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Class at Mt. Mansfield Creamery

April 20, 2010

As I drove back to New York City after a weekend cheese making class in Vermont, there was only one thought on my mind…this is where I belong…

I don’t say this lightly.  I knew that this class would represent a turning point for me as far as where I wanted to take this.  I have been somewhat cheese obsessed for quite a while.  With all of the tasting, eating and even making cheese at home, there was a connection that I had not been able to make for myself.  “Is this my hobby, or is this my craft?”  Making it at home is one thing.  Talking to farmers, working with raw milk, stirring 40 gallons of curd by hand, and brushing blue mold from wheels of cheese in the cave is something quite different.  And I loved it…  I loved every second of it, and I wanted more.

When I arrived on the 1st day I was not sure what to expect.  I knew that the other members of the class would be interested in cheese making to some capacity, but I was surprised at the diversity within our little group.  In addition to myself, there were a couple of culinary instructors from New Hampshire, a man from Toronto interested in taking the next step, a woman with a couple of cows who wanted to make cheddar, a woman with a few goats who wanted to make goat cheesecake (uhh…yes please…) and a farmer who wants to open a creamery and make cheese from the 150 cows that she milks twice a day.  Regardless of our backgrounds, we were all brought together by our love of cheese and our desire to take the next step.

This class was very hands on to where we all assisted with milk ripening, curd cutting, curd cooking, stirring curds by hand, molding, pressing, affinage, and cleaning.  When we were not in the cheese making room working with Stan from Mt. Mansfield, we were in the classroom with Peter Dixon as he instructed on the finer points of culture combining, brining, and creamery/cave construction.

Peter giving instruction in the cheese making room

Peter is a very soft-spoken individual who quietly commands a great deal of respect in the cheese-making world.  If you look at the majority of the cheese making farms here in the Northeast, chances are that Peter had a hand either in direct consultation in how to create their business, or through educating the resident cheese maker in one of the many classes that he gives every year.  I spent a lot of time in the classroom looking at all of the photo albums that he brought with him, chronicling his cheese making travels all over the world.  He has a wealth of knowledge and was happy to share with us as we fired questions at him throughout the weekend.

In addition to our time in the creamery, we also had a couple of special events in the community.  A private tour of Rock Art Brewery culminating in some tastings of the beer with Mt. Mansfield cheese was definitely a highlight.  One of the cheese in particular, the “Inspiration”, is washed with one of their beers.  I will discuss the cheese that Stan is making in a separate post, but suffice it to say, it is really good…

As excited as I am to put this into practice, I realize that it is almost impossible to replicate what I have learned in my small, New York City apartment.  More than ever was I made to realize the importance of keeping constant rates of temperature and humidity as it is directly tied into good and natural rind development, which is the key to moisture and flavor.  Sure, I will be able to continue to wax and store in the wine refrigerator that I have for aging, but it will in no way simulate the environment that is needed to truly take this to the next level.  What I can work on, is culture combination and brining technique.  By combining a variety of cultures instead of using pre-mixed “direct-set” cultures, and playing around with lactic whey brine and washes, I will be able to explore an area of making that I had only read about.

Why did I have to wear a hair net?

I searched out this class because I wanted to take this to the next level.  A weekend long class in a real working creamery, with an actual cheese cave was the answer for me.  A passion to create and a desire to learn as much as I can about this craft…my craft, was the best lesson learned.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2010 11:56 am

    So exciting to witness somebody really finding–and celebrating–their passion. What an inspiration you are!

  2. John permalink
    April 21, 2010 3:57 pm

    OK, couple things.

    1. What was your favorite moment/experience for the weekend?

    2. Do you want to open your own creamery or cheese store? Or both? It would seem to me that the creamery would require an almost rural locale for access to product. The cheese store would really only be supported in a more urban setting, as profit would dictate.

    3. What the hell is up with the hair net?

    Full Stop.

    • April 22, 2010 10:38 am

      1. I think my favorite experience overall was working in the cave. There was just something about the smell, working with your hands, and working to provide the optimal conditions. Pretty cool.
      2.As of right now, I am primarily interested in working in a creamery and actually making the cheese. If I am able to find work in some capacity before that, so much the better. I do think the 2 can be connected as several creameries have their own store to sell their cheeses as well as other local products as well.
      3. Yeah…Health regulation. Even with my lack of hair…

  3. June 8, 2010 7:52 am

    Just catching up on your posts and this one in particular made me smile. It’s an awesome feeling when you get your hands in it and everything falls into place in your brain.

    • June 8, 2010 1:22 pm

      Thanks Lauren. Couldn’t agree more. I remember when we talked last and there were still a few questions that I had regarding this. With the past few months of experiences and leaps of faith, I think I have found my way. Very cool…

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