Julie Cascio, left, with cheese-making students at a workshop recently in Kodiak. Kayla Desroches/KMXT photos
If you’ve ever wanted to make cheese – it’s not as hard as you think. That’s what Roxie Dinstel tells her students.
Melty or globby, liquid or solid, it all works.
Dinstel is part of the Fairbanks branch of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service, an educational organization with UAF that reaches out to Alaskan communities.
She and two of her colleagues taught a class all about cheese last Wednesday night at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center.
Roxie Dinstel of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service.
“Queso fresco is a curded cheese,” Dinstel says. “And in that particular case you use a combination of milk and buttermilk. And the reason we use buttermilk is ‘cause it’s acidic. Then you add to it vinegar, and so that vinegar, again, causes the separation of the curd and causes those milk solids to clump together.
“So it’s then heated to a certain temperature. We have the curd and it separates. And then you use rennet, an enzyme, to harden those curds. And then you use a colander and a cheese cloth, or a nylon net, to separate it. Get rid of the excess whey. And then in that particular case, all you do is add salt for flavor.”
Autumn Hanson, a student at the class, says that waiting for the milk to boil can be a little time-consuming.
“But otherwise, it’s been pretty easy,” she says. “I tried to make it at home once and it turned out more like jello. So maybe this one turns out a little better.”
If it doesn’t, Dinstel says it’s okay if your cheese is more soupy than solid. It’s still workable.
“You never have a failure with cheese,” says Dinstel. “You may have just invented a new cheese.”
Julie Cascio works at the Extension office in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. She says the cheese classes began with cow-shares in Mat-Su. People can’t legally buy raw, un-pasteurized milk in Alaska for health reasons. But they can contribute to a cow’s upkeep in exchange for part of the milk it produces.
“So knowing that in the Mat-Su, some of this is happening and you get more milk than your family can drink in the time before the milk goes bad. I thought, well, let’s offer some cheese classes,” says Cascio.
Agents from the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service also offer classes in dial gauge testing, yogurt making, and pickling.