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MSU – Artisan Cheesemaking class with Peter Dixon: Day 3

Last Day. Feels like I’m just getting to know everyone.

We started the day making mozzarella. Goat – did not turn out. Bummer. Cow – came together nicely! We pulled and formed, and Peter showed us how to braid. If we had someone in the class who could make balloon animals, we could’ve gotten really crazy.

Flavoring the Fromage Blanc and Chevre was next. Some cheesemakers brought fresh herbs, spices, fruit, honey, mint, nuts.. the combinations were nice. I especially liked a cherry walnut chevre and a fresh bluberry chevre. Fresh chive was another that turned out nice.  Actually, I can’t think of a combo that didn’t turn out nice. I opted to keep mine unflavored and bring it home.  A trip to the market is in the future, thinking fig and aged balsamic with some chevre.

The last afternoon of class we discussed more detail about brining, went in to affinage, talked about business plans and ended with sanitation.

Three days with Peter Dixon and MSU was a fantastic experience. To be able to listen and watch someone with so much experience and just inherent ability is a treat. The amount of information we covered was incredible and I’m hoping that my retention is more than less. Maybe I should put in ear plugs so it doesn’t leak out of my brain.

Great experience. Glad I went.

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MSU-Artisan Cheesemaking with Peter Dixon: Day 2

Day 2 “Sillies” settle in…

Run away cheese cube on a cart, breaking equipment (oops),  nuns in the creamery, accidental drenching of peer with hose, mention of “my armpits are dry now”, an overheard and misheard comment turned into “did you say dead chickens”.. (had to be there), and general 2nd day goofiness.

Today we ladled our Fromage Blanc and Chevre into our clothes and hung them to drain. Everyone is looking forward to flavoring them tomorrow!!

On to making a goat Gouda and a cow Asiago. Ready set… GO! It was like being on a game show to see which “team” was cheesing it the best. (I was on the Gouda team, so I’m partial). It was interesting to see Peter at work. Half “winging it”, half actually measuring… he was honing is inner Obi-Wan and like a Jedi using the Force, we have cheese!

I especially enjoyed stirring the curd by hand. It needs to be patented as a specialty manicure. My hands have never been so smooth. When talks of taking our shoes of and getting all “Lucy” in the curds and whey, I think we had inhaled a little too much milk steam…. and then naming it Stinky Feet Cheese.. well, again 2nd day sillies.

We molded our cheeses.. and in the middle of all of the cheesemaking craziness started our ricotta. I saw the second batch being started and I was amazed at how simple it really did seem. There was a smoked pan liner that we used to set the ricotta pans in, so it would pick up some smokiness. Campfire Ricotta, how about that?

And let’s talk about the nuns for a sec. Peter told us a story during morning lecture about the Cheese Nun (Sister Noella Marcellino) and her doctorate in microbiology, taking samples from caves all around France. Fascinating story really. So when two nuns arrived during our ricotta making, I think it was  a sign from above! Everyone in this class will have fromage success. Yes!

After class we gathered for a cheese tasting. Peter brought Consider Bardwell’s Manchester, Dorset and Pawlet. I was excited about the Pawlet since that’s one I haven’t tasted yet. MSU show-cased their cheeses, Dagano was my favorite. We tasted the cheeses that the previous classes made, not bad. And the aspiring cheesemakers in the class brought their own home-made fromages and accoutrements. It was a yummy evening.

Looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

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MSU – Artisan Cheesemaking with Peter Dixon: Day 1

Were to begin! The group is definitely an eclectic mix of people. Family farmers, newbie cheesemaker, dairy operators, restaurateurs, I own a goat so let’s do it and see where it goes people, cheesemongers in training, retailers getting better understanding.

There was definitely a hippie vibe happening; I would gladly spend  my night drinking a cold tall brew and singing karaoke with the bunch. Just a really laid back motley crue.

We covered so much of the essential basics of cheesemaking today, like a chemistry crash course on why cheesemakers are just crazy enough to do it! I’m glad I am only looking to retail the heroic effort.

Peter Dixon is virtually a walking encyclopedia of “how to”. His brain so full with info that the rogueness of his training can completely be appreciated. Experience abounds and there was no lack of conversation… on any topic.

For me – this is starting to ge into  the technical and chemistry parts of the cheesemaking that I think is invaluable to a retailer. Hey – I need to understand what I’m selling. And plus, it builds a better understanding and partnership between cheesemaker and cheesemonger.

There seems to be a lot of nice networking opportunities. Never can have too many.

We’ll see what tomorrow holds for us….  finish setting our goat cheese and fromage blanc!

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