Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Crescenza with Ian Treuer of Cheesepalooza

Ian at Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese

One of the founders of the fabulous Cheesepalooza!

Last month, I posted an article about Valerie Lugonja with her tutorial about making Cabecou.  She told me all about Cheesepalooza, that wonderful ongoing event where you make a cheese every month and share your experiences with the other participants (you can join anytime).

When I found Ian's article about Crescenda at his blog- Much To Do About Cheese, I didn't realize he was one of the founders of Cheesepalooza.  I had asked him to be a guest blogger because he had written a great article about a cheese we hadn't featured before.  But, while I had his attention, I took the opportunity to ask him about how Cheesepalooza began:

It started on Twitter, with Deb (Krause) following me and I her and then the talk turned to cheese.  Deb would say that she should show up the next time I was making cheese.  At the same time Valerie (Lugonja) was working on her Mozzarella and Deb was helping her with it.  Then Deb came by while I was making a Caerphilly and Valerie was meeting with Addie (Raghavan) to learn how to make Chèvre.

Then, finally, the four of us got together to  discuss to possibility of starting a cheese making group.  I had never really made fresh cheeses, I skipped that part in my cheese making and went to semi-firms and hard cheeses.  It was a great way for me to hit the reset button on my cheese making.

We figured that we could include the Edmonton Blogging community with the project, and it just blossomed into the Cheesepalooza that we have now with over 60 participants.  Valerie has been gracious to host all the challenges and round-ups for each month.  She also contacted Mary Karlin, we are using her book (Artisan Cheese Making at Home), and she said she would help when she could to answer questions.

It has lead to some interesting opportunities such as a field trip to Smoky Valley Goat Cheese (Now Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese as they have cow's milk cheeses now) and I have been able to go back and help out in the dairy and make cheese with them.

How did you become a cheese maker?

I love cheese, I mean I really love cheese.  I was looking for something to do that had nothing to do with my other jobs (I work in a printing shop at a post secondary institution and I work with the Royal Canadian Army Cadets as well) and I thought that cheese making could be fun.

My maternal grandfather was a dairy farmer in Quebec and made farmers cheese, and my paternal great-grandmother had sheep in Austria and made cheese to sell at market, it was kind of in my blood.

I did about 2 years of research before I even purchased a "kit" from a supply company.  That was 3 years ago and now I am hooked.  I try to make cheese at least once a month.  Besides, it makes great gifts for family and friends.


By Ian Treuer at Much To Do About Cheese

First off, I want to say that this is not the Challenge Cheese for September, but it is one of the ones listed for that month.  Secondly this is my first real attempt at making a cultured fresh cheese.  So here we go.

I decided on making a Crescenza because friends of mine asked me to make some cheese for a party they are having and they wanted some soft/spreadable cheese.  I figured that if I was going to make them a cheese, then I should try to make one prior to doing it for them.  So off to get our trusty book for Cheesepalooza and away I went making cheese.

Crescenza with edible Purple Shamrock

Using my set up I heated the milk to 90F as per the directions, I even used powdered culture (mesophilic) instead of my usual mother culture.  Where I differed was I used 1/8 teaspoon of rennet (mine is double strength); I was using pasteurized homogenized milk so I did break down and use some calcium chloride solution.  I let the milk set for prescribed time of 45 minutes, but no clean break.  I let it sit for another ten minutes and I checked again.  I did get a relatively clean break, but not like the ones I get with my fresh Jersey milk.  I let it rest and then started the five minutes of stirring, this is when disaster struck!

The curd shattered, no longer did I have nice 1 inch cubes, I had pea sized curd.  I stopped stirring immediately, I could salvage this cheese, but I had to be gentle.  I did not get a picture of the shattered curd; I was too focused on saving the cheese.  I let the curd settle for about five to ten minutes, while I prepared my mould and cheesecloth.  I was using my “Chapman’s” mould so I could get a square cheese like the directions said (actually they said to use a taleggio mould).  I gently started to scoop the curd into the mould to allow it to drain; it took about 10 minutes to complete the task.  I managed to salvage the whey, which I turned into the brine for later.

After three hours I flipped the cheese, then after another 3 hours it was time for a two-hour whey brine bath (flipping in the brine after one hour.  It was now 11:40 PM and I still had to let the cheese air dry.  I did for about ten minutes then I put it into an improvised “cave” and into the fridge and off to bed.

The “top” before flipping

The “bottom” after flipping

After 2 hour soak in the whey brine

Tucked into it’s sleeping bag for the night.

The next day I let it air dry for two more hours and then it was sampling time.

Air drying the next day

The first cut is the deepest.

My sample piece.

Appearance: Firm yet creamy looking pate
Nose (aroma): Slight lactic smell
Overall Taste: Slightly salty yet not overpowering.  Creamy
Sweet to Salty: More to the salty side
Mild (mellow) to Robust to Pungent (stinky): Very mild, not robust or pungent at all
Mouth Feel: (gritty, sandy, chewy, greasy, gummy, etc.): Very smooth and creamy yet firm at the same time.

Overall this is an excellent cheese to make and to eat.  I have tried some on a cracker and it was quite good.  It was firm enough to be sliced, but soft enough to be spread as well.  This is a definite make again.

All wrapped up and in the main cave now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Raw Milk Institute

The time has come...

Charlotte Smith (Champoeg Creamery), Mark McAfee (founder of RMI) and his wife, Blaine

Finally, some hope for raw milk sellers.

I was once chatting with a local farmer who sells raw milk from his farm.  At one point, he mentioned that he lives in fear that some other farmer will goof up, people will get sick and that will be the end of his raw milk business.  It's always on his mind.

Part of the problem is that there are no national standards set for raw milk production.   In some states, like Oregon, anyone can buy a cow and sell the milk.  In other states, it's completely illegal.

When I heard about the Raw Milk Institute, I was thrilled.  It was founded by Mark McAfee, the owner of Organic Pastures Dairy in 2011.

The mission:  The mission of the Raw Milk Institute is to improve human health and the immune system by training and mentoring farmers; educating consumers; establishing national raw milk guidelines; outreach to farmers, consumers, regulators, universities, the media, and other groups; listing producers, and supporting research.

There are three fundamental components to the Raw Milk Institute farmer mentoring program:
  • Common Standards that all RAWMI Listed farmers follow
  • Risk Analysis and Management Program (RAMP), food safety program specific and appropriate to farm size
  • Training and Education

Charlotte shaping Mozzarella

It seems like the solution to my farmer friend's problem.  He has extremely low bacterial counts in his milk, and if the public was aware of this, they would be more inclined to buy from him.  If he was listed on the RAWMI website, consumers would know he follows the standards established by the Institute.  There would be separation between him and other raw milk sellers.

Currently, the best source for locating raw milk producers in the world is the list at the Weston A. Price Foundation website.  Sally Fallon Morrell, the president and founder of the foundation has stated that within the next 2 years, she will only recommend RMI listed dairies.

The RMI has set standards (see Common Standards), dairy farmers are being trained to meet those standards and eventually, consumers all over the country will know where to safely buy raw milk.  If consumers use this resource, more and more farmers will want to be listed at the RAWMI website.

I heard about it from the first and only farmer (so far) to be listed on their website (although many more are in the process of getting accepted).  Charlotte Smith from Champoeg Creamery has met the standards of the Institute.  She is also one of the 16 members of the Executive Advisory Council, which includes many well known proponents of the raw milk movement (Sally Fallon Morrell, David Gumpert, etc.)

Her protocols and test results are part of her profile on the site (shown below).  This kind of documentation can only help to prove how safe her milk is.

Pouring curds

I think Charlotte's listing at the RMI website (below) is the best advertisement she could ever have for her business. I hope the list grows with "leaps and bounds."

Listed Farmer: Champoeg Creamery

Location: St. Paul, Oregon
Contact: Charlotte Smith,, 503-860-6286,
How to Buy: Direct farm sales only; contact Charlotte for details

Champoeg Creamery Photo 

Profile: On five acres outside of St. Paul, Oregon, Charlotte Smith operates Champoeg Creamery, a small, raw milk dairy. The Jersey cows—chosen for their small size, mild temper, and for the rich, creamy milk they produce—stand knee deep in green pasture nine months of the year, and are moved daily to a fresh paddock. Charlotte is passionate about her calling. Her children suffered from eczema and numerous colds and ear infections before they started drinking raw milk. Since then, the whole family has been in excellent health. After losing her source for raw milk several years ago, Charlotte decided to research and begin her own pasture based dairy.  The intense rotational grazing system she practices insures that she is producing the highest quality raw milk.

Protocols / Documentation:
Test Results:

(For exact test results, visit the Champoeg Creamery website.)
Date Standard Plate Count (SPC) Coliforms
Sep 2012 < 15,000 cfu/ml  < 25 cfu/ml
Aug 2012 < 15,000 cfu/ml < 25 cfu/ml
Jul 2012  < 15,000 cfu/ml < 25 cfu/ml

For more information:

Raw Milk Institute 
PO Box 436 
Kerman, California 93630
(559) 269-4927

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three Shepherds Farm in Warren, Vermont


It's what you would expect if you had high expectations!

I felt as if I already knew Larry and Linda Faillace when I visited their farm a few days ago.  I had just finished Linda's shocking book "Mad Sheep" (2006) about our government's raid on their small farm in 2001, when the USDA seized and subsequently killed all the Faillace's (healthy) sheep.  I was in a Mad mood when I drove through Vermont to their farm.

I shouldn't have been surprised when I found the Faillaces happily making cheese, teaching workshops all around the world, gardening and enjoying their three (grown-up) children.  They are living proof that, at least in the spiritual sense, goodness always prevails over evil.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed spending time with them in their warm, cozy Vermont farmhouse.  Linda and Larry are a team- their love and support for each other radiates around them and it's fun to be there.  When one of them tells a story you know the other one has already heard it (maybe hundreds of times) but they still listen and laugh as if it was the first time.  (I love that!)

Linda telling us why her son is a "superhero" during lunch on the back deck.

I visited one of their 3 day cheese making workshops to see what it's like because I'm planning to take their class in Belize this January (2013) at the Cave's Branch Jungle Lodge.  I knew the Faillace's had been to the resort, so I wanted to ask them if it is really as nice as it appears on their website.  They told me it's even better- an absolutely fabulous place.  (I hope you can join us!)

I also wanted to determine whether their 3 day workshop would be the right cheese making class for me.  Could I ask them very basic questions about cheese making and get simple answers?  Could I be sure they would cover the things I want to know about?  Could I get my hands in the curds or would I just have to watch?  Three days is a long time!

I was happy to find that the Faillace's course is perfect for everyone - beginners and for more advanced students.  You can see for yourself in the pictures I took that everyone in the class was getting what they needed.  More importantly (perhaps), they were having a good time!


It's always nice to see a welcome sign. 

I loved this room.

The remains of breakfast were still on the table and I wished I had been there.

Entrance to the make room

View from the entrance

The make room is attached to the garage.

The aging house is across the field on a neighbor's property.  The Faillaces are working on moving it to a space next to their garden.

The workshop

When I first walked in, they were making Gouda from goat's milk.  Everyone was so friendly that I immediately felt right at home.

Marie MacLeod from Waitsfield, Vermont.  She's hoping to have a few goats or a cow soon.
When she does, she'll know what to do with the milk!

Julia Langsett from Pennsylvania. She and her husband own a bakery - Pennsylvania Hearth Breads (
and their customers are clamoring for artisan cheese to eat with their artisan bread.

Julia's husband, Chris.  (He was timing something when I snapped this picture.)

Pam Armstrong. She and her husband both have "day jobs" as lawyers in New York City.
But, right across the street from their vacation cottage in the Catskills, they have access to good milk.

Pam's husband, Gene Scheiman. 

It was light and airy inside the room.  I loved being in it.

It was clear that Larry was born to teach.  He never missed an opportunity to share his knowledge.

Gouda curds shrinking

Feta draining from the day before.

Ricotta draining


Linda had prepared a fabulous lunch for us.

Everyone seemed to have become friends by the second day and it felt like a family gathering.

My view as I ate.

Back to making cheese

Each participant had been given a notebook with the recipes for the cheeses they were making at the workshop (7).
The first 28 pages of the notebook contained information about the process of turning milk into cheese.
After the recipes, there were pages for taking notes.

Kadova molds on the press

Larry explained why he was overloading the molds.

The molds were flipped.

The Gouda was draining and the class was ready to move on to the next cheese... 

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit at Three Shepherds Farm and I'm very excited to be taking the workshop with Larry and Linda in Belize this coming January.  (For more info, click here.)  They are teaching many other classes in the next few months as well:

November 3 - L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland - Only 5 spaces left!

November 4 - L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland

November 10-12 - Artisanal cheese class in Los Lunas, New Mexico

November 16-18 - Luxury cheese class at the Inn at the Round Barn

November 30 - December 2- Artisanal cheese class in Granbury, Texas - Sold Out!

December 3-5 - Advanced class in Granbury, Texas

December 7-9 - Italian cheeses class in Granbury, Texas

January 17-22, 2013 - Italian cheeses class in Belize

January 24-29 - Latin American cheeses class in Belize

April 26-28 -   Luxury artisan cheesemaking at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm

May 10-12 -  Italian cheesemaking at Three Shepherds Farm

May 17-19 -  Advanced cheesemaking at Three Shepherds Farm

Three Shepherds Farm
108 Roxbury Mountain Road
Warren, Vermont  05674