Decision to go into cheese making proves to be a winner for downtown business

Although it’s not officially part of the title, Lil’ Ole’ Winemaker could add “and brewmeister and cheese maker” to the name.

It was the “we now sell cheese-making kits” on a blackboard outside of the Main Street business that caught my eye.

Some of Scott and Malinda Miller’s regular customers kept pestering them about adding cheese making to their already considerable reach (they also run Amber Floral), and Malinda Miller relented.

They started carrying the supplies late last year and sales have been brisk with the do-it-yourself crowd. She recently changed suppliers because they kept selling out of stock.

Unlike making beer and wine, cheese takes almost no special equipment, no bottles, corking machines, presses, siphons or tubing.

You only need milk — and this can be store-bought pasteurized milk — a large pot, microwave, citric acid and calcium chloride, according to Malinda.

She made a batch of mozzarella at home last weekend for burgers on the grill in three flavors: sun-dried tomato and garlic, Tuscan herbs and blueberries.

The cheese lasts two to three weeks in the fridge, but in this case it went straight on top of the burgers.

Mozzarella, feta, ricotta and other soft cheeses are the easiest to make and provide instant gratification. They can be made and consumed in a single day. The added flavors can be as wild as your imagination.

Others however, especially the hard cheeses, require much more patience.

Parmesan takes about 10 months. Cheddar takes about three to four months. Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton require the addition of cultures, according to Malinda.

Many of the Millers’ beer and wine customers have milk-producing cows and goats, so cheese making was a natural fit. In the case of people with livestock, the milk is raw and unpasteurized and some people swear by the flavor.

Although it is against the law to sell unpasteurized milk, there are ways to get around it. Several suppliers, including one in the Grand Valley and one in Hotchkiss, allow people to buy a portion of or a full farm animal. From that cow, the buyer derives raw milk, Malinda said.

I think I would try to make the soft cheeses before I’d try beer or wine. I’ve had a few friends who made grape or brew. You try to be polite, but some of the ones I’ve tasted were just plain skunky.

Yet, Scott Miller said he has a core of regular customers who have been producing for years and make excellent homemade beer and wine.

As to whether wine- or beer-making is most popular in the Grand Valley, Scott said it depends on the season. Both can be made year-round because dried leaves or pellets of hops and concentrated grape juice can be procured online or at shops such as the Millers’.

But the couple sees a lot of traffic in the fall, mostly from people with a grape harvest, and some who have grown hops.

If you don’t have spare acreage to grow hops or grapes, the Millers can connect you with Grand Valley growers willing to sell.

HEREFORD REDUX: After a second visit to Hereford Steak & Sushi House, this time for purely social reasons, I can report that our occasion was lovely in every respect.

It was a bustling Sunday night, and there were several large parties around us. More than a few steaks, still sizzling, passed our table on the way to certain annihilation.

Our server anticipated our needs, making repeated trips to the kitchen for extra wasabi, additional orders and sake runs. The presentation on the sushi platters was excellent and all of the dishes were tasty.

The best was red snapper sashimi, of which we devoured about three plates.

I can now add flying fish roe to the list of strange foods I’ve consumed.

QUOTE: “The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath.” — W.C. Fields

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