Monday, October 12, 2015

Cheese Making With Maya Zelkin

Russellville Schoolhouse in Shrewsbury, VT
On a beautiful day in September Scott and I attended Intermediate Cheese Making with Maya Zelkin, Potter and Cheesemaker in Shrewsbury, VT. The class was given at the Russellville Schoolhouse, built in 1859 and bought by Joan Aleshire recently to be used for meetings, workshops and community enterprises.  SAGE - Shrewsbury Institute for Agricultural Education uses it for their many events and classes (
We made butter, fromage blanc, feta, yougurt (plain & Greek) and creme fraiche.
We separated out the heavy cream and light cream first from the local raw milk. With the heavy cream we made butter and creme fraiche. The butter was churned in an old fashioned jar with wooden paddles. It took over 2 hours of slowly turning the crank. The creme fraiche was made by adding a starter culture and letting it sit at a correct temperature for 12 hours and then hanging it to remove as much liquid as you want. Obviously we couldn't do the whole thing and that was also true of the feta cheese and yougurt. We made yougurt and then Maya brought out yougurt made the day before which she showed how to make strain through cheesecloth and strainer to make Greek yougurt. With the feta cheese we went through the whole process including cutting the curds and hanging it to strain. Most of these products take 12 hours or more to finish but we learned a lot about the process in the 3 hours of the class.

This is the text book that Maya recommends and the catalogue
for supplies.

Four gallon jars of local raw milk line up ready
for us to transform them

You can see the cream line in the jar. The heavy cream is on the
very top, then the light cream and then the skim milk. This is
what it looks like if not homogenized. 

Maya takes out the churn top which will make
the butter. The wooden paddles don't hold the
butter when you remove it. 

Sophie Broll churns the butter - it took over 2

I'm skimming off the heavy cream for the butter

Everyone helped as it was tiring after awhile.
Saoirse Wellenius churns while Sophie waits for
another turn.

The heating cream needs to be agitated so as not to burn - Al
Petrauskas lifts the ladle up and down gently. Large amounts are
done on the stove.

It's actually easier to bring the milk up to temperature, in this
case for the yougurt, in a hot water bath (for smaller quantities).

A lot of people took extensive notes. Here; Sarah, Skip Zaremba,
Taffy Hyyppa, Carol Trueheart, Al & Jane Petrauskas

The already completed yougurt is being put in cheesecloth and
drained to make Greek Yougurt

Here it is hanging up to drain. Once in a while to
get it moving better you can scrape along the
cheesecloth to unclog. The cooler is to keep the
yougurt at a constant temperature while it sets.

Maya tied the bundle with a chopstick to hang it with

Jenny looks over the textbook while the kids take a break

Saoirse dishes out some fromage blanc to taste
for Fitz Wellenius and Iris Zelkin look on

Finally the butter appears in the jar!

Maya drains the buttermilk off and squeezes the butter
together with Al and Scott looking on

Saoirse washes the butter and squeezes it to remove the buttermilk

The completed sweet butter!

We cut the curds in the feta cheese with a knife in 3/4 inch

The completed cubed feta is then drained and when that is
finished, salted. That takes too much time for us to observe.

The school house main room with the old chalk board and
Skip and Jane 

Our terrific instructor Maya Zelkin