Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Cheese Maker#5 - Debra Strange

Debra Strange from Easley, SC

Debra Strange is a 53 year old domestic engineer who lives in a small town in upstate South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Parkway, around two hours from Atlanta, Georgia.

On her blog, Debra describes herself:  “I'm a Carolina girl, born and bred. My passions are my garden, art, music and whenever I can bring all those together, I'm in heaven. If you're looking for politics, look elsewhere.”

Since she wrote that, Debra has added a few other passions to her list- making jewelry and making cheese. She sent us a note this winter which resulted in our article about Happy Cow Creamery:

Just wanted to say thanks so much for the great instructions for a beginning cheesemaker. I have made the ricotta and mozzarella perfectly the first time and in subsequent sessions. It was so incredibly delicious and satisfying! We are very lucky here in upstate South Carolina to have a great farm, Happy Cow, producing delicious, healthy milk and that's what I used to make my cheese. I have also discovered a local producer of goat milk I am looking forward to working with.

The cheeses were excellent in lasagne and a Salad Caprese with basil oil. I am placing an order today to try some of the other fresh cheeses available with a variety of the cultures you sell.

I love making the cheese! Thanks so much!

What made you decide to make cheese?

I ran across an article on artisan ricotta from Italy in Saveur magazine. It looked like something doable at home and I tried the recipe, after ordering liquid rennet and a kit from Rikki Carroll's site. I found Ricki's recipe to be more satisfactory, so that's the one I use now.

What was the first cheese you tried?

The ricotta cheese, as I would be able to use it in several ways. I'm an amateur home chef and I love "traveling" by trying recipes from other countries.

What did you make next?

I then tried the mozzarella, (pictured here) which I absolutely adored. Cutting those curds is my favorite part, other than eating it, of course. We are lucky to have Happy Cow Dairy nearby to our town and I can buy it in a number of places. The cows graze on grass, not corn and are not treated with BGH or regular doses of antibiotic. The milk is not ultra-pasteurized and it still has the cream in it. It makes wonderful
cheese and the whey is great in soup and bread.

Any tips for others starting out?

The soft cheeses and things like the creme fraiche are easy and satisfying. Search around your area health food stores for wholesome milk and cream. If they don't have it now, maybe they'd be willing to get it for you, if you plan to be a regular customer. It's a great feeling to know you've made a good healthy food for your family and supported those farmers out there trying to raise animals in a healthy fashion. One of the best ways we can vote is with our pocketbook!

Measuring the rennet.

Checking for the clean break.

Spooning the curds into a bowl.

Draining the curds between turns in the microwave.

Folding the Mozzarella into a ball.

The ice bath.

Waiting for a bite.


UdderMost Farm Girl ~ said...

Thanks for posting this interview. I agree with everything she says. I made provolone for the first time last night from a recipe in Ricki's book, then used the whey to make ricotta ... again a first effort. Definitely easiet than the Farmhouse cheddar that is agingin its little wax coat. The provolone is in the brine bath, so I don't know how it has turned out yet, but the ricotta is delicious! I am a fellow Carolinian (NC) and use the milk from my Nigerian Dwarf goats to make the cheese.

Jeri said...

Uddermost- It sounds like I need to do an interview with you! I don't have your e-mail, so if you're interested, contact me at