I recently had the pleasure of attending a delightful Cheese & Kefir Making Workshop that was sponsored by the Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana, the Canal Blvd Baptist Deaf Church, and the Weston A. Price Foundation. It was held at the Canal Blvd Baptist Deaf Church in Lakeview. I learned about the workshop from Barbara Lovas who graciously invited me to her home last year and taught me how to make kefir. I made delicious dairy and aqua (water) kefir for months until the hot summer temperatures became too high in my drafty old kitchen. Now, with cooler fall weather not too far away, I was more than happy for the opportunity to start up my kefir-making ways again. The cost of the two-hour workshop was $10 per person, a bargain by any standard.
Barbara Lovas led the kefir portion of the workshop and Kathia Duran, executive director of the Latino Farmers Coop of Louisiana, taught us about cheese making. The workshop was originally targeted for 20 people but 52 people registered and 30+ showed up, even during a Saints game. The goal of the workshop was to share the techniques of making homemade yogurt, kefir, creme fraiche, and creole cream cheese using store bought cow milk.
Workshop attendees were invited to bring the following items if they wanted to make some cheese rather than just listening and learning about how it’s made. Almost everyone chose to make cheese and glass jars were available for a nominal fee for those who needed them.
four one-quart glass Mason jars (or equivalent)
one gallon of whole milk
two pints of heavy cream
We filled each of our four, one-quart jars with the necessary ingredients for the dairy products as instructed by Barbara and Kathia. As it turns out, the cultures needed to make yogurt and creole cream cheese are readily available in any local grocery store. The cultures for the creme fraiche were given to us by Kathia along with information about where to obtain them online. Barbara provided everyone with the live active kefir grains, as they’re known, that are needed to make fresh kefir. Kefir grains aren’t always easy to obtain and the most common way to get some is to have them gifted by someone who makes kefir on a regular basis. I can only imagine how long it took Barbara to cultivate and maintain enough grains to share with each participant! Both teachers exhibited generosity of spirit by sharing their skills, personal resources, and enthusiasm with us. They are clearly invested in empowering people with quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to produce quality dairy products at home. I’ve provided information about where to buy Kathia’s dairy products at the end of this post if you’d prefer to do that.
While the afternoon workshop was instructional and fun, it was the next 24 hours after the workshop that were truly rewarding. I took my four jars home from the workshop and left them out on the countertop, as instructed, for the cultures to work their magic. Creme fraiche only takes 12 hours to ferment so the next morning when I woke up I had one quart of creme fraiche ready to eat. What a treat – rich and creamy and luxurious! By early evening I had one quart each of homemade yogurt, creole cream cheese, and kefir. In just 24 hours I was enjoying and sharing a smorgasbord of delicious cheeses and kefir – a very joyous and bountiful experience! I highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in making kefir and simple cheeses at home. I’ll keep you posted about when it will be presented again.
Word to Barbara, just today someone asked me when the Aqua (Water) Kefir Workshop you’re planning might take place?
Marlon Calero and Pam Girod also assisted in the workshop. Photos taken by John Lovas and Marlon Calero.
You can find the Latino Farmers Cooperative of Louisiana’s products including Cotija and Quesillo cheeses, fresh vegetables, Mexican style tamales and backyard double-yolk eggs at the following markets in New Orleans:
Broad Street Flea Market
Every Second Saturday
11am – 4pm
300 North Broad – Broad at Bienville
Old Robert’s Grocery Parking Lot
Holy Angel Convent (Bywater)
Every Tuesday and Thursday
3500 Saint Claude Ave at Gallier Street
Treme Under the Bridge Marketplace
Every Third Saturday
11am – 3pm
I-10 Bridge at Esplanade Ave and N. Claiborne Ave
All proceeds go to the programs and services in urban agriculture and human services.