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Arts Center teaching 'cheese-making 101'

Heads up, Jamestown connoisseurs; there's no excuse for not being able to find that special cheese for that special occasion. The Arts Center downtown is offering a fantastic opportunity to learn how to make your own, and do it in a day.

Whether a gourmet cook or a gourmand at the table, we humans have a love for cheeses. It mates well with wines, with anything Italian, Scandinavian, Spanish or Mediterranean, and mighty good on crackers just by itself.

Wisconsin is just a day away and the cheeses made there are internationally known. Squeeky-cheese is beloved in this area, and so much a part of the culture, that even small kids enjoy it as a fun snack. It's hard to imagine watching football without cheese curds and crackers.

Artisanal cheeses, made in small batches by individuals specializing in specific types, find it hard to keep up with demand. Many people travel to see their cheeses being made, while others order online, but always risk products being less than top-grade standards. Local is always safer and more accountable.

Homemade cheeses were a given on farms and ranches when the Dakota Territory was first being settled, and many immigrants brought recipes unique to the "old country" from where they emigrated. If there were cows, goats or sheep, cheese followed. It was the way to preserve milk and provide delicious proteins long after the animals went dry.

Off and on, over the last century or so, there have been popular "movements" for making cheeses at home. Artisanal cheeses became "the thing." Long before yogurt was readily available, it too was a homemade product. Many families had a pot of cheese going on the stove (appropriately called "pot-cheese"). Cottage cheese, fromage blanc and cream cheese were among the most common types of non-aged "fresh" cheeses made at home.

Learning what type rennet, cultures, salts and milks are needed will be explored in cheese-making 101. The class is being taught at the Arts Center by Lucinda Lien and Myra Olson. It meets on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 115 2nd St. SW. Registration is required. It will cost $75 for non-members and $65 for members. Call 251-2496 for more information or to register. More information can also be found on its website.

One of the benefits will be the cheeses you make will be yours to keep. Anyone signing up for the class needs to bring a lunch since the class meets most of the day and lunch is not provided. Once word of caution: cheese-making can become addictive. Once you taste artisanal cheeses, not much else can match it.