Monthly Archives: January 2010

Haiti and Africa

I’m leaving soon for Kenya. I’m doing a story about a chef who is sourcing from local tribes and supporting organic farm and garden operations all over Kenya. Lucky me, I’ll avoid all this rain. I’ll be away from the blog for about two weeks…

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a bake sale to raise money for Haiti relief. It’s a great idea–who doesn’t want to help Haitians? and who doesn’t want to eat the most delicious bakery items ever made? I wish I could attend, but I’ll be long gone. Here are the details:

Cheese Geeking

Only two years ago, I got my first goat, Bebe. Oh how much I’ve learned since then, including hoof trimming, worming, vet testing, feeding, cooper bolus adminstration. And oh how much I still have to learn: goat psychology, training young does to be milked, bottlefeeding, and shearing.

Of course there is no real endpoint of the education of a goat owner. There are always new tricks to learn, new goats to learn from, and new skills to acquire. One of my favorite lessons has been the craft of making cheese. This year I made the decision to not breed Bebe and have her go through a long lactation. Even in the dead of winter, she is milking away like a mo-fo. I’ve been the sole milker for the last two months and so I’ve had a pretty good surplus of milk. Which leads to one thing: cheeesemaking.

So far, I’ve made blue cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, and bloomy rind cheeses. Below is the blow by blow for making each of these. Note that I got all the recipes from Rikki Carrol’s Home Cheesemaking; and all the supplies came from New England Cheesemaking Supply.

Cheddar Cheese

This one requires a lot of milk–two gallons–so I hadn’t tried it before. It also requires a cheese press, which I now have (thanks Mom!). Like all cheeses, it starts by warming up the milk, and adding a starter, which acidifies the milk. After that, rennet is added, which sets the curds. For cheddar, you cut the curds then heat them. Whey drains out, and you’re left with curds that look like this.

You then pack these curds into a cheese mold, and apply pressure with your cheese press. The molds are plastic with little holes punched into them, so excess whey drains out. I put my cheese press in the sink so the whey would drain out into the sink. This is an old-fashioned cheese press, so you hang weight at certain points on the press to give different amounts of pressure. This is a 5 pound bag of rice, and a 5 pound bag of grain in the 4.0 notch, which makes 40 pounds of pressure. After a few hours, the curd is flipped and then more pressure is applied overnight.

The next day, I took out the curds and they were compacted down. For two days I salted the cheese until it formed a sort of rind. Then I smeared the cheese with duck fat, wrapped it in butter muslin. Bandaged cheddar, ready in 12 weeks!

Blue Cheese

Ok, I adore blue cheese. In France, I had some amazing blue goat cheeses, so I figured I should make my own. It’s basically the same process as cheddar (heating milk, acidifying, adding culture, rennetting) but different in that you innoculate the milk with pencillin roquerferti. And you don’t need a press, you just drain the curds in a mold without pressing. The cheese looks like this on the second day.

You salt this cheese and after a number of days, you poke holes into the cheese. This lets the pencillin get some oxygen and do their magic.

After about 10 days, the blue mold showed up!

Blue cheese needs 95% humidity so I balance the cheese in a plastic bin filled with water. Who knows if it’ll work? In a few days, I’m supposed to scrape off the blue mold off, let it form again. Then scrape again. This goes on for months! Home Cheesemaking says that making blue cheese is like making a child: easy to start but more difficult as it gets older. And you have to be patient, my blue won’t be ready until May 18!

Wait, this is turning into a marathon post! Let’s take a breather to remember and thank the goats!


I’ve never attempted mozzarella because I heard it used a lot of milk but still doesn’t yield that much cheese. Maybe I did something wrong, but I used 7 quarts of milk and ended up with a couple pounds of cheese. For mozarella, you acidify the milk with citric acid, add rennet, and cut the curd. Instead of fully draining, you add the curd to hot water and massage out the whey.

Once the curd is 130 degrees F, you pick them up and stretch and massage them. I really wasn’t good at this and need Samin to come over and show me the proper method. I got better toward the end, but I wasn’t clear on how to form it into nice little balls.

Still, it was delicious on some home-made pizza!

Bloomy Rind Goat

I have made chevre, fresh goat cheese, and it’s really simple. It’s also kind of boring, after the 20th log. So I wanted to make a bloomy rind goat cheese. This involves getting your hands on some pencillin candidium, and inoculating your milk with it, and another moldy friend, Geotrichum candidum. Usual procedure: heat, acidify, add cultures. Instead of cutting the curd, you let it form naturally for 12 hours, until it looks like this.

At this point–whey floating on top, a clean curd break–you can scoop the curds into molds and let them drain for 12 more hours.

Then you flip them, sprinkle with salt. At this point, you can eat the cheese and it’s fresh chevre. But you can let them age and ripen, especially when inoculated with various cultures that want to develop a rind. This time, I dusted them (three of them) with food grade charcoal. This makes the perfect environment to let the candidums thrive and grow. The third photo is the cheese at about 14 days.

I opened the one up without the charcoal and have to admit, I was very very pleased with myself. There’s a nuttiness, a rich flavor with a grassy finish. Fine pate, pure white throughout. I think i’m going to let the others go another week. They might get a little runny inside, which would be very special.

I have some other special cheesemaking dreams, taking my cue from farmstead producers around the world, but with an urban slant. As some of you know, I often feed the goats foraged things like leaves from street trees and jade plant. Their favorite thing right now is Christmas trees. Was thinking it might be neat to make some special cheeses during Bebe’s pine tree binges. I could roll the cheese in, for example, pine needles. Or during the liquid amber leaf frenzy, I could wrap a few in their leaves and let them rot for a few weeks. Just an insane thought I had to share with you.

If you’d like to learn more about cheese, there are some great cheese geek books, one of my favorite is Liz Thorp’s Cheese Chronicles, another is Brad Kessler’s Goat Song, and The Year of the Goat by Margaret Hathaway.  And I heard about an amazing event this Friday, at the Pasta Shop at 4th Street in Berkeley, see details below. Hope to see you there–I’ll be there, learning as much as I can from the masters!

In A Cheesemaker’s Kitchen
By Allison Hooper
Panel Discussion, Tastings, and Book Signing
Meet cheesemaker and author Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery as we celebrate her new book and explore artisan California and Vermont cheeses

Friday, January 15, 2010
5:00pm to 7:00pm
The Pasta Shop – 4th Street Market Plaza
1786 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA  94710
No charge except for purchases

Participating artisans cheesemakers from: Bellwether Farms, Cellars of Jasper Hill; Cowgirl Creamery; Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese; and Vermont Creamery

Animal (hide tanning), Vegetable (fermenting), and (fruit) Miracle

If the New Year is getting you excited to learn some new skills, I have a couple fun classes and things to suggest.

1. Scion Exchange

Berkeley, San Jose, Sebastopol, and many more! 

If you have fruit trees, you can graft different varieties onto your tree! Last year, I went to the scion exchange in San Francisco and got some crazy kinds of fruit trees to graft. Sadly, not one of the grafts took, even though I spent hours going to the scion exchange, whittling scion wood and cleft grafting onto my pear and apple trees. The year before I had four take. Clearly I’m getting all Flowers for Algeron on the grafting tip. I need to brush up!  That’s why I’m so psyched that again the scion exchange is coming! This year, it’ll be in several places, I’m going to the one in San Jose on January 9th, because it’s at an urban farm that sounds mighty wicked.  

For more info about dates and times for the scion exchanges, see the California Rare Fruit website.

2. Rabbit Hide Tanning Class with Tamara Wilder

Ghosttown Farm, Oakland, CA

Feb 6-7, 9am-5pm (Saturday & Sunday)

Braintanning is a natural, beautiful & soft method for tanning furs.

In this two day class, participants will partake in the whole process—from prepping and fleshing the pelt to smoking the softened fur.  Tools and materials will be provided and some softening tools will also be available for sale.

Domestic rabbit furs will be supplied.

$120 per person   

Bio: Tamara Wilder has been demonstrating and practicing ancient living skills for the past 20 years.  She is the coauthor of the book Buckskin: The Ancient Art of Braintanning and regularly teaches seminars on stringmaking, braintanning, firemaking and other ancient technologies across Northern California.  More info at  

If you’d like to sign up or get more information, email me at novellacarpenter at gmail dot com. 

*Never mind if you don’t keep rabbits, the concepts in this class apply for all kinds of hairy critters, including squirrels and roadkill. Tamara is a total bad-ass. 

3. Sauerkraut Making on Valentine’s Day

Biofuel Oasis, 1441 Ashby Ave, Berkeley

February 14, 11-12:30


Come on down the Biofuel Oasis and learn how to make sauerkraut and ginger beer from my friend Leslie, who is mighty knowledgeable about all things fermented. We’ll supply all the raw materials to make a jar of kraut and a bottle of ginger beer to take home to your loved ones–with tastings in between. 

Register here; and while you’re there, check out all the other cool classes like Keeping Chickens and Ducks, Greywater, Backyard Beekeeping, Mushroom Cultivation, and Rabbits!