Say cheese! How to make organic gouda, cheddar, ricotta |

Say cheese! How to make organic gouda, cheddar, ricotta

Laura Brown
Special to The Union

Since birth, Sarah Griffin-Boubacar has loved to eat cheese. But it wasn't until about three years ago that her obsession for cheese making began.

In her home kitchen, the cheese press is the centerpiece. There are two blocks of goudas, three different types of cheddars and a mold ripened soft goat cheese called St. Maure aging for months in a special cheese fridge designed to emulate temperatures of a cheese cave.

"I've taken cheese-making to a whole new level. My husband thinks I'm crazy," said Griffin-Boubacar, store manager at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Her beginning cheese making classes at Peaceful Valley are sold-out events. Students of the class learn the fundamentals, such as the importance of using good quality, fresh milk, following a recipe, cultures and cleanliness and the basic kitchen equipment and how-tos of making easy soft cheeses, like mozzarella, feta and chèvre.

“Cheese is like children

— very easy to make but hard to bring to maturity,”

-- Cheese-makers’ adage

The class took the fear out of cheese-making for Erin Thiem, blogger and author of Outside Innside Nevada City.

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"I love learning new things. This is a really affordable option that exposed me to how really simple cheese-making can be," Thiem said. After taking the class, Thiem went home and made cheese in her own kitchen with her family.

Now Sarah Griffin-Boubacar is stepping it up a notch by offering her first intermediate class for those who have mastered the art of making soft cheeses.

From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Sept. 21, Griffin-Boubacar will teach Intermediate Cheese-Making: Introduction to Hard Cheeses.

In this class, Griffin-Boubacar will teach students how to make hard cheeses like gouda, cheddar and Swiss using both goat and cow milk. Students will get a demonstration of cutting the curd, cheese pressing and brining. They will also learn tricks for aging and waxing.

"Cheese is like children — very easy to make but hard to bring to maturity," Griffin-Boubacar quoted an old cheese-makers' adage. Her favorite cheese is brie, considered an advanced level cheese.

The first step to making good cheese is sourcing the best milk.

"If you want to make good, successful cheese, you have to use quality fresh milk. Raw milk is ideal," for the beneficial bacteria and enzymes, Griffin-Boubacar said.

Griffin-Boubacar often uses fresh goat milk. Nonhomogenized milk with the cream on top is best, such as Strauss Family Creamery. Pasteurized is OK, but ultra-pasteurized simply won't work.

"Ultra-pasteurized is dead," she said.

Artisan cheese making classes for the novice have become sought after by a growing number of home cooks in recent years. Just like home-brewed beer and sauerkraut, cheese making harkens back to ancestral food preparation skills, sometimes lost for a generation or two, now nostalgically resurrected and valued.

Nationwide, people are returning to the skills of old, taking classes that range from small community $20 affairs at local 4-H Clubs and farm supply stores to three-day intensives for cheesemongers costing more than $1,000 at the Cheese School of San Francisco.

In author Michael Pollan's book, "Cooked," he takes note of a food knowledge nearly lost to modern-day cooks.

"Today, we're apt to think of making cheese or brewing beer as 'extreme' forms of cookery, only because so few of us have ever attempted them, but of course at one time all these transformations took place in the household and everyone had at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to perform them."

Tess' Kitchen Store in Grass Valley has hosted a series of cheese making classes, as well. On Tuesday, owner Steve Rosenthal, gave ricotta cheese making demos at the Flavor of Nevada County event.

The kitchen store sells mozzarella cheese kits for home use, a variety of cheese making equipment and cheese making cookbooks. Two resident chefs work at the store and are available for consultation.

For Griffin-Boubacar, like a growing number of folks, cheese-making falls in line with her homesteading lifestyle.

She teaches canning and preserving classes, too.

"I guess I'm really into the whole self-sustainability aspect of it. It's like an art form," she said.

The cost of the intermediate cheese making class is $20 and goes directly back to supporting Griffin-Boubacar's cheese habit. She will teach her next beginners' class Nov. 16. Learn more at

Contact freelance reporter Laura Brown at or 530-913-3067.

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