Love cheese? Learn how it’s made (or make your own) at these Colorado creameries.
LONGMONT — On a cold winter afternoon, I drove to an industrial park near the railroad tracks in Longmont and pulled up to Haystack Mountain’s newest creamery facility. Operations were closed on a Sunday, but the company’s “cheese education center” was in full swing. I stepped through the heavy doors for a two-hour Cheesemaking Made Easy class taught by Kate Johnson, a local dairy-goat farmer, award-winning cheese-maker and founder of The Art of Cheese, which offers regular classes.
My fellow students arrived, and we washed our hands and then seated ourselves around a long classroom table. About a dozen of us went around the room, saying our names, whether or not we’ve made cheese before and, to the delight of everyone in the room, our favorite cheese.
“My favorite cheese is Parmesan,” one said. “Mine is Swiss,” said another. “Feta,” declared one.
“Mmmm, ohhhhhh,” everybody responded in unison as each person declared their top choice.
The Art of Cheese is one of the most active such schools in the country and has an impressive offering of classes. The offerings include everything from one-hour demos to three-hour farm-to-table classes at her small goat farm, to two- and three-day boot camps that include visits to Longmont’s cheesiest destinations — namely, Haystack Mountain, a local goat-cheese success story, and the Cheese Importers, a family-owned shop and bistro in downtown Longmont that has built a reputation for offering a touch of Europe on the Front Range.
Johnson began the class with a batch of ricotta which, she said, would surprise us because it’s so easy to make. “After we make this batch, you’ll never buy ricotta again,” she said.
Sure enough, to make ricotta, all she did was pour ¼-cup of apple cider vinegar into a hot (precisely 185 degrees Fahrenheit) gallon of whole, store-bought cow’s milk. Then she asked one of the participants to come up and scoop the newly formed curds out from the liquid whey. As Johnson poured the fresh ricotta atop a lump of salted butter to melt it, the class let out another cheese-gasmic, “Ohhhhh.”
“Brilliant!” shouted a man from Boulder. More laughter filled the room as we passed around the final product, spooning out warm ricotta onto pieces of bread, topped with honey, and prepared to make more cheese.
Next up was a 30-minute mozzarella lesson, followed by burrata, a “soft stretched-curd pouch filled with pieces of mozzarella, a mascarpone-butter mixture, or ricotta,” as my recipe handout sheet explained. Or, as Johnson said, “cheese stuffed into more cheese.”
If you go:
The Art of Cheese offers two-hour hands-on classes, as well as multi-day boot camps. Classes are held at 505 Weaver Park Road, Longmont. 303-579-9537, theartofcheese.com
Cheese Importers Fromagerie and Bistro in Longmont is open daily. 103 Main St., 303-772-9599, cheeseimporters.com
Haystack Mountain offers private, one-hour, behind-the-scenes creamery tours to the public, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Book at haystackgoatcheese.com; $10 per person.
Elsewhere around Colorado:
Western Culture Creamery will offer cheese-making classes starting July 8. After taking a dozen classes with The Art of Cheese, Suanne Miller bought a herd of dairy goats and moved to Paonia, where she and her husband have started the Creamery. westernculturefarmstead.com
The Mountain Goat Lodge in Salida is a bed and breakfast with the chance to make cheese right on the farm. mountaingoatlodge.com