July 24, 2010
We left the fog of San Francisco behind–hooray!–and headed north to Point Reyes Station for sun, cows, and a cheese class at Cowgirl Creamery. We were looking forward to visiting the “mother ship” of one of our favorite cheeses–Mt. Tam.
Cowgirl Creamery’s operation is located at Tomales Bay Foods, just off the main drag in Point Reyes Station. Inside, one can look through large windows to view the cheesemaking process. We arrived around 11 am, and watched the curds coagulating in a large vat. We then watched as the cheesemakers poured large buckets of curds and whey into cheese forms. This procedure went on for some time, but our class began and drew our attention away.
The class and tasting was informative. We learned about the history of farming in the Point Reyes area, Cowgirl Creamery’s start and their ongoing relationship with the local dairy farmers. This was interesting history, but did not entertain the children under 10-years-old who attended the class.
We then had a table-top demonstration of cheesemaking. Our class instructor started with a bucket of fresh whole milk, warmed from the pasteurization process. Jacob poured in the rennet and we watched as the milk coagulated into a pudding-like substance. (A lot of rennet was used to speed up coagulation). The curds were first cut broadly into large chunks and scooped into a mold. The cheese looked a lot like tofu at this stage. For a second sample, the curds were cut again into smaller bits and placed into a separate mold. Both molds were left to drain while we began our tasting. This was a fun, illustrative science experiment and both samples were turned out of their molds and examined after the tasting.
We tasted the whole range of Cowgirl Creamery’s products that were available. Some products are seasonal, so those were not available for tasting. We tried the Clabbered Cottage Cheese, Fromage Blanc (nice and light, similar to cream cheese), Creme Fraiche, Panir (excellent, yet availability limited to their San Francisco and Point Reyes Station stores), Mt. Tam, St. Pat’s, Inverness, Red Hawk and Wagon Wheel (a firm cheese still in development).
Our visit was fun. The 1-hour class was just the right amount of time for my two kids (ages 11 and 12). We enjoyed the education, the cheesemaking demonstration, and tasting Cowgirl Creamery’s products. Our class cost $5/person with registration made a few weeks in advance.