By Nikki Gardner
Last December, I called the good folks at Upinngil Farm to ask if I could sit in on one of their artisan cheesemaking workshops. Cliff Hatch, who runs the 100-acre farm alongside his small crew, said “yes.”
On a sundrenched Saturday morning, I walk into the white-walled dairy room dressed in a chef’s jacket and hairnet, ready to learn the secret behind their notable Upinnzellar (Swiss-style) cheese. Within minutes I discover that cheesemaking is both an act of passion and gentle technique. As it goes in most kitchens and science labs, temperature and method matter.
Cliff pours raw milk into the 60-gallon cheese kettle to warm before adding the culture. The Farm’s Ayrshire cattle produce high-protein medium-fat raw milk fit for cheese production. Two hours later, the rennet is stirred in. Once the curd sets, it is cut into uniform cubes then stirred and cooked for another hour and a half. The curd is done when it can be formed into a ball. Curds and whey are separated with cheesecloth. Drained curds go into a cheese mold before they are covered and pressed overnight.
The next morning, the cheese is removed from the mold. Cliff coats the cheese with dry salt and lets it sit before the cheese is wrapped and placed in a two-door “cheese cave” to age for three to six months. After a day spent at Upinngil, I understand the craft behind their cheeses, and feel lucky for both the knowledge and company.
Upinngil Farm, 411 Main Rd., Gill
Farm Store, open daily, 8am to 7pm
Clifford Hatch can be reached at 413-863-2297
Check Upinngil.com for detailed information about upcoming cheesemaking workshops. Currently scheduled:
Soft and fresh cheeses for beginners on April 11
Hard, pressed and aged cheeses on April 25
Nikki Gardner is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Artful Blogging, The Huffington Post, Smithsonian’s Food & Think, and The Daily Meal. She shares seasonal vegan and vegetarian recipes on WWLP’s Mass Appeal and in her cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Northampton. Find her online at Art & Lemons, where she chronicles everyday life in food, photos, and stories.