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Thursday, July 3,2014

A little cheesy

Boulder’s craft cheesemaking scene is small, but growing

By Kristen Kuchar
Kristen Kuchar
When the Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy opened in 1989, no one was really making cheese in Colorado, according to John Scaggs, the dairy’s director of sales and marketing.

“Specialty food was in the prenatal stages in Colorado,” Scaggs says.

What started out as one simple, fresh chevre sold at farmers’ markets, developed into cheeses being herbcoated, marinated and smoked, winning national attention by snagging awards with the American Cheese Society. Queso de Mano, “A Cheese Named Sue,” Red Cloud and Green Chile Jack are some of the recent winners.

Haystack Mountain went on to form a partnership with Colorado Correctional Industries. The inmates run the dairy farm that produces the milk for Haystack’s cheeses. With the program, all of the money stays in the state, plus it equips released inmates with a plethora of job skills, including engineering and animal care.

The mastermind behind the cheese itself is Jackie Chang. Amongst others, she’s responsible for Alpine Wall Street Gold (named after the mining area just west of Boulder), which has a deep meaty flavor after being aged for one year.

Scaggs says with Chang’s talent, Haystack Mountain Dairy will continue to expand, “break the mold” and diversify what they are offering, a desire that is evident in Bufala Soldier, a Camembert style cheese with water buffalo cream, milk from Aurora Organic Dairy and goat milk.

“She’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to work here,” Scaggs says.  “Her passion and integrity really resonated with me.”

But the concept of being passionate about farming and cheesemaking wasn’t isolated to Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy.

Kate Johnson’s long-time passion and dream of living on a farm lead to the leap of moving her family from the suburbs to a five-acre farm in Boulder County, known as Briar Gate Farm.

Her first dairy goat, a Nubian doe named Skittles, is what inspired her to start making cheese six years ago. She entered cheeses at the Boulder County Fair and won a champion ribbon with for a chevre with kalamata olives.

After one of the judges asked Johnson to teach her how make the cheese, she invited a small to the house.

“Word got out and pretty soon others were asking me to teach, and it just sort of took off,” Johnson says.

She took a more advanced cheese making course with Vermont cheesemakers and continues to teach cheese making classes at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, The Cheese Importers in Longmont, Mary’s Market & Deli in Hygiene, for the City of Longmont at the Rec Center and Izaak Walton Clubhouse, and private classes in homes.

She makes all types of soft cheeses including mozzarella, ricotta, burrata, brie, camembert and gorgonzola. Teaching classes on making hard cheeses is one of Johnson’s favorites, since people assume it’s very difficult, she says. Students learn how to wax a wheel of cheese and to make a “no-cost” cheese press. They also learn which milks work best for which cheeses, where to get good milks locally and how to make great cheese with little equipment.

“Making cheese is one of those things that is sort of mysterious, and people get so excited when they learn how easy and accessible it can actually be,” Johnson says.

Moving forward, she is currently raising money for The Art of Cheese, a brick-and-mortar location for all of this cheese-making goodness. In addition to the classes, there will be cheese-making kits, artistic cheeserelated items made by Johnson or local artists such as cheese plates, trays, knives, goat milk soaps and possibly other Colorado-made cheeses. She’ll also be producing specialty in-house cheeses for the upcoming Modena Wine Café in Longmont.

Johnson was not the only one who discovered people didn’t only want to eat cheese, but they also wanted to learn how to make it.

The Lyons Farmette came to be when Betsy Burton and her husband Mike bought the four-acre farm that is now a Boulder County gem for farm dinners and beautiful outdoor events. When Burton realized that people wanted to learn how to keep bees, maintain a garden and other farm-life tasks, a variety of classes developed, including classes on how to make cheese.

Since the goats were already there, it only seemed natural to her.

“I thought it would be cool to milk the goats and start making cheese,” Burton says.

Burton turned to Hilary Van Dusen, an “amazing cheese instructor” by Burton’s regards. Van Dusen teaches the cheese making classes from early spring until fall a few times per year.

The beginner class usually draws home cooks and those simply interested in the “farm” lifestyle. Burton says that the classes are well-received, and everyone seems to have a great time making cheeses, including ricotta and mozzarella.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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