Australia to Texas – Learning Cheesemaking Skills

Reader Contribution by Jim Christie

One of the challenges we have in making the migration (other than the very obvious issue of trying to manage various activities from 10,000 miles away) is that neither of us have any current skills in homesteading. We definitely want to learn about making cheese and keeping bees (we’ll add others as we find them and get interested in them).

Recently, we had a really fun weekend workshop at the Red Hill Cheese Company on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. Along with 9 other (much more highly qualified) students, we are now tending the following cheeses:

1. A pressed mountain-style goat cheese. This is a young-matured, semi-hard nutty cheese. We’ve just taken the cheese from the brine ande it is drying overnight. We’ll be working with this cheese over the next 3 weeks to get it good and matured.
2. A goat cheese ricotta – made from the whey from the cheese above. It was ready to eat immediately and we had some of it with our dinner last night. Terrific!
3. A soft washed rind goat cheese. That cheese is draining overnight and I’ve made up a brine to soak it in tomorrow morning early. It’ll take another week or so before it is ready to try.
4. A traditional farmhouse goat cheese. This variety could be eaten as early as tomorrow, but we’ll let it mature for a week or so until the rind develops at which point we’ll coat with herbs or ash (maybe both as we have a number of these).

Great fun and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Our experience was really enhanced because everyone else in the class had great experience, either in making cheese, in making other types of foods, wines, etc. Or were farmers with a great knowledge of similar skills. It’s great to learn not only from the instructor (the founder of the Red Hill Cheese Company and intensely knowledgeable) but also from our fellow students and we hope to maintain close contact with all as we apply our skills.

Over the next week, we’ll compliment the equipment and supplies we already have with additional items, select a few recipes and give those a try perhaps next weekend so that we can immediately take what we’ve learned (while being helped every step of the way) and applying that knowledge without outside help. Hopefully most, if not all, of what we do will be edible so that we can continue to refine our skills to the point where we can produce a few very nice products for our own consumption and perhaps the enjoyment of others as well.

The following pictures show our group along with some of the activities we undertook over the past couple of days.  By the way, that’s me on the far right and my wife Julie next to me holding a sample of our work.  Lovely hats, don’t you think?

If any of you have some nifty crafts and skills that you’ve developed in conjunction with or in preparation for your move from city to country, please comment and we’ll all profit by your experience.

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