Sunday, December 7, 2014

Intensive Cheesemaking at Oakland IUH

Feta Curds draining overnight in Cheesecloth
Feta curds draining
Ruby stretches Mozzarella
Ruby stretches Mozzarella
Anyone near the San Francisco Bay Area who is looking for a cheese making class is fortunate to have an excellent option in Oakland. The Institute of Urban Homesteading (IUH) offers a range of cheese and milk product courses that are an exceptional value and experience. Cheesemaking 101, 102 and 103 each cover a specific range of practically produced cheeses.  I took a weekend intensive which distills all three courses into two mentally and physically gratifying days. The course instructor, and overall guiding spirit of the Institute, is K. Ruby Blume, a person who, without question, embodies what she believes.  She is the essence of capability.

Ruby's stake in urban homesteading began with bees. Sparkybeegirl, her alter ego, makes an exquisite Mead, or Honey Wine, from her own hives. It’s not surprising, then, that Ruby’s cheese making class was a model of busy but focused project management.  By Sunday afternoon we completed ten cheese and milk related products, most of which we delightfully consumed with a closing feast. As outlined in its Mission Statement, a fundamental goal of the Institute is “to make what we present simple and digestible— to give you enough information and hands-on experience to get started on your own the very next day.”

Cheese Class Feast
Cheese Class Feast
True to that end, Ruby’s approach was concise, engaged and memorable. We started learning about the magic of milk cultures by making yogurt, then built on that process as we progressed through Feta, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Camembert and even butter.  All the while, Ruby demonstrated, encouraged and explained what we needed to experiment and succeed on our own. It’s hard to imagine there could be a better bargain for this type of instruction anywhere else in the Bay Area.

Classes at the Institute of Urban Homesteading are added regularly but fill up quickly.  As an appetizer before a live class, consider getting Ruby’s book, Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living, which she co-authored with Rachel Kaplan. However you choose to take the cheese making classes with Ruby, either individually or in an intensive weekend,  you are bound to gain an appreciation and capability that will enhance the rest of your life.