"Dad! Guess what? Mom emailed the man who writes the stories about cheese in his book, and you know what? He sent her a knitting pattern to make cheesecloth!"
About six weeks ago, while we were cooking dinner, Wyatt said, "Mom. How do you make blue cheese?" I provided a vague description. He quickly exposed my lack of knowledge by asking me "Why?" and "How?" a couple of times, at which point I admitted we'd have to look up how they make it. Wyatt then said, "Well, I want to learn how to make cheese." I responded that we had already made it, by making cottage cheese and cream cheese. He gave me a somewhat withering look and said, "I want to make cheese like Andy gives us at Rainbow."
It would be amazing to make cheese like Andy gives us at Rainbow. So I asked around about classes for kids (no luck) and started researching cheesemaking books.
The day before we left for Massachusetts, the book I had chosen for our adventure in cheesemaking, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, by David Asher (published by Chelsea Green) arrived. After reading the introduction, I decided that Wyatt and I are not just going to dabble in cheese from this book. We are instead going to "Julie and Julia" The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. Yesterday, I emailed the author, David Asher, to let him know:
I plan to chronicle [my four-year old son's and my] cheesemaking adventures [on my blog], giving you appropriate credit. I want to support your work, help bring awareness to your approach, and I want you to sell millions of copies of your book. Would you be okay with my writing about what we're doing and how we're doing it...Or what are your thoughts around how you'd prefer I approach this project?
I was not expecting to hear back from David quickly (or at all, really), but he wrote back within the hour. As it turns out, he has also been to Rainbow several times and thinks that we've totally got this:
[I] was just [at Rainbow] a couple of weeks ago, perusing the cheese selection. And, yes, I can tell you and Wyatt that with good milk, kefir and the right touch you can make cheese just as good if not better than what's in their display! I'd love to see a chronicle of your experiences with the book...Just be sure to acknowledge me and Chelsea Green. And also, take very nice photos to show how good your cheeses look!
We've got access to great milk, we keep and use kefir grains already, and we'll look to cultivate the right touch for cheese. Also, I'm all about giving credit where credit is due, and bad food pictures depress me. So I think we are good to go.
But there's more! David also loves knitting. He sent me his draft pattern for a knitted du-rag he likes to use for hanging cheese. The pattern uses 500 yards or so of sport linen yarn on size 2 needles, so it will take me awhile. Nevertheless, as I told him, knitting cheesecloth seems infinitely more doable to me than sourcing my own rennet from the fourth stomach of a freshly slaughtered calf (a recipe for which is also included in his book).
Wyatt's and my first project* was to make crème fraîche. Here's how we did it:
First, we poured a pint of cream into a mason jar, and then we added some kefir grains. We covered the jar loosely with the lid and put it out of direct sunlight on the kitchen counter. After about a day, we strained the thickened cream from the grains. Easy! Making the blueberry buckle was actually way more difficult than making crème fraîche.
As is often the case when it comes to food, Wyatt was right. Crème fraîche, especially homemade, is even better than sour cream.
*We make kefir already, and the recipe in David's book is the same as the one we use daily, so we skipped that one.