Monday, February 14, 2011

Cheese, Cheese, and Texas Cheese

The first time I can recall really appreciating cheese as something special was when I tried the fresh goat cheese in the remote sierra rancherías of Baja California. I met the goats, I patted the dog that guarded them, and I was able to interview some of the people at length. I wrote about that in my memoir, Miraculous Air (it's available from Milkweed Editions in a paperback edition). And now that I have taken Colette "Madam de Fromage" Hatch's excellent French Cheese seminar, well... it has become a fascinating subject, this humble and ancient food that, it turns out, has infinite layers of complexity and quality. (Translation: DOWN with Kraft squares!) I recently had the chance, while on a sojourn in Texas, to mosey on over to the Southwest Dairy Museum (pictured above) in Sulphur Springs. It's a charming little museum, mainly serving local school children. Especially charming: the displays with antique machinery (butter churners, cheese presses, cream separators, tins, etc) donated by local farm families. It was impressive to see how dairy production has developed just in my lifetime. I remember, when I was a kid, seeing the glass bottles left on the doorstep by the milkman. People my parents age will remember the wagon drawn by horses. Now we all drive over to Wal-Mart and pick up some pasteurized-to-zip nonfat "milk" that, nutritionally, resembles raw milk from grass-fed cattle as a Twinky resembles Grandma's crumbcake. When I think about the hormones and antibiotics and GM corn fed to cattle in large-scale commercial operations... um, actually, let's not think about that.

Another thing that has struck me is the increasing number of artisanal cheesemakers in the U.S. with with websites varying from pedestrian to superb. A few even offer on-line shopping.

Herewith some notable websites for Texas artisanal cheesemakers:

Pure Luck
And they offer cheesemaking workshops.

Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese
Raw milk!

Brazos Valley Cheese

Haute Goat Creamery
In Lubbock. Their "story" and the pages about the goats are very fun.

Latte Da Dairy
Goat cheese, and more about LaManchans (no ears) and Nubians (all ears).

Veldhuizen Texas Farmhouse Cheese
I've tried their cheeses... a-ma-zing!

Plus, check out:

Brief video on artisanal cheesemaking on "Cooking Up a Story"

News from the Cheese Caves: Artisanal Premium Cheese Blog
Check out: How Much Cheese Can I Eat?

Cheese Underground Blog
By confessed "cheese geek" Jeanne Carpenter

Rivers Edge Chevre
Goat cheese from Oregon

More anon.