wild and Raw
When I started making cheese, I didn't know what I didn't know. All I knew was I needed to find a bulk supply of milk, and then someone to teach me how to make a wheel and age it. But the true magic of the cheesemaking was beyond my comprehension until I was well into the process.
Honestly, I was becoming discouraged. Soon after I realized the difficulty of finding beautiful, raw milk suitable for making cheese, I came to another daunting conclusion. There was no compelling reason to copy the authentic, existing cheeses already made so well by others. Produce a less interesting replica of Stilton? Not very inspiring to me! When I was learning to paint, copying the Mona Lisa was considered a good exercise, but not the basis of artistry. I found this even more true about making cheese—an effort that would eventually involve starting a herd, setting up an expensive workspace, then turning and brushing aging wheels for months on end.
Fortunately, just as my resolve began to wane, I traveled to Vermont to work with master cheesemakers Peter Dixon and Rachel Schaal at Parish Hill Creamery. During their class on Artisan Cheesemaking, they let the genie out of the bottle! My backyard, plus microbe-rich raw milk combined with wild starter-cultures propagated from my own herd's milk, would allow me too make cheeses uniquely representative of my animals, my property, and my practices: original cheeses.
This freedom transformed my role as a cheesemaker. Instead of working to replicate an industry-determined "Standard of Identity" for a pre-existing cheese—say, Gouda—I could instead embark on a creative journey of discovery. My own cheese was out there somewhere waiting to be found in the grasses of my fields, in the raw milk produced by my animals, and in the elbow-grease applied in my make-room. How fantastic was that!
I'll try to put it all into words, but, better yet, come and taste the cheese!