What could be better than to be a cheese maker in Wine Country?!
Susan Olson is a financial advisor at a company called Abacus Wealth Partners, a nationwide financial planning and asset management firm.
believes in the concept of abundance. Growing and making her own food is a big part of
that. In fact, this year her clients around the country will be getting a jar of her
blackberry jam for the holidays!
I asked her if she lives on a farm…
I grow most of our produce, year-round. I have an orchard with about 25 trees/vines, a massive wild blackberry patch, an herb garden, and about 12 raised beds for vegetables. I’ve attached my orchard plan so you can see the variety (below). I have some baby olive trees, a bunch of citrus in large pots, and another apple elsewhere, but the plan shows most of my fruit trees.
I don’t have any milking animals so I usually trade my produce for goat milk from friends nearby. People trade a lot for meat, eggs, goat milk, and produce in my area. Cow’s milk is harder to get without buying a share, so I usually buy organic milk for cheese from Trader Joe’s or at a locally owned market.
Susan was kind enough to write her story for us:
Since I was a little girl, I think I’ve been a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love gardening, knitting, spinning, weaving, cooking, and canning. I have experimented with other fermented foods, including pickles and sauerkraut, and every week I make a large batch of ginger kombucha. I recently perfected true sourdough bread and given my love of cheese, I thought I’d give it a try as well. I live in Sonoma County’s wine country, so why not fill out the picnic basket with a good goat cheese?
I started making chevre and quick mozzarella with good success, probably because the necessity for sanitation is a bit less crucial. The most surprising thing for me about cheese making was that it is much more like chemistry than cooking. I’m a great cook, but I mostly wing it after getting inspired by something I ate in a restaurant or looking at a recipe. In fact, I require that my cookbooks have pictures because that is what makes me want to cook.
Given my “pinch of this” and “plop of that” approach to cooking, the exactitudes of cheese making sometimes get me into trouble. But I’m learning to be more precise and get the basics down, with increasing success. I’m famous for spending money on my hobbies, so I’ve strived to keep costs down with my cheese venture. A friend gave me an old dorm fridge that serves as my cheese cave, with a thermostat adapter.
I cook on my antique range. Frequently found there during harvest season are also vats of jam, sauce, pickles, and salsa being canned from the bounty of my huge garden and orchard. Below is a batch of milk ripening.
|Salsa verde – great with chevre!|
My first hard cheese, an asiago, seemed to go well. It looked right, acted right, and pressed in the lovely copper and oak press my husband made me quite beautifully. Fortunately, when I served it a few months later, it was to good friends who weren’t embarrassed to agree with me that it smelled and tasted like a horribly sour dishrag.
I suspect I got a bit cavalier with the sanitation process and didn’t separate my aging cheeses in the “cave” well enough. Now I use plastic tubs for that. I did find plastic mesh meant for cross stitch at the craft store which is cheaper than that at cheese stores and it works well under the cheese in the tubs.
|Even when something’s gone wrong, my cat doesn’t mind the whey!|
I have now tried a cheddar (that is still aging, as after a month it was super boring) and a manchego. Both are OK. But I’m most proud of my goat crottin. It ripened beautifully and satisfied my need for some slightly more instant gratification. In one week they were tasty and in three weeks, absolutely perfect!
By day, I’m a financial planner, helping people achieve their financial goals. You can often find me meeting with clients to discuss hopes, dreams, and fears around money, or running numbers to be sure they are on a path of good saving and spending habits to create the future they want for themselves. I find that cultivating abundance in people’s lives is very rewarding work, and I often bring my garden’s abundance into the office to share!