The Art and Science of Cheesemaking
by Linda Freeman
After a very busy weekend at Trinity Church’s Girlfriends Conference 2017, I got on an airplane and flew out to Walla Walla, Washington with my friends, professional chefs, Donna Caudill and Grace Low to visit Monteillet Fromagerie. Founded by Pierre-Louis and Joan Monteillet 20 years ago, Monteillet Fromagerie was the first farmstead artisanal cheese facility in the Walla Walla Valley of Southeastern Washington.
This visit is the first stop on our journey to Cambodia this month to continue work on the Eco-farming project with Cambodian Care Ministries. I met Joan Monteillet by phone in September 2016 after returning from Cambodia. I was trying to connect with someone who could teach us more about goat farming and making goat cheese. Joan and her husband, Pierre-Louis took an interest in our Cambodia project and offered to give us an intensive class in cheesemaking, focusing on low-tech techniques we can use in rural Cambodia.
Cheesemaking is an art and a science. I’m not much of a cook but I do understand science. So much of what we learned yesterday from pasteurizing to adding enzymes to filling the molds reminded of my days in chemical engineering classes/lab. There is so much biology and chemistry embedded in the cheesemaking process.
Did I mention animal husbandry? We are making cheese from a blend of goat milk and sheep milk. If the animals are not healthy, the milk won’t be good and the cheese won’t be good either. Joan and Pierre-Louis have spent a lot of time talking to us about the animals and how they take care of them. It’s just plain honest, hard work filled with their love of farming.
The art of cheesemaking is a creative process of perfecting the flavor, texture, and presentation of the cheese. During our break time yesterday, we sampled a variety of Monteillet Fromagerie’s cheeses. We tried to decide which was our favorite, but couldn’t.
Everything we ate was amazing. I hope this visit to Monteillet Farm is just our first! I think we have made life-long friends in Joan and Pierre-Louis who will continue to encourage in our work in Cambodia.
By the way, here is a short video produced by Trinity Church for the Girlfriends Conference summarizing the ideas behind my work in Cambodia and at home with the Trinity Urban Garden and urban beekeeping:
(Photo credits: Grace Low, Monteillet Frimagerie, January 2017)