Sonoma County is well known for wine and has great restaurants, but did you know it has cheese treasures? The rolling hills and mild climate are also ideal for raising goats, cows and sheep from which amazing cheese is produced. Perhaps best known is Laura Chenel goat cheese along with the homes of Cow Girl Creamery and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in nearby Pt. Reyes Station. But many more small production cheeses are also born in this region. So much so that cheese lover's can explore firsthand farms and dairies tours along with tasting countless cheese varieties along a "cheese trail" (See cheesetrail.org for a great map of tour options).
For cheese lovers who want even more, the annual California Artisan Cheese festival is a great activity. The three day festival held each March offers farm tours, cheese centric dinners, cheese lectures and cheese making classes.
Disclosure: Samples of products discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or manufacturers.
During this year's festival, I attended a fresh mozzarella and ricotta making class by The Beverage People. Before the class I was skeptical about making cheese at home. I thought that it's easy enough to buy cheese at the store, why would I want to spend time making it myself? I already knew the answer; it is very similar to why I make my own bread and other homemade items. By making it myself I know that the freshest ingredients are used and, with a bit of practice, it will taste better than store bought. Plus, combined with my homemade pasta and vegetable garden, entire meals can now be homemade.
Granted, some cheeses are more difficult to make than others and investing the many months needed for aged cheeses may not be on my horizon. But, fresh cheeses, the focus of the class I took, are easy make. Making ricotta really only requires milk, acid and heat. Sure, you need to keep an eye on the milk as it heats, but active time is pretty low. Mozzarella requires a bit more work since the cheese needs stretching, but really that's part if the fun! I learned how to make both of these at the class which was, as with the rest of the cheese festival, fun, informative and a tasty treasure for cheese lovers.
If you're interested in making your own cheese: The Beverage People have some cheese recipes on their website and below are links to some cheese recipes available here on Project Foodie.