This past Saturday I took a home cheesemaking class at the Old Stone House in Brownington. It was lovely as there were only two students (although the first class sold out) so it was really hands on. Jana Lovejoy of Apple Ledge Farm in Coventry was our teacher and she was awesome! Not only did I learn about making cheese, but I also learned a lot about being a full-time farmer. It’s incredible that Jana has any time left over for teaching classes as she is also very involved in the community.
Although we learned to make many different cheeses – and most of them would be easy for kids as long as they had adult supervision- I think that kids of all ages would really enjoy making butter, which was our first experience of the day.
Jana brought in cream from the raw milk she gets from her two cows, but you could also buy heavy cream from the grocery to use. We poured the cream into mason jars (ours were really big but you could use any size) and then… started shaking until we had butter! I think it only took us 10 minutes or so to get to butter but little hands may take longer.
As you shake the jar the cream turns into whipped cream first. You can stop here, add a little vanilla and sugar, and use it on your apple pie, or you can keep on shaking. You can hear the sounds inside the jar change as you go from cream, to whipped cream, and finally, to butter. Once it is the right consistency you need to drain the liquid (which is buttermilk so make sure you save it to make pancakes!) and then rinse the butter with water until it runs clear. Jana rinsed it a few times and then let the butter sit in the water in the jar for a few minutes just to make sure it was rinsed well. If you don’t do this your butter will go bad fast. Once it’s clean you can add a little salt (or go crazy and add sugar and cinnamon or just about any other flavor you want) and it’s ready to eat. Butter can also be stored in the freezer so if you come across a great deal on heavy cream (or you have a cow!) you can make it and save it for later.
There are really great visuals of this process at Southern Plate and incredibly detailed instructions (along with the blender method of making butter) at The Sophisticated Gourmet.
After making butter, we learned how to make mozzarella, cottage cheese, Swiss cheese, queso blanco, and ricotta (which we made using the leftover whey from the other cheeses). Jana taught herself how to make cheese using two books: “Home Cheese Making” byRicki Carroll and “The Complete Guide to Making Cheese, Yogurt, and Butter at Home” by Rick Helweg (which she said was more advanced). She also highly recommended the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company for many of the supplies needed.
I left the class thankful to the Old Stone House for the opportunity to learn something new and ready to take on my own home cheese (and butter!) making.
Naptime means playtime for NEK mom Aimee Alexander, whose creative outlet is writing about all things mom-related over at Mama’s Recess including children’s health advocacy, education, raising kids in rural America, and the occasional project or recipe. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest!