Sunday, March 1, 2015

Freda Peisley in Rochester, New York


We first heard from Freda last December when she sent us a lovely note:

My cheeses will be for Christmas gifts. Thank you so much for having all the things I need. I started with you a ton of years ago and didn't make cheese for over 10 years as I had a room mate who didn't like anything I did.  I am on my own and that feels great!  I am now using my food dryer, and all 5 cheese presses.

That's a lot of presses!  When asked for clarification, she told us she has 4 small presses and one large one.  That way she can make large or small cheeses from the 5 or 6 gallons of milk she starts with.  The food dryer is for her tomatoes, herbs, and fruits.  She also dries marigolds for dyeing yarn.  (Freda is a spinner and weaver, teaching weaving at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.


Photo from Jennifer Brandes at "Reflections in the Window"

Interview

How did you get started making cheese?


I started making cheese some 40 years ago, when I lived in the country, and getting milk from a local farmer was no bother.  Now, here in NY you can't get raw milk, the farmers would face a large fine. So, I use milk from the store. I buy 4 gallons, a quart of buttermilk, and use the mesophilic starter and liquid rennet from you.

After straining the curds, I salt them, and some times add dill, then pack it into my four small presses, or all into my large press.  I press for 24 hours, then salt, and air dry for several days.  I then wax them, and age them for 1-4 months, turning them every day.


Two of Freda's four one-gallon presses

Her larger, three to four gallon press

I just cut into one I made six weeks ago and gave half to my doctor, she was overjoyed!  I love making cheese, every other month or so.  I share it with friends, and enjoy it myself.

Dill cheese made from three gallons of milk

Freda's homemade cheese with crackers

Do you make cheese at the museum?

We make cheese at the museum but we don't wax it, so it is rather hard.  I don't make the cheese, the cooks do.  I did cook, on the open hearth for several years, and on a wood stove for another year, I even did a week long, boy's cooking class.  We planked a fish, made noodles, breads, cookies, cakes, stew, and candied flowers to decorate the cakes.  We now have a man do that class and I do the weaving classes for kids and adults.


Aging cave at the museum.  Photo from Jennifer Brandes at "Reflections in the Window"

Cook adding rennet



I started weaving at 8 years old, and studied textiles in college. I learned to spin in college and dye yarn. I learned other textile crafts after college.




The next adult class will be the first three weekends in May, Sat and Sun, 10-4.  Beginners will make a warp, dress a loom and weave 2 scarfs or a set of place mats.  Advanced students will pick a double weave, overshot or rug to weave.

Freda's naturally dyed wool rug

Freda's mohair shawl with natural dyes