the science behind the process.

 

Cheesemaking: Spring Cheeses with Leaves, Herbs and Flowers

March 5th, Sunday 11-2 pm, 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 feta, fromage blanc, and ricotta from scratch, then marinate each in its own springtime bouquet of leaves, herbs, and flowers.

Ridge Montebello Collector Tasting

March 12th, Sunday, Ridge Montebello

Join us for our 16th annual Component Tasting on March 11th & 12th. This event is an exclusive opportunity for Monte Bello Collector Members to participate firsthand in the assemblage process and taste barrel samples of the separate varietal components for the 2016 vintage of Monte Bello. [I pair the cheese, tell the creamery’s stories, and attend the event].

Artisan Cheese & Wine Festival: Tour & Lunch- Perfect Pairings

March 24th, Friday, Sonoma Cheese Festival

Rise and shine! Start your morning with the Pacheco family, proprietors of Achadinha Cheese Company and the Pacheco Family Dairy. On nearly 300 acres in Petaluma, Jim and Donna Pacheco, with help from their four children, milk goats and make cheese inspired by family legacy and the Old World traditions of Portugal. You will tour the farm, learn why the Pachecos transitioned from a traditional cow dairy to a goat dairy, meet the “girls”, and taste their farmstead cheeses. Then you are off to the historic Petaluma Hotel…

Springtime Cheese & Wine Pairing

March 28th, Tuesday, 6:30-8:30pm, The Cheese School 

Come May, foodie hearts’ swoon at the first sights and flavors of Spring. Few of the new year’s pleasures are greeted with as much joy as the wobbly legs and little baa’s of baby goats and lambs. Babies on the farm means milk for cheesemakers. Author and cheese expert Kirstin Jackson will lead you in a tasting of the first cheeses of the year….

From Swiss Buffalos to Blue: My 5 Top Picks of the Fancy Food Show

A peek at Fresca Italia’s Fanciness case, packed with rich, soft, Italian water buffalo cheeses.

Last week the Fancy Food Show, otherwise known as The Fanciness, stormed into San Francisco. It brought with it rain, the onset of a new president, tons of stuff covered in sea salt and caramel, nut butters mixed with ev-er-y-thang– (maple syrup, chili, pumpkin butter, coffee) and, cheese.

It also brought new delicious discoveries from home and abroad that this girl is very eager to share.

Below are my top 5 picks at this year’s Fanciness. Some are new, some are new to me.

 

Valley Ford Grazin Girl

Since I wrote an LA Times article about dairy farmers turned cheesemakers featuring the creamery, Valley Ford has been one of my favorite California dairies. It’s a family affair: Karen Bianchi-Moreda launched the creamery and was the original cheesemaker- now her sons make the cheese and take care of the cows. When I tried their blue newbie at the food show, I loved it. I also loved the idea of another California blue. Silky, mellow, buttery, and made with the milk of their pastured cows, Grazin Girl is our new California blue, otherwise named here, Blue Velvet.

 

Vacherin Fribourgeois L’Ancienne (from Colombia cheese distributor)

A classic cheese of Switzerland, but new to me, Vacherin Fribourgeois L’Ancienne is a raw-milk tomme made in Fribourg. It can be pasteurized or raw, but the particular one I tasted was made by Marsens Vuippens and was raw and delicious. Aged for 4 to 6 months, the rind is firm like an older cheese, but the paste is creamy and silky. It tastes like a sophisticated mac n’ cheese.

 

Buffalo Berglinde

Switzerland hits it out of the park again. Truly- this time with milk from 40 buffalos living in a Swiss National Park because cheesemaker Beat Meier fell in love with the animal and, you know, just brought them over from Italy.  The cheese is rich, sweet, and has notes of creme fraiche, and unsurprisingly, is brought into the country by the wonderful importer Caroline Hostettler.

 

Moonside Creamery Grady’s Wheel

Buffalo again? Buffalo again! Grady’s Wheel is a new cheese made with cow and buffalo milk from Sonoma. Its white paste is rich, and blessed with hazelnut and sour cream flavors. A perfect little wheel from a new creamery. Aged and firm and a must-try.

 

Consorcio de los Quesos Mahon

Most Mahon that makes it to the states is pasteurized. And it can be tasty as hell. This Mahon though, is raw milk and tasty and hell and very different from the other guys all over. While other Mahon is flaky and aged, this version is younger, lighter, and a little floral and grassy. Plus, it doesn’t have the classic red, olive-oil and paprika-rubbed rind. Instead, this one is lightly dusty gray. A whole new year, a whole new Mahon.

 

First Berkeley Cheesemaking Classes – From Curds to Wine, January & February

I’ve taught summer cheese classes in San Francisco when fog’s taking over the city. I cooed over Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Roelli cheese as blustery March winds blew through Chicago. I’ve paired Long Island Riesling to Vermont cheddar in New York City. And recently, I just drove to Point Reyes and made queso fresco with the same milk that they use to make Bay Blue (yup, omg).

But I’ve never taught a public Berkeley cheesemaking class that my friends and cheese lovers can come to.

it’s five minutes away from my house. Why? Hard to believe, there just aren’t many places to hold classes. This is about to change.

January and February I’m striking out on my own and teaching my first public Berkeley cheesemaking class, and cheese and wine pairing class.

Cheesemaking 101 & Wine, and Wine & Cheese Pairing 101.

I’m teaming up with my friends at Potliquor Catering, who share a community space in the same building as Morrel’s Bread, Shrub & Co, Standard Faire, and Stonehouse Olive Oil– to host these par-tays (known to some as educational classes) in their kitchen.

 

Berkeley cheesemaking class- fresh dairy love

Beginning Berkeley Cheesemaking Class & Wine, Jan 28th, 2-5pm, Potliquor

The first, detailed below, mixes cheesemaking and wine in a three-hour classes where we’ll make the cheese then enjoy the fruits of our labor with wine. Two cheeses, cultured butter, a recipe or two, and vino. Win win?

Make 2 cheeses, cultured butter, and drink wine! From pressing fluffy curds into fresh cheese to churning your own cultured butter, learn the basics of cheesemaking and culturing in this hands-on, 3 hour, lively class. After a breezy cheesemaking science lesson, we’ll make queso fresco, fromage blanc, rich butter, and sample what we just made with wine!

 

Then…

Cheese & Wine Pairing 101: From Wine & Cheese Pairing Meek to Wine & Cheese Pairing Geek, February 10th, 6:30-8:30, Potliquor 

The second is a classic Wine & Cheese Pairing class that is a delicious education in the basics- Go from wine and cheese pairing meek to wine and cheese geek!

Photos on Napa wine country brochures make it seem like cheese and wine are easy to pair, but if you’d ever had a cheese and wine bomb, you know the two can be a difficult duo. It’s not you! In this class, I’ll walk you through a tasty education and give you the tools to harmoniously enjoy the two at home without fear. 4 wines, 8 cheeses, two hours of deliciousness.

 

If there’s Berkeley, demand, there will be more! I hope to see you at one or both of these two classes, or around town.

Mary Quicke ❤s the Cheesemonger Invitational + CCP, English-Style

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Mary of Quicke’s Cheese posing with her wheels

Cheesemaker and owner of Quicke’s Cheese, Mary Quicke, would like to see an MC in a cow suit dancing around cheesemongers on a stage in England.

“The first time I was at the Cheesemonger Invitational I thought, this is amazing and should be everywhere and how can we clone Adam Moskowitz [the cow]? Cheese in the U.S. is young and cool and happening, and people are rolling around and having fun with it. It’s exciting!”

Though the CMI may not be traveling to London any time soon, Mary Quicke’s enthusiasm for cheese can be felt across the world. If an international Cheese Enthusiasm Ambassadorship position opened up, Quicke would be one of the top three candidates. She can be found anywhere, any time, spreading her love for the community and the fruits of its labor.

Flipping cheddar curds at Quickes, Devon, England

Fitting then that Mary is heading the new British Academy of Cheese exams. Starting in the spring of 2017, the United Kingdom will join the U.S. in certifying cheese professionals who have thorough knowledge of cheese history, care, sales and science. This is a pretty big deal because a) it encourages education in the field, making cheese more well-cared for and customers better served, and b) it serves up a sense of pride.

“Now when your mom asks you to get a proper job, you can say, excuse me, look at this,” says Quicke. 

Whew… feeling lucky at the moment that my parents took me on trips to creameries all during childhood so they consider my career not only valid but an opportunity for their gastronomical enrichment. Win-win.

In short, Quicke hopes that becoming certified will make you “unmessable in your knowledge.” Its been a while since Quicke returned to the family business in 1984, when people kept asking her “why aren’t you making block cheese?” Now people want to hear about terroir, specific cheesemakers, to feel that they’re supporting a movement or small farms.

“We want to make sure that the cheese professional has everything they need to give a proper answer and serve a cheese at its peak of perfection.”

The tests will differ from the American test because they’ll start with Level 1- basic training, to 2- professionally able to educate others, to 3- an expert, to 4- a Master. As in a Master of Cheese like a Master Sommelier (they don’t have this exam ready yet but I’m hoping it’ll require experts to cut cheese with lightsabers instead of cheese wire) where one would know everything from cheesemaking to distribution, education and importing.

Someday she hopes for residency, a sort of international cheese professional exchange. Quicke thinks there would be a lot to learn on both ends, “I’ve gone from being a judge at ACS many years ago, thinking “oh, the Americans are kind of doing well,” to tasting and thinking, “these ones are world-class- there are now so many beautiful, balanced, complex cheeses here. I had many oh-my-goodness moments during judging.”

Some of her favorites are the Jasper Hill Cellars collections, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, anything by Andante’s Soyoung Scanlan, and Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise Reserve. To start.

And if Mary really loves the CMI, she has to also love pairings or The Perfect Bite part of the competition, right? She does. And she has her own favorite Quicke pairings too- her mature cheddar with single estate Darjeeling tea, or, unblended rye whisky. Cheers.

Photos are from my visit to Quicke’s during my Isles cheesemaking tour two years ago. 

Quicke’s hand rolled butter. Not cheese. But,,… butter. Because, butter.

 

A Visit to Tomales Farmstead: When a Guild Class Means Baby Goats

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Early December I had the lucky opportunity to visit this dear kid above. Just as snuggly as she looks, Sweet Pea (whose given name I may have forgotten) pranced up to the fence to demand head scratches and nibble on my fingers. Only a year or two from now, Sweet Pea will not only give snuggles, she will be a valuable milk supplier to Tomales Farmstead Creamery.

Classes at Tomales Farmstead mean baby goats.

This post is a photo dairy of my recent visit to Tomales Farmstead, where I taught a class to some amazing cheese lovers who bid on a class with me at the creamery to raise money for the California Cheese Guild. Bless you, cheese lovers.

tomales-creamery-sign-4416 tomales-goats-stream-0115After a farm tour and tasting (which anyone can arrange) I taught the class how to make cheese: whole-milk ricotta from the farm’s goat milk and Straus cow’s milk, traditional ricotta from leftover whey, and queso fresco with milk from the creamery’s goat herd. Raw milk, ya’ll. This was one of my favorite classes to teach.

Not only did I get to team up with Hadley, one of the Tomales Farmstead cheesemakers (below) and ask her geeky cheese questions, I got to cuddle with her baby between culturing and pressing the queso fresco. Classes at Tomales Farmstead can mean human babies, too.

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We visited the growing babes, attempted to herd some goats to the pastures after being milked, peeked in the creamery, and made and likely each ate more cheese in three hours than one should in a week. That’s all to say that we left very happy.

Thanks for the opportunity, Tomales Farmstead! I look forward to joining you again soon.

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Baby Tomales Farmstead Atika

Baby Tomales Farmstead Atika

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As a heads up, if you, like me love the combo tour and class events, I’ll be teaching a Cheesemaking 101 class nearby at Point Reyes Creamery’s The Fork on Saturday, January 13th. We’ll tour the farm, visit the creamery, taste Point Reyes’s lineup, have lunch, then make cheese with the same milk and cream used for beauties like Bay Blue. Queso fresco, creme fraiche, cultured butter, and ricotta. Tickets up.