Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rebecca Siegel in Thetford, Vermont

Rebecca Siegel of Thetford, Vermont
Another remarkable home cheese maker who has made it all and then some ...

Even after all the posts I have done about home cheese makers, I'm still amazed when they fearlessly set out to make the most complex cheeses...

Rebecca Siegel's husband, Michael, for example, with very little experience, tried to make a clothbound cheddar in 2010.  That's like deciding to make a wedding cake for 300 guests when you've never made a cake before - it takes a LOT of courage!

When I found Rebecca's blog, and asked her about doing this article, I didn't realize that she and her husband had both taken Ricki's Cheesemaking 101 Workshop and that Rebecca had returned to our area to take one of Jim Wallace's advanced classes

I just followed a link to her blog and had a good chuckle at her title:
I love that!

Raising Goats in Vermont

Rebecca and her husband, Michael, live with their daughter, Hyla, in a renovated Vermont farmhouse located about halfway up the state near the New Hampshire border.  Rebecca has a lot of talents including photography, creative writing, technical writing, editing and, of course, making cheese.

She started her blog in 2005, to document the renovation of their house (a huge project which included lifting it up and moving it to a new location on their property). 

When it was complete, they added a few goats to the equation and now they have five.

Hyla with Gryfe

I asked Rebecca how they ended up with 5 goats:

Well... the literal answer is that we have five goats because one of our three does gave birth to two bucklings and we kept them.

But, the larger answer is that we had wanted goats for many years and, a few years ago, decided that it was time to either get them and start making cheese, or move on to other things. We talked about several breeds, but when we found out about the Guernsey Goat breeding project, we fell in love with the breed and got in touch with one of the breeders to get a few does. We bought three, one bred, hoping for a couple of doelings. No such luck. But we're breeding again this fall and hope to be expanding the herd with some doelings in the spring.

Classy goat shed!
Guernsey Goats - the US version of Golden Guernseys, which a handful of breeders around the country are trying to establish by breeding high-quality does of other breeds (often Alpines or Saanens) with the few true Golden Guernsey bucks there are in this country (or via imported semen).
One of mother Willow's bucks with his sweet aunt, Westie
This is Vermont, so the view changes from time to time.

When they got the goats they had to deal with the problem of their drinking water freezing during the long, New England winters.

Michael put together a clever winter watering system.  The 100-gallon stock tank has a submerged heater (far out of reach of goat noses) that is thermostatically controlled to turn on when the water temperatures reach about 35F and to turn off again at about 40F.

When they started making cheese, they used sealable plastic boxes for their "cave."  Then, they decided, as many folks do, to buy a wine refrigerator.  It has a built-in thermostat, so they can set the temperature anywhere from 50 - 60F.

They use a hygrometer to measure the humidity.

Rebecca has made a wide variety of cheeses with both goat's milk and cow's milk.  She has fully documented many of them with pictures and a detailed explanation of the process:

She has also taken pictures many times without writing up the recipe she followed.*  (This can be helpful and inspirational if you can view her pictures before making one of these cheeses):

*Pictures of Rebecca's Goats Milk Camembert

A new batch of Camembert moved to the cave to ripen.

Eight Camembert rounds ripening. The top shelf has cheeses that are a week old; their mold rind has just started to develop. The second shelf has new cheeses, just put into the cave before the picture was taken.

Soft cheese knife, available at most kitchen stores.

This wrapping paper came from Formaticum.


Nancy/n.o.e said...

Reading this post and looking at the wonderful photos almost makes me want to pick up and move to Vermont, but the snow picture gives this now-Georgia girl a bit of pause. Rebecca's cheese looks delectable!

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

Oh my goodness this woman has it together. The goats are well-kept and the cheeses look amazing.

Simona said...

I concur: the photos are lovely and the cheese looks very nice. The reminded me I have made Camembert only once and should try again.