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Thursday, April 16, 2015

S.F.'s 'Milk Maid' Wants to Help You Make Cheese

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge LOUELLA HILL
  • Louella Hill

Louella Hill was on a break from college, working at an agriturismo in Tuscany, when the neighboring farm needed help. It turned out to be a sheep dairy.

"The moment I walked into that milking parlor and saw the muddy backsides of those Sarda sheep, I knew it was destiny," she writes.
Hill, a San Francisco resident who regularly teaches how to make cheese at locations throughout the Bay Area under the moniker the Milk Maid, has now put her knowledge into book form, in Kitchen Creamery: Making Yogurt, Butter & Cheese at Home (Chronicle Books) with photographs by Erin Kunkel.

If you’re the type to ferment your own sauerkraut or brew your own beer, or even if you’re not but have been thinking about trying, making your own dairy products is probably the next step.

At first skim, reading about Hill’s own cheese caves in her San Francisco garage does sound a bit daunting. But on a closer read, Hill writes, “remember everything seems complex from afar. This wonderful, once very common craft can, before long, be pleasantly woven into your weekend afternoons. It may soon be as old at as kneading dough for a loaf of bread or coaxing egg whites into a meringue.”

Hill breaks down all the pertinent info about sanitization, exactly what equipment you need – it turns out a large pot and good thermometer are the most essential – the different types of milks available, and what kind of cheeses they may yield.

The recipes are organized from simple to advanced, with the first chapter discussing cultured milk and cream, and includes recipes for yogurts and sour cream, for example. Beginning cheeses include things like ricotta, paneer and feta. Then she continues on, going over washed-curd cheeses, washed-rind cheeses, mold-ripened, cheddar-style, stretched-curd and pressed and aged. She also discusses best practices for storage.

Of course a book like this has a large resources section, definitely necessary since some recipes call for things like prehydrated mesophilic cultures, prehydrated thermophilic cultures and lipase, not exactly things you can find at your regular market.

This is definitely the kind of book for those who like to geek out on their kitchen projects, but with prices being what they are for artisan cheese, maybe it’s high time you give making your own a try? With the Milk Maid to hold your hand while doing so, it may not be as hard as you think.

Louella Hill will be at the Booksmith, S.F. at 7:30 p.m. on April 22. To find out about her classes, visit her site.
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About The Author

Alix Wall

Alix Wall

Alix Wall is an Oakland-based freelance writer and certified natural foods chef. Her web site is


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