Little Miss Muffet goes to School

by Jeanne

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I am an absolute freak when it comes to goats. I can’t explain it. Hearty and spunky what’s not to like, including their milk in all its forms. Be it Humboldt Fog, cajeta,  or LaLoo’s ice cream. This fascination also includes long entertained flights of fancy of becoming Little Bo Beep and having my own heard.  I’d make cheese, soap and lotions and sell it at a nearby market. And then I took a class at the newly opened Cheese School of San Francisco.

Many of you like myself will now ask why, in this city of food-crazed dwellers has there not been a formal education outlet until 2006?  It’s such a smart idea. Sure, there have been classes offered through many local cheese shops such as those taught by Judy Creighton (who is list as faculty) at Leonard’s 2000 now Cheese Plus. The cheese school, is in Russian Hill and was founded by Sara Vivenzio, who arrived in the City a year ago, after a time in NY advertising (no wonder the graphics for her school are clean and inviting), to live out cheese-filled dreams here in the land of fog and artisanal splendor. Today, she is a professional cheese monger and buyer at the nearby Cheese Plus

Now I’m not naive, but let’s just say that I was lacking in herd management knowledge. Will Edwards of Harley Farms in Pescadero led the class and focused on the flow of milk–from goat to cheese. The farm is organic and sustainable.  Little touches go a long way. The whey is feed to the goats which increases the butterfat in the cheese.

Will is absolutely passionate and enthusiastic about the goats and the cheese. He shared some of the questions that he gets during tours of the farm, ‘Which part of the goat do you use for cheese? Do you milk male goats?’ Yet another reminder of how disconnected many are from food sources.

Harley Farms was started by Yorkshire-born Dee Harley who married the owner of Durate’s Tavern–a landmark eatery, don’t miss the pie!–they settled down at his father’s 1910 farm. Will, joined shortly after things were getting a bit too productive on the farm for Dee. They do not call themselves cheese makers, the goats do the work so they wear that title. There are about 220 American Alpine goats roaming the 9-acres of coastal pasture down in Pescadero. These goats are excellent milkers. Goats need to be milked twice a day every 12 hours. This cycle produces a gallon of milk which yields one pound of cheese. Milking a goat by hand takes about 15 minutes. With a milking machine that process is seriously compressed to 3 minutes. And here’s the big surprise, in the Spring goats give birth to twins or triplets. The herd can grow to over 500! 

Will mentioned in passing that currently there are just a mere 12 farmstead cheese goat operations in the U.S.  Here’s what I can find to so far:

      1. Achadinha Farms, California
      2. Amaltheia Dairy, Montana
      3. Capriole Farms, Indiana
      4. Elk Creamery, California
      5. Harley Farms, California
      6. Haystack Farms, Colorado
      7. Bodega Goat Cheese, California
      8. Pug’s Leap, California
      9. Redwood Hill Farms, California
      10. Rollingstone Chevre, Minnesota

The Harley Farms tasting include a Monet, with fresh flowers and herbs d’ Provence, an apricot pistachio and a tomato basil.  These 4-day old chevres were not goaty in flavor.  The Monet and the tomato which was paired with a lush Stephen Vincent Merot (2003) are new favorites. We also sampled other California farmstead cheeses including, a Fiscalini 30-month bandage wrap cheddar; Bellwhether Farms San Andreas and a crottin from Redwood Hill Farms. At the end of the class we moved into the kitchen and watched Will complete the makings for fresh ricotta cheese.

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Future classes include a Pub Tasting, Cheeses of Spain and if you really want to indulge there’s a Valentine’s event with pairing bubbles and triple crèmes. Check out the schedule–there’s something for the Miss Muffet in you.  For me I’ve got to start envisioning the whole cycle of life–how did I miss that?

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