We first heard from Freda last December when she sent us a lovely note:
My cheeses will be for Christmas gifts. Thank you so much for having all the things I need. I started with you a ton of years ago and didn’t make cheese for over 10 years as I had a room mate who didn’t like anything I did. I am on my own and that feels great! I am now using my food dryer, and all 5 cheese presses.
That’s a lot of presses! When asked for clarification, she told us she has 4 small presses and one large one. That way she can make large or small cheeses from the 5 or 6 gallons of milk she starts with. The food dryer is for her tomatoes, herbs, and fruits. She also dries marigolds for dyeing yarn. (Freda is a spinner and weaver, teaching weaving at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.
|Photo from Jennifer Brandes at “Reflections in the Window“|
How did you get started making cheese?
I started making cheese some 40 years ago, when I lived in the country, and getting milk from a local farmer was no bother. Now, here in NY you can’t get raw milk, the farmers would face a large fine. So, I use milk from the store. I buy 4 gallons, a quart of buttermilk, and use the mesophilic starter and liquid rennet from you.
After straining the curds, I salt them, and some times add dill, then pack it into my four small presses, or all into my large press. I press for 24 hours, then salt, and air dry for several days. I then wax them, and age them for 1-4 months, turning them every day.
|Two of Freda’s four one-gallon presses|
|Her larger, three to four gallon press|
I just cut into one I made six weeks ago and gave half to my doctor, she was overjoyed! I love making cheese, every other month or so. I share it with friends, and enjoy it myself.
|Dill cheese made from three gallons of milk|
|Freda’s homemade cheese with crackers|
Do you make cheese at the museum?
We make cheese at the museum but we don’t wax it, so it is rather hard. I don’t make the cheese, the cooks do. I did cook, on the open hearth for several years, and on a wood stove for another year, I even did a week long, boy’s cooking class. We planked a fish, made noodles, breads, cookies, cakes, stew, and candied flowers to decorate the cakes. We now have a man do that class and I do the weaving classes for kids and adults.
|Aging cave at the museum. Photo from Jennifer Brandes at “Reflections in the Window“|
|Cook adding rennet|
I started weaving at 8 years old, and studied textiles in college. I learned to spin in college and dye yarn. I learned other textile crafts after college.
The next adult class will be the first three weekends in May, Sat and Sun, 10-4. Beginners will make a warp, dress a loom and weave 2 scarfs or a set of place mats. Advanced students will pick a double weave, overshot or rug to weave.
|Freda’s naturally dyed wool rug|
|Freda’s mohair shawl with natural dyes|