Happy Cheese Makers Since 1978

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 Hello Ricki, I doubt if you remember whey back to (I think) 1994 when you held a cheese making class at the ADGA convention in Madison WI. I was one of many who took the all day class. Every time I make a cheese I still think of the demonstrations you gave and the whey you made it look so easy. That gave me the courage to continue, even when I had the inevitable failures. Thanks so much for doing those classes and continuing on with your wonderful mission to help all us amateur cheese makers. Although I have cut whey (oh! I do love that new word you taught me) back on my goat herd, I still have to have one or two milkers so that I can make the cheeses that all my family and friends love to eat. Thanks and keep up the wonderful New England Cheese Company! Elaine  
  The following is an article in the June 2006 issue of Food & Wine magazine: Barbara Kingsolver learns that making a pound of mozzarella at home is even faster than baking a cobbler, but speed is not the only reason to try it. By Barbara Kingsolver Years ago, when I was young and still sure of my own power over boring routines, I studied a map one weekend and found a new, faster route back home from the city where I had recently moved. I described my clever navigations to my grandfather, boasting that I would have saved 37 minutes. \"Thirty-seven,\" he mused. \"And you just used up 15 telling me all about it. What will you do with the other 22?\" Time-saving, the modern credo that sends us zipping from microwave dinners to the fast lane, can blur the truth that life is a zero-sum equation. Every minute saved will get used up on something else, possibly an activity no more sublime than watching TV. Ever since my grandfather\'s rebuke, I\'ve tried to bear in mind that taking time with the quotidian might make it satisfying enough to be the goal, rather than the obstacle. Cooking dinner, especially, is a pleasure to stretch out over the days end when work is done and family members trail home. A quick recipe can turn slow because of the experiments we hazard. We make things from scratch for the fun of it. We grow a garden. We bake bread. We make cheese. Okay, I know. You were with me right up to that last one. I am not sure why, since it takes less time to make a pound of mozzarella than to bake a cobbler, but most people find cheesemaking a preposterous idea. If friends happen over just as I\'m draining a freshly made Neufch tel, they act like they\'ve caught me at witchcraft. In our family it began with experiments. We missed certain things, soft cheeses especially, that my daughter and I often don\'t eat because of our mild lactose intolerance. A little knowledge of biochemistry (and a love for learning about interesting food processes) led us to think we might feel comfortable eating cheeses again if we made them ourselves, culturing out a lot of the lactose and draining it off with the whey and this turns out to be true. Making a great soft cheese is as simple as warming some milk, stirring in a special bacterial culture that imparts a particular flavor, allowing it to curdle overnight, then draining off the whey. Our chËvre and fromage blanc were so delicious, we were inspired to try hard cheeses, which are often heated gently in the curd stage, then pressed and aged in a cool cellar or in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Our successes keep us trying. We\'ve even converted some of our friends. You could be next. I know, you dont have time. Who does? To calm the great American subservience to hurry, to convince us that an hour or two spent rendering up cheese in our own kitchens could be worth the trouble what would that take? A motivational speaker, an artist, a devotee, a pal who builds your confidence? A Cheese Queen, maybe? The answer is yes, all of the above, and she exists. Her name is Ricki Carroll. Since 1978, when she started New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and began holding workshops in her western Massachusetts kitchen, she has taught some 7,500 people how to make cheese. That\'s not even counting those of us who ordered her supplies online and worked our way through her book, Cheesemaking Made Easy, which has sold over 100,000 copies (the new edition has been renamed Home Cheese Making). She has inspired artisans from the Loire to Las Vegas. Partly to hone my own skills, but largely out of curiosity, I sought out the woman whose Web site really does identify her as the Cheese Queen. Her reign began even before the Sunday morning last spring when my family and several of our cheesemaking friends stepped onto the porch of a colorful Queen Anne with lupines and lilies blooming around the stoop. We walked through the door and fell through the looking glass into a place where cheesemaking antiques mix in with handmade dolls and African masks, unusual musical instruments and crazy quilts. Ricki waved us into the big kitchen as she hastily pinned up her curly hair with a parrot-shaped barrette. She had generously invited our group to sit in as her guests at an ordinary one-day workshop for beginners. We sat at long tables and introduced ourselves to the 20 other students. For several men this was a Fathers Day gift. Others described practical goals: a chef hoped to broaden her culinary range; mothers desired healthier diets for their families. Martha, from Texas, owned water buffalo and dreamed of great mozzarella. Our common wish was to understand a food we felt passionate about. As we examined the stainless steel bowls, thermometers and culture packets assembled before us, Ricki introduced us to her world. Fundamentally, cheesemaking is a way to store milk, which goes bad quickly without refrigeration but keeps indefinitely improves, even in the form of cheese. Artisanal cheesemakers combine science and art. All over the world, without scientific instruments, people make cheeses the way their grandparents did, Ricki said. In the Republic of Georgia she watched cheesemakers stir their cheese pot with a twig and then swaddle it in a kitty-print sweater, a baby blanket and a cape. She promised we would make queso blanco, whole-milk ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella and even farmhouse cheddar. Yes, us, right here, today. We looked on in utter doubt as she led us into our first cheese, explaining that we\'d make all this with ordinary milk from the grocery store. Raw milk from a farm is better, creamline milk is great, but any milk will do, unless it is labeled ultra-pasteurized for long-distance shipping. Ultrahigh-temperature pasteurization denatures proteins and destroys the curd necessary for firm cheese. The closer to home your source, the better it is for you and your cheesemaking. And, Ricki pointed out, buying raw or creamline milk will help local farmers at the same time. While waxing poetic in praise of slowness, Ricki moves quickly. By the time we\'d warmed our milk and added bacterial cultures to begin setting our cheddar, she was on to the next cheese. With a mirror propped over the stove so we could see into the pot, she curdled queso blanco by stirring in vinegar, laughing as she guessed the quantity. There is no perfect formula, she insisted, only some basic principles and the confidence to try. As we inhaled the lemony-sweet scent of simmering whey, the steamy heat of the kitchen curled our hair, and new textures and flavors began to rise before us as possibilities: mascarpone, fromagina (Ricki\'s cross between fromage blanc and mascarpone), mozzarella. Even so, to a roomful of novices, turning ordinary milk into such extravagances seemed unlikely. At lunch break I noticed, in the wildly colorful powder room, a quote from Alice in Wonderland painted above the sink: There is no use trying, Alice said. One can not believe impossible things. I daresay you have not had much practice, said the Queen. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why sometimes I have believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. We really did make all those cheeses. Most of them we ate for lunch, a spread that included sliced tomatoes with mozzarella, fromagina on wheat bread, stir-fried vegetables with queso blanco and mascarpone-filled dates. In the afternoon, as we put our farmhouse cheddar into a simple mechanical press to squeeze moisture out of the curd, Ricki talked about the process of aging and waxing our cheeses as if these really lay ahead of us as if we were going home to make cheeses. I would be willing to bet we all did. Why? Its a kick. Some of us are refining exquisite products while others like myself are just shooting for edible, but we all catch our breath together in the moment of alchemy when the milk divides into clear whey and white curd, or the mozzarella stretches in our hands to a glossy golden skein. We are connecting with food artisans across geography and time. We\'re recalling our own best memories infused with scents, parental love and ordinary routines of childhood. We\'re hoping our kids memories will not all smell like carpool exhaust. Soon after the workshop, my husbands mother came for a long visit. We spent our best times in the kitchen, my daughters and me listening to stories about her mother, who came over from Italy as a teenager and made ricotta, routinely, to the end of her life. We felt that great-grandmother smiling on us, the Saturday we made mozzarella together: three more generations joined in the place where science touches art and carries on. Ricki Carrolls New England Cheesemaking Supply Company in Ashfield, MA, offers one-day beginner classes and two-day advanced ones. For more information, call 413-628-3808 or go to cheesemaking.com. Barbara Kingsolvers books include novels, essays, poetry and the upcoming Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about local food economies.  
 Hi Ricki Just wanted to thank you for yesterdays class. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was thrilled to learn so much in so little time. Interesting how you can jam so much into a day!! I was very interested to see how you were going to control the very large group that we had and I must tell you I was very impressed......Kudos to you!!!!!... It turned out well. And I walked away with much more than I thought I would. Although we did NOT run home and make some cheese, I am looking forward to doing so very soon. Thanks for a great day, hoping to take the two day class as soon as time allows. Best Regards, Cindy B. 
 Hi Ricki, Our goats kidded a couple of months ago, and now our whole family is drinking delicious raw milk. Then yesterday I finished making my first batch of chevre from their milk. I made half of it Lemon Thyme, and half of it Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil. It is wonderful, and so much better than store-bought cheese. And I have you to thank for it! I have been a cheesemaking fool ever since I took your Cheesemaking 101 class with my sister-in-law in the spring of 2004. Now we live on 3.5 acres in a small farming community with four beautiful registered Nubians. You gave me focus and direction for something I feel passionately about. Thanks for what you do. You have changed my life, as well as many others, I am sure. Thanks! Layne H. 
 Hi Ricki - Great Class! Wonderful Vibes! Good Job! We had a fantastic time at the cheesemaking workshop on Saturday. You were absolutely terrific - full of stories and cheese wisdom and a gracious and entertaining host and teacher. We really learned a lot about the practical aspects of home cheesemaking, plus making it a really good family trip...and meeting up with some very nice people. We are still talking about the cheeses we made, the people we met and that tasty and wholesome lunch you served...we wanted it to never end..so...We are going to make creme fraiche, mozzarella and chevre this week with much more to follow...and I will definitely do several cheeses for our Farmers Market next spring...if this works out I might even open a small business outlet in town for retail and wholesale throughout the year...one step at a time though. It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope to see you again...thanks again for a great learning experience and a fun time. Peace, Frank from New Jersey. 
 Hello Ricki, I doubt if you remember whey back to (I think) 1994 when you held a cheese making class at the ADGA convention in Madison WI. I was one of many who took the all day class. Every time I make a cheese I still think of the demonstrations you gave and the whey you made it look so easy. That gave me the courage to continue, even when I had the inevitable failures. Thanks so much for doing those classes and continuing on with your wonderful mission to help all us amateur cheese makers. Although I have cut whey (oh! I do love that new word you taught me) back on my goat herd, I still have to have one or two milkers so that I can make the cheeses that all my family and friends love to eat. PS. The catalogs arrived yesterday along with the wonderful surprise of your signed book. I\'ve considered several options for the book, but just may be very selfish and just keep it for myself! Leafing through it gave me ideas for making new kinds of cheese and better ways of doing some of my old favorites. Thanks and keep up the wonderful work at New England Cheese Making Supply Company! Elaine  
 Dear Ricki, I want to thank you for your workshop last Saturday, what fun it was! I have made Mozzarella twice more now with good luck. I have a new appreciation for the entire process. Again my thanks, Carla 
 I thoroughly enjoyed the cheesemaking 101 class last May, and while I am still sticking to fresh cheeses & kefir at this time, I may just get up the courage to try my hand at feta one of these days. Elizabeth Murphy, NJ  

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