Unfortunately for me, the cheesemaking and affinage class is the week before Christmas or as I like to call it the "Sweet mother-of-pearl! It's the week before Christmas and we're so busy and I'm doing so much overtime that I've been existing on food I nibble at work and frozen pizza." But maybe I'll be able to get out there for the January class.
If you're in N.J. or close by, there's Valley Shepherd Creamery that does cheesemaking classes as well. Located just an hour or so out of Manhattan they offer a 1 day class, do the aging for you and then you can pick up the cheese you made 90 days later. They sell out super fast, so look at the schedule NOW, not a few weeks before you go to N.Y.
If you really want to get into it (which I do) and you've got the time and money (which I don't but I'm working on it) you can go to the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. What is the VIAC?
"The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont is the nation`s first and only comprehensive center devoted to artisan cheese."
Don't get me wrong, I don't want to become a cheesemaker. I'm happy as a monger. One of the best ways for me to learn more about how to care for cheese and to find out why it does what it does, how it does it, how to help it be better, and how to tell when something has gone wrong and possibly prevent future problems is by learning about cheese, not just in a hands-on making sense, but also learning more about the science of it.
This brings me to the topic of making cheese at home. I absolutely encourage people to make cheese at home. I've made Mozzarella, Ricotta and Farmer's Cheese while working in the restaurant industry, and have been thinking about doing some fresh cheese at home. My biggest hurdle is not having access to the kind of milk I want to work with.
Let me just rant about Mozzarella for a moment. This cheese when made well is a soft, milky, creamy, fresh cheese that makes me happy on four different levels. It is also really hard to master. I recall throwing my white lumpy piece of cheese at the walk-in door after my frustration level had risen to three inches above my head. When I had finally figured it out and made my first ball, and then my second, third, fourth and all that followed I had a ridiculous amount of pride. I conquered the curds! I made them do what I wanted them to do and wouldn't take no for an answer. That first bite of soft milky goodness made the previous anger and frustration I was actually swearing and yelling at the curds at one point totally worth it.
If I hear one more story about someone using their microwave to make Mozzarella I am going to freak out and lose it. Making cheese, any cheese
This part of the post had a rant about using the microwave to "make cheese" and how I'm sure it's one of the signs of the Apocalypse and how people who do this need a swift kick in the soft fleshy part, but I deleted it. You don't need me to tell you it's wrong. You know, deep in your heart that using the microwave to make cheese is WRONG! EVIL! AND AN INSULT TO CHEESEMAKERS AND THE LOVING CARE THEY PUT INTO THEIR CHEESE, LAND AND ANIMALS! IMHO.
I hate ending on an angry, all caps rant so I'm going to be positive instead. Next weekend I'm going to Madison, WI for two days for a cheese festival. I am super excited to meet new-to-me cheeses and cheesemakers. Of course, I will be reporting back on my experiences and showcasing any especially tasty treats.