Friday, June 11, 2010
She Hails From Butler, Tennessee
Terrie Travers wrote in with a question recently and we ended up asking her to do this interview and to show us how she makes Fromage Blanc.
From what she told us, it seems she's well on her way to becoming an expert cheese maker.
Have you made much cheese?
Well, I am quite the novice. I have less than a year of experience. I have successfully made Leban, Brie, Fromage Blanc, (shown below) and a Farmhouse Cheddar. I have tried the Jack, but it came out to crumbly and acidic.
I have made quite a few variations of a Kefir Leban that I season and press. But mostly, I make a lot of Kefir Leban, season it and whip it into a spreadable cheese. It is my husbands favorite.
I am anxious to try other cheeses later this summer, but I have to drive quite some distance to get raw milk. For now I have been using organic pasteurized.
Can you tell us something about who you are and where you live?
I like to refer to myself affectionately as a starving artist/poor dirt farmer. My husband, John, and I have a small specialty farm and art studios we call The Appalachian Shed (theappshed.com).
Located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, most of the surrounding land is National Forest so we are pretty much in the woods.
We are not your typical tomatoes and beans kind of farm. Sure we have some chickens, a dog, a cat, and lots of gardens, but it's more of a "what can we make with this" kind of place.
I love creating things no matter what the medium. Fusible glass is currently on my favorite list. I also like to work with wood, clay, and found objects. I travel the Southeast to various art/craft shows to sell my wares as well as listing a small web site.
I love spending any spare time I can find in the kitchen. Aside from the art studio, the kitchen is the only place indoors that I don't mind being in hours on end. I consider myself somewhat of a "foodie."
What made you decide to make cheese?
We have grown most of our own food forever. I mill my own flour, make my own condiments, freeze, can, and yes, butcher chickens.
It was only some time last year when it occurred to me that I could make cheese too. Maybe it's because I don't have a cow? I guess it's just one of those things that sounds so hard. With growing concerns about the food "out there" I decided to jump in and give it a try.
What was the first cheese you tried?
My first cheese was a simple Leban made from Kefir which I added herbs and olive oil to make a nice spreadable cheese. My husband will not drink the Kefir, but he loves the cheese. I made some pressed cheeses with the Kefir Leban, but just small rounds.
What did you make next?
Having gained some confidence with the Kefir rounds, I felt ready to try some "real" cheeses. Mozzarella was my first. What a failure, it was edible yet it held no resemblance to that delicious pizza topping I was so hoping for. Try, try again and it finally came out. I then moved on to Fromage Blanc to regain some confidence. It is fast becoming a staple in the house. It is a toss up; is it becoming a staple because it is so delicious, or is it because it is so easy? Perhaps a bit of both.
Then came Brie, a favorite. Made one heck of a mess, but the cheese was wonderful! From this point I tried the Jack which came out, but not so good; next a Farmhouse Cheddar which is still aging. I really want to try my hand at some large wheels of the old world cheeses like the Parma on Ricki's recipe page. I am planing a trip out of state later this year to a dairy for as much raw milk as I can possibly culture in two days time. Sadly, it is illegal in my state to sell or purchase raw milk. How insane it that?
Any tips for others starting out?
Don't give up. It's an edible journey, enjoy it! I had a book on cheese making, but it was not the right book for me. I would have had a lot fewer, if not any, failures had I bought Ricki's book. Her online help has been fabulous!
P.S. Your pets will love the "failures," and the whey is a great nutritional layer in smoothies.
Making Fromage Blanc
By Terrie Travers
Slowly warming the milk.
Sprinkling in the Fromage Blanc culture.
Stirring it in well.
Setting it in the oven to culture. (Oven is off!) Nights are chilly here
Preparing to drain.
Setting aside to drip out the whey.
A savory version; Adding dried tomatoes, basil and roasted garlic.
Our favorite ways to serve: plain on cinnamon toast or savory version served with chips.