Thursday, June 2, 2011

Joanna Bulova - Making Cheese in Jamaica

She started with Ricki's workshop and now she sells her cheese on an island in the Caribbean!
Joanna Bulova took Ricki's workshop, Cheesemaking 101 in June, 2006.  Now she has 42 goats and from their milk, she makes and sells a wide variety of cheeses.  In the pictures she sent us, you can see how she has adjusted her methods to the hot, steamy conditions in Jamaica.

How did you get started making cheese?

I started in early 2006, with my first two goats.  I made fromage blanc to start with, later adding cheeses (and goats!) one by one: chevre, feta, mozzarella, mascarpone (with cow's milk*) and bloomy rinds ripened plain, with ash, and with a wash of rum and paprika.  I sell the fromage plain or with various mixtures (fresh herbs and garlic, rum soaked raisins, spicy tamarind chutney, freshly ground black pepper) and I layer the chevre with either herbes de Provence or a mixture of allspice and cumin.  I also sell yogurt, which is a big seller and I make kefir for my own use.

* I use cow's milk for mascarpone so I can get plenty of cream.  Otherwise I would only be able to get UHT cream.  (Yuk.)  I get it from the College of Agriculture (about 1/2 hour away) where they keep a small herd for teaching purposes.  It's lovely milk, straight from the cows.  At times of year when I'm short on goats' milk I make bloomy rind cheese using 1/2 and 1/2 cow and goat milk, a very nice combination.

View from Joanna's veranda

Fromage Blanc with herbs
How did you end up living in Jamaica?

I had lived in Manhattan for many years.  Met my to be husband on the island of Nevis in 1988.  Moved down there to be with him in 1989.  We lived there for 2 years, then moved to Jamaica.  (He is originally Jamaican but moved to London at age 11 and grew up there.)

We bought 18 acres in Jamaica in 1990, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, and started an organic farm.  We mostly grow fruit trees of all kinds plus bananas, coconuts and pineapples.  Also root crops: dasheen and cassava. We keep bees and have a few fishponds.  I had always wanted to keep dairy goats so that got added in, and of course the cheese followed.  I now have a thriving business selling my cheese.

What is it like to make cheese there?

I have to improvise a lot, especially in this climate.  It's hot!  The make room is my kitchen, drying room is a rack on the veranda, and "ripening room" is 1 and sometimes 2 fridges with your thermostats on them set to 54F.
I ripen the cheeses on racks set in plastic boxes, with a cloth between box and lid to catch condensation drips.  I adjust the lids depending on the level on humidity in the boxes, which of course decreases as the cheeses ripen. (The bloomy rind was very kindly taught to me by Colin McGrath, cheese maker at Sprout Creek Farm.)
Mold starting to develop on these bloomy rinds which have been coated with ash.
Because of the humidity, I have to give my bloomy rind cheeses 2 days drying time in a cage hung up on the veranda, covered with mosquito netting to keep out the bugs, with a fan trained on it the whole time! This cage (below) is a take on the old French farmstead method of drying cheeses.  It was suggested to me by Marc Donneaud, a French cheese maker from a farm in Provence called Le Petit Jabron, who visited me several years age and built a prototype.
Bloomy rinds which have just gotten a coating of ash
mixed with salt and have been put to dry for several days before going into the ripening fridge.
Bloomy rinds with a rum-paprika wash drying on the rack.
Otherwise, I use the usual stainless steel pots, cultures, rennet, etc.  I work in batches of either 2 1/2 or 3 gallons, which is about what I can comfortably lift without having to ask for help.
Feta draining
Chevre being layered with Herbs de Provence
Feta ready for sale
I keep a meat goat line along side of the dairy line because I can sell the kids as breeders to other farmers.  Jamaicans eat lots of goat meat!  On the other hand, there's no tradition of milking goats here.  But more and more people know about me and I get lots of visitors.  I've given workshops on rearing dairy goats and now several women have asked if I will teach them cheese making.  So hopefully that will happen.  I want to pass on whatever knowledge I've acquired and encourage this industry in Jamaica.

Do you live on your profits from selling cheese?

No, I can't say I make a living with the cheese.  I'm too small an operation for that.  But we do a lot of different things and it all contributes to being able to run the farm, employ local people, and live a healthy and satisfying life.

Joanna with Diana and her kid

11 comments:

shannon i olson said...

wow I am impressed, what an amazing cheesemaker! Adorable goats too!

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

for some reason this is my most favorite post! I would love to be neighbors and friends with this lady. It really got me going again. I have made chevre very often since my goats are in milk again, making feta today and cheddar next week. Love this blog- keep up the good work. You find the most amazing and interesting people!

kayo said...

my husband has been planning to build a cheese-drying cage, and we're happy to see this post, lots of great ideas... I just have one question, is that a child's crib-sized mosquito net you're using? Simply ingenious! On the map, you can just see the edge of my country (Belize, directly west of Jamaica) Our climate is very similar.

Silvia said...

I live in Jamaica, and would love to buy Joanna's goat cheese. Where is it sold?
silvia.kouwenberg@gmail.com

Jeri said...

I asked Joanna- "She can buy my cheese in Kingston at a wine and cheese shop called Uncorked. It's at 8 Hillcrest Ave, off Hope Road."

Angela said...

Hello- I looked you up because my parents had there honeymoon there (almost 40 years ago) and my father had goats milk there for his 1st time. He is an avid milk drinker and now (for the past 3 years) he has been drinking my organic goat milk. He still remembers fondly the sweetness of the milk he enjoyed there daily. He asked why it was soo sweet and they said blue grass. So i am left searching for this blue grass or something like it that I might be able to grow here in Kansas.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Angela said...

Hello- I looked you up because my parents had there honeymoon there (almost 40 years ago) and my father had goats milk there for his 1st time. He is an avid milk drinker and now (for the past 3 years) he has been drinking my organic goat milk. He still remembers fondly the sweetness of the milk he enjoyed there daily. He asked why it was soo sweet and they said blue grass. So i am left searching for this blue grass or something like it that I might be able to grow here in Kansas.

Thank you for sharing your story.

viper_9087 said...

can someone find out if joanna sells rennet...thats kinda all i need at the moment but the cheese looks awesome...will be checking it out in a few weeks when i get everything i have to do out of the way. just need rennet at the moment not sure if someone can help me.

either ways your cheese looks amazing, my email address is lenorc@gmail.com...plz it would be very helpful if i could get a response in a week or so...i am really desperate.
opening up a company and would prefer to use fresh cheese.
thx !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeri said...

Viper - I'm confused. We sell rennet and we ship all over the world...cheesemaking.com.

nadia lamon said...

hello my husband is from Jamaica thinking of moving there and would love to learn how to make cheese from you Joanna. Plz email me at nadialamon@gmail.com

nadia lamon said...

hello my husband is from Jamaica thinking of moving there and would love to learn how to make cheese from you Joanna. Plz email me at nadialamon@gmail.com