Day 1 - Getting down to the business of making artisan cheese
The first day of the class began with a buffet breakfast which included omelettes made to order, fresh fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, bacon, beans, tortillas, oatmeal cookies, homemade pastries, etc.. (I let go of my silly plan to lose a few pounds and surrendered myself to the Cave's Branch experience. Wouldn't you?!)
|Ella and Ian finishing up their breakfast|
We walked the short path to the cheese house Ian had built. It features a tasting room with a viewing window, a large aging room and one of the nicest make rooms I have ever seen. (He modeled it after Larry and Linda's place in Vermont.)
|I nominate this for "cutest cheese house in the world"|
When we arrived there, we met two more students, Mike Adle and Rey Guerrero, cousins who have a farm in Belmopan. They raise sheep and their hope is to milk them and then to make their own cheese. (They also have a construction business, so this will be their hobby.)
|Rey and Mike looking into the make room through the viewing window|
We also met Ian's "cheese girls" who make most of the cheese at Cave's Branch. They assisted with the workshop while they took the class. They were with us at all our meals and our final adventure on the last day. (So, when you go to Cave's Branch, say "hey" for me!)
|Clarabelle Gaitan, Clara Arriaza, and Elsa Romero|
Introduction to the art
We began the day in the cheese tasting room, where we were each given our own 46 page notebook. I was pleased to discover that it included detailed information about the processes involved in making cheese and recipes for the cheeses we would be making in the class.
There were pages in it for notes, but most of us supplemented our writing with pictures we took as we went along. Ian actually videotaped much of the class for reference.
We were also given our own aprons to use for the class and to take home. (I'm thinking about wearing mine all the time now to remind me of my trip!)
Larry and Linda introduced us to the basics of cheese making and we went around the room sharing our goals and getting to know each other.
|Clarabelle, Clara, Linda and Larry|
Our intrepid team
This gallery of photos does not include me, because I forgot to have someone take my picture. But, you know I was there - right?
|Larry Faillace (who was too busy teaching to smile!)|
Ella didn't actually take the class, but she was our official "unbiased taste tester."
Getting our hands in the pot
When we walked around the building to the entrance to the make room, we realized that we would be spending our time in the coolest cheese making room ever!
That first day, believe it or not, we made Feta, Ricotta, Queso Blanco and yogurt!
|Ian told us how to wash our hands and reminded us to keep the door to the room shut (insects).|
|My first pictures took folks by surprise, but they got used to it.|
|Cutting the Feta curds|
|Looking at the curds after they had rested for a few minutes|
|Ladling the Ricotta curds into the molds|
|For Pete's sake- get a room you two!|
We were on a slightly different schedule from the rest of the guests at the lodge, so Chef J made us a special meal using some of Cave's Branch cheeses, followed by sour sop ice cream (to die for).
Back to work
With full stomachs, we returned to the make room:
|Larry was never too busy to answer questions.|
|Filling the Feta molds|
|That's a lot of Feta|
Late afternoon cheese tasting
At the end of the afternoon, because we had worked hard all day and were in danger of starving, Ian staged a cheese tasting in the dining room with an assortment of Cave's Branch cheeses and the Ricotta we had made that morning in the class.
|Quite an assortment|
Ian introduced all the cheeses one by one as "the cheese girls," cut them and passed them to us.
We drank wine and gave him feedback on the amazing variety of quality cheeses they make at Cave's Branch - Quark with maple syrup, soft ripened cheese with sweet pepper sauce, Parmesan, Spressa, Old Brabander, Mozzarella, Trappist, Triple Creme Camembert, Camembert, Mrs. Stinky (a mold ripened cheese with hints of blue), and Feta.
|Ian telling a funny story about his Quark|
|Chef J observing the tasting as he plans new ways to use the cheeses in his menu|
I tried to purchase ten Mrs. Stinkys, my favorite, but Ian ended up limiting me to five because he needed some to use for samples. It was just as well, because I had to cram them into my suitcase and I really don't know how I would have packed five more. Talk about getting carried away! That's good cheese.
Of course, after the tasting, we ate a full supper.
|That night, Nadege's husband, Tom joined us. Tom, aka Captain Tom (but that's another story) built their resort himself (to Nadege's specifications, of course) in Cayo- Mystic River)|
Continued in Part 3