Downtown Truckee is bustling with people shopping, eating and enjoying the sunshine. Inside Restaurant Trokay owner Nyna Weatherson is busy stirring a pot of pumpernickel bread, while balancing a sleeping baby on her hip and using her off day to make other artisan homemade favorites. During this peaceful downtime, she passionately shared how she got into cheesemaking, what it takes to become a cheesemonger and how people can make their own cheese.
Weatherson got her start in cheesemaking 10 years ago when she worked at Sprout Creek Farm in New York and then became the head cheesemaker at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village in New York City. Weatherson moved to Truckee in 2011 and by then had become a certified cheesemonger, which is someone who sells cheese, butter and other dairy products.
As a recreational cheesemaker, Weatherson buys her cheese from Cowgirl Creamery at Tomales Bay Foods in Point Reyes Station and from Murray’s, as well. It impresses her that Cowgirl Creamery has six cheesemakers and that Murray’s mission statement is to bring cheese into the homes of all people.
Although she would love to have a cheese shop in Truckee, Weatherson doesn’t currently have the space. Instead, she hosts cheesemaking workshops at Atelier, which is a few doors down from Restaurant Trokay. She teaches other cheese lovers how to make their own.
“My hope with the classes is to demystify the cheesemaking process,” she says.
In the 1.5-hour cheesemaking workshop, Weatherson talks about the process of how to make cheese and then the students make cheese. Afterwards everyone does a taste test; they leave with a bounty of their own handmade product.
There are many different types of cheeses on the market but they all have the same basic ingredients: milk, an enzyme and salt. More specifically, Weatherson says you need cheese salts that incorporate evenly into the dairy, citric acid/sour salt to add a bit of tartness and rennet, an enzyme that allows the dairy to separate into curd and whey. Fun tip: reheating rennet makes mozzarella.
According to Weatherson, the kind of milk you use plays an important role: “Cream-lined, homogenized milk goes through a centrifuge to keep the fats together. Once you add the rennet, it all separates out into a custard — the curd and the whey.”
Cheese is all fortified/petrified milk, but Weatherson says that there are different schools of thought on the best way to make cheese, whether to use raw milk or pasteurized milk. One thing is for certain, ultra-pasteurized milk will never turn into cheese.
“It’s the enemy of cheesemaking because it just will not separate,” she says.
It doesn’t even matter where the milk comes from, whether it’s from a cow, sheep, buffalo or yak.
Weatherson believes that cheesemaking is a skill that has to be practiced daily in order to become skilled, but she is grateful for her partnership with Atelier and the opportunity to regularly test her knowledge and interaction with the cheesemaking process.
“I’m just happy to create an environment where it’s fun to learn and make something new. I love [teaching the cheesemaking class] because it gives me a new way to reconnect with cheese every time. It’s pretty cool that you start with basic ingredients and then variables like time and temperature determine what you end up with,” she says. “People who take the class are looking for a new and different experience and it’s fun to eat what you make at the end. My favorite part of making cheese is eating it.”