Here’s an excerpt from an in-depth feature from Tara Duggan and the San Francisco Chronicle on making cheese at home. Click through to the Chronicle for details on equipment, recipes and procedures.
As you approach the home of Louella Hill, otherwise known as the Milk Maid, the vintage metal milk can on the front porch clears away any doubt that you’ve found the right place.
Hill, who left behind a cheese-making business in Rhode Island when her life brought her to San Francisco, now teaches cheese making to beginners.
She’s a busy woman. Hill leads sold-out workshops at the Cheese School of San Francisco and recently taught the first-ever cheese-making class at Berkeley’s 40-year-old Cheese Board Collective. Just like canning and beekeeping before it, cheese making is the latest way for urban dwellers to connect to a lost rural past and to skills that were once commonplace.
“We’re sort of taking away the smoke screen. With jam, you might have a fruit tree down the street, but it’s harder to get milk,” said Hill, who trained at farms in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany in Italy, where she says she “fell in love with the magic of cheese.”
Hill urges beginners to start with simple fresh cheeses like chevre, ricotta, paneer and fromage blanc, which don’t require much in the way of specialty equipment or skill.
They are ideal choices for spring, when you can get fresh goat milk and may pick up the flavor of green grasses in the milk of pastured cows. And since the basic process for making fresh cheese is the first step for aged or bloomy-rind cheeses, it’s a good way to test the waters on a new food craft.
Mary Karlin, a Bay Area cooking teacher and author of “Artisan Cheese Making at Home,” says that students often arrive at classes wanting to make stretched mozzarella or Gorgonzola, but need a few building blocks first. Her new online cheese-making course on the Craftsy website complements her classes.
“People find it so intriguing,” Karlin says. “They love cheese, and they want to know more. They say, ‘Really, I could do this?’ ”