We attended the bread and cheese-making workshop at Bobolink Dairy in Vernon NJ. Jonathan and Nina White keep a small herd of cows, make superb raw milk cheeses and wood-fire baked breads. Link to web site at the bottom of this post.
Here's a report of the workshop:
It's more than a demo. It's an immersion into another way of life with people who are passionate and committed to their craft and family life.
Get there at 8:00am to watch the cows being milked. The milk is piped from the barn to the adjacent creamery and directly into the cheesemaking vat. Jonathan demonstrates and talks on all sorts of topics: the chemistry of the milk and lactic bacteria; advantages of using milk from grass-fed cows; production methods; state regulations; hygiene; the care and aging of cheese; equipment and the adaptations for running this small niche business; all about molds and storage. The sights, smells, and textures of the milk, curds, and whey illuminate the discussion. We visit the powerful-smelling ripening rooms and stop by the cheese shop for tasting.
We were lucky because two of the workshop participants were farmers who plan to make and sell cheese. They asked lots of technical questions that would never occur to me.
Between the cheesemaking stages we step over to the bakeyard. The domed oven is surrounded by many layers of brick. In the wee hours the baker lights a wood fire on the oven floor. When they start baking there is no longer a fire -- the heat comes off the hot bricks. When we got there the oven temp was over 600F and they were racking up baguettes. As the oven cools, they vary the types of breads. Some breads are filled with garlic or cheese. I can't describe how wonderful the bread is. Even better the next day.
Jonathan and the baker (whose name I've forgotten) describe the oven design, operation and maintenece. We each get some dough to form an epi loaf for the oven. The baker is very knowledgable and seems a contented man.
This morning workshop is packed with lessons in science, business, anthropology, problem-solving, physics, humor, animal husbandry, history, engineering, and some politics. And tastings of cheese and bread. If you go, do a little studying beforehand -- the better to benefit from Jonathan's extensive knowledge. Or just show up a blank slate, like I did.
A couple caveats: The cheese room is not a comfortable place. It's a workroom where you stand. I didn't mind the standing, because I was intensely interested.
The workshop description includes a picnic in the bakeyard. Ours was a small slice of incredibly delicious foccacia topped with cheese onion, and baked egg. Don't expect a full sit-down lunch. The 3+ hours of demo and discussion are well worth the $40 fee.