Sunday, May 25, 2014

Danny Kostiuk in Ontario, California

Danny Kostiuk
It's always fun for us when we hear from new cheese makers.  Danny Kostiuk began making cheese in February, 2013. A few weeks after he began, he was so excited, he wrote to us:

To Ricki Carroll:

Yours is the first cheese book I picked up and opened with the intention of making cheese.

You changed my life- I have experienced a complete paradigm shift, I will live the rest of my life making cheese.

May I send you pictures of the cheeses I have made?  Or, if you do Instagram, I am @DadtheBaker there.

I have always been called Cheesy, but now I know it's completely and literally true!

I started an interview with Danny at that time, but, for one reason or another, I wasn't able to finish it until over a year later.  So, now, at this point, Danny is a seasoned cheese maker with a lot of experience under his belt.  (I have added updates to his original answers.)

Danny's cheddar, made with 3 gallons of raw milk

Danny (52) started a website years ago when his boys were younger because he wanted to encourage fathers to spend more time in the kitchen with their sons (click here).

He believes that cooking and baking together is one of the best ways to forge a bond between father and son(s).  Now his boys are 14, 11, and 9.

He also has an Instagram account (@DadtheBaker) where he posts pictures of his life and his cheese making.  Most of the pictures there (and in this post) were taken by his wife, Caroline (@carolineadobo).  He gave us permission to use these pictures here.

Where are you from?

I really don't belong in this part of the world, but this is where the winds have blown me.  I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but was transplanted to Philadelphia for 15 years, then New Jersey, then Los Angeles.  Except for NJ, concrete is what was predominately under my toes.

How did you get started making cheese?

I have been making yogurt for over ten years.  As my boys were getting older, and because we consume a lot of yogurt (today about a gallon and a half per week), and I am one of those "make everything from scratch" kind of guys... I found a yogurt recipe and fell in love with making it.  Ricotta soon followed, then creme fraiche (never heard of tartaric acid... Lol)

Danny's ricotta with whey

I just this last month bought in on a cow and I milk her (herdshare - @txbeetree).  The next logical step was making cheese.  My wife Caroline, who is Haute Cuisine, referred me to the book Home Cheese Making, which has now become my bible.  So, the short answer to your question is - less than two weeks.  (It's been 15 months at this point.)

So far, I have made one farmers cheese, one soft curd cheddar cheese and two traditional cheddars.  My goal is to make three cheeses a week until I have enough to open one a week for the rest of my life.  More importantly, I will be teaching this to my three boys who are as passionate about food as I am, so it will be an easy task of love.

Update:  "I have been making cheddar and now wish to move on to parmesan, blue, brie... I will always make cheddar."

Cheddar curds

Small curd cheddar right out of the press

Waxing his cheddar

Danny with Donut

You mentioned that you belong to a herdshare?

We live on the eastern border of Los Angeles and San Bernardino - plenty of mass produced dairies, and a few beautiful mom and pop farms.  One in particular, though not organic, is, for sure, pesticide free (plenty of bug bites on our produce) and that is where Glenda lives.  We have also purchased a pig, a lamb, and soon another pig from them.  My boys all attend the slaughter - if they can't watch it being prepared for us, they shouldn't eat it.

The farm where Glenda is takes 15 minutes to get to.  Tomorrow morning and afternoon, and Saturday afternoon I will be milking the cow for an approximate yield of 12 gallons.... the cheesing must go on!!!

Update:  "Glenda (a Holstein) dried up and we are milking Donut.  Donut is a Jersey.  My cheese production went down, as Donut gives 2 gallons per milking, just enough for consuming.  I try to cover for other people to get the extra milk, but every one is covetous of their precious spot.  Glenda, a Holstein, gave us three.  Glenda is calving in June, she will be back in production soon."

Danny's homemade press

What are you using for a press?

Not wanting to spend a small fortune on a "whim" project, I looked at the fastest, relatively affordable options.  So, I went to a lumber yard, hoping to get a small piece of maple.  The smallest piece they would sell me was 6 feet.  So, I cut out enough board to make a prototype (this one you see), and now that I am addicted, I will make a fancier one.  And as a bonus, I made a two foot long cutting board!

Where are you aging your cheeses?

That's the problem I have - finding a place to age them.  I am fortunate that for the time being, the outside temperature is 50F and I keep them in a thermo cooler box.  During the day, when it is 70-ish, I bring the thermo box in to my refrigerator...not optimum...but I am shooting from the hip, here.

I am looking around for a used fridge where I can keep the temperature around 55... but I can't stop my cheese making urges until I do... (Danny now has an old free standing freezer that cools to about 45-50F.)

6 gallons worth of cheddar in the cave

You made your own curd cutter?

I still have my prototype.  I took heavy gauge wire, notched it and strung the wire to make small squares.  It fits perfectly in my pot and a quick swirl cuts the cheese horizontally.  I then run a blade to do the vertical cuts.

On clabbered milk ...

Here's an experiment for you to try at home: grab a half gallon of store bought milk, put it in a jar and cover the lid with cloth and leave it out for a week.  I did this with raw milk and here is the results: the whey separated from the curds leaving a sour, slightly sweet smelling "cheese."  I do believe our institutions have not been very forthcoming with us.  (Needless to say, if you do this experiment, we do not recommend drinking the pasteurized milk after it has been left out!)

Ziergerkase is a whey cheese, not waxed.  The purple color you see is the result of it sitting in a wine and herb bath for five days.

Danny's website -
Instagram - @DadtheBaker

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