Kristy Foster in Yorba Linda, California
If you live near Yorba Linda, CA (35 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles), you might notice dust being kicked up just over the horizon. That would be Kristy Foster, a veritable tornado of energy. She is living life to the fullest and that includes making cheese.
Of course, she doesn’t just make cheese – she has made it her mission to teach cheesemaking to everyone who wants to learn in the Greater Los Angeles area. We are absolutely certain she will do that, so you may as well sign up now!
Kristy has no idea how inspirational she is. See what you think as you read her story …
I’m currently the Vice President of Supply Chain and Food Safety for a 100 + unit restaurant chain. For 16 years, I also ran the company’s R&D department and new product development.
I got my start in homesteading after a fresh-baked bread project at work. Being deeply curious about the art and science of artisan bread, I cultivated my own sourdough starter in my home kitchen from the skin of organic grapes.
After playing with artisan bread for about a year, my mind pondered what other commercial products I could make for my family in my own kitchen. That is how I developed my love affair with the homesteading arts.
In 2011, I found a book called Home Cheese Making, by Ricki Carroll. A bit timid to try cheese making on my own, I became excited to learn that Ricki taught a cheese making workshop in her own home.
So, I boarded a plane to Boston, grabbed a rental car, and took a road trip to the Berkshires.
While in Boston, I was able to go to the Red Sox’s opening game, which was also their 100th anniversary.
I amazingly scored a seat about 15 rows back from home plate and had an incredible experience.
I also went to see Plymouth Rock, met up with some local friends that lived in the area, and ran the Cape Cod Half Marathon.
Being a runner, and being that I was in town during the Boston Marathon, I had planned to go to the finish line and see the racers finish. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and didn’t get to go.
The workshop was amazing. Ricki demonstrated how to make so many cheeses and her husband ran around keeping us supplied. Her daughter made us the most decadent lunch. At the end of the day, I was so inspired to make cheese.
While there, I purchased a large cheese press and threw away most of my clothing so it could fit in my carry-on bag! When going through TSA at the airport, the x-ray agent popped up like a prairie dog from behind her screen and exclaimed “What the heck is that?!!”
On most weekends that year, I could be found stooped over my kitchen sink, stirring my curds and whey. I devoured every cheese making book and website that I could find.
After practicing for a year, in 2013, I hopped back on a plane and took the Advanced Cheese Making Workshop with Jim Wallace.
My daughter, Brigitte came along with me. She was a student and needed to study but we figured that she could study anywhere.
On that trip, I booked a treehouse adventure through Airbnb. The treehouse was located on a local farm and we could stay in it for $50 a night.
Unfortunately, it snowed the first night we were there and the homeowner feared it would be too cold in the treehouse. My daughter and I shared a small bedroom with only a twin sized bed inside the main house. We squeezed on the bed and tried to sleep.
At some point in the middle of the night, a small white dog named Jerry came into the room and insisted on the bed.
He was growling and snapping at us, when we tried to move him. We were terrified of him as he tried to bite us several times. The bed was too small for the two of us and definitely too small for the 3 of us soooo … Jerry may have been nudged off the bed with a nearby broom but that cannot be proven in a court of law
The next night, after Jim’s workshop, we were given the map to find the treehouse.
It was so much fun. We drank wine, ate snacks and played Yahtzee into the wee hours.
The next day, I headed back to Jims for the second day of the workshop. The workshop was so educational and Jim’s cellar and cheese cave were super amazing. Jim’s wife prepared us a lovely lunch and Jim had his home brew beers and wine on tap. Jim was great at answering questions and the workshop was very empowering.
After the workshop, my daughter and I took a Duck tour of Boston (100 miles east of the workshop). The Boston Marathon was again happening and I was still trying to make it to the finish line. While on the tour, I snapped a picture of the finish line for my online running group.
My daughter had a test scheduled and she was trying to reschedule it so we could be at the finish line. The teacher was defiant that if she missed the test, she would fail the test and the class.
We contemplated that I would go to the finish line alone and we would both travel back separately. We decided against it and we went to the airport together.
At the airport, the flight was overbooked. The airline was offering passengers money to give up their flights. When they got up to $500 my daughter insisted that I take the money and go to the finish line. I thought about it but decided that I was too tired and that I would just head home.
Meanwhile, at the airport, I posted my finish line photo to my running group and teasingly told them that I had finished the race. I had planned to “come clean” that I hadn’t run the race once we landed.
While on the plane, my daughter stood up and tears were running down her face. She was seated two rows ahead of me. She pointed to a TV in the headset of the passenger next to her. The TV was showing the Boston Marathon bombing. She was crying and exclaiming “I tried to get you to stay, I tried to get you to go.”
Everyone on the plane was crying as we all watched on the little screen. Once we got home, our phones blew up. All of our friends, relatives, and work colleagues knew we were planning to be at the finish line. Thankfully, God had another plan for us and we were truly grateful to the grumpy college professor who wouldn’t let us go.
After the workshop
I was now addicted to making cheese. I set up a Facebook group called “The Cave” with all the students from the workshop and together we all cried over our failures and rejoiced in our successes online.
I also became cheese pen pals with a friend from the workshop. Every Christmas we would ship a large box of our most prized cheeses to each other, from California to Virginia.
That summer, I signed up for a cow share. Two days a week, before and after work, I went to the barn to milk Buttercup, a beautiful miniature Jersey cow. Buttercup was lovely and had a sweet disposition.
Unfortunately, she shared a stall with a very grumpy llama. Milking Buttercup in the stall with a grumpy spitting llama became not so much fun after a while.
I discontinued the cow share and a few months later, I brought home a sweet baby Nubian goat named Curds, then another named Whey. Not long after that, Sonoma Jack was born at the ranch!
Then came the “cheese caves” – wine coolers and refrigerators specifically altered for temperature and humidity control, required for aging different cheeses. It didn’t take long before they were all stuffed full of delicious types of homemade cheeses.
My first cave was a small wine cooler that I purchased new in 2013 and it’s still working fine and dandy today!
My main cave was an amazing score! Humidity had become challenging in the small wine cooler. I couldn’t fit a cool mist humidifier in it. I set my sights on a full sized cooler, and watched the local ads for a used one. I found this beautiful full size EuroCave from France that retailed at the time for over $12k.
The cabinet dimensions fit perfectly in my space and it even matched my kitchen cabinets! This was meant to be. The woman was selling it for only $25. The ad had only been up a few minutes and I quickly called.
She told me that 3 other people had called first and were arranging to come. I’m not normally like this but I had to have this cave, so I begged. I told her how badly I needed it and how perfect it was for my cheese making. Her ears perked at cheese making. She asked me to tell her more.
As I explained my fromage addiction and my need to make it, she giggled. She told me that she would sell the cave to me under one condition, that if she ever decided to make her own cheese, I would have to come teach her. I whole heartedly agreed! When I came to see the cooler, my conscience got the best of me. I explained to her that I had researched the cooler and she probably didn’t realize how valuable it was. She told me that she knew but it was a gift from her father-in-law and she wanted it gone.
OK, my conscience was clear … SOLD!!! I’ve had the cave for 10 years and it’s still working perfectly with a cool mist humidifier and an Inkbird to control the temperature and humidity.
Lately, I’ve been getting into bloomies and blues. I purchased the fridge below and one other one to keep them separate but it’s been challenging keeping caves in the garage with our Southern California summers.
Some of my cheeses:
All of this culminated over the years, to an epiphany moment in 2019.
That year I visited a Dude Ranch with some of my long time girlfriends (officially known as “The Dudettes”!), from all over the United States.
We have gals from the East Coast, the South, the middle states, and me and another gal on the West Coast. We have been online friends for decades, most of us for over 25 years. We take riding vacations together at destinations around the world. In 2019, we decided to stay local and go to Colorado to a picturesque Dude Ranch for a riding adventure.
I normally go up early on these trips and take a mini vacation solo, soaking up the local color before meeting my friends. I decided to go to Colorado 4 days early and visit Kate Johnson’s The Art of Cheese and participate in a few other adventures.
I stayed in the town of Severance, Colorado at an Airbnb off a dirt road that was located on a farm.
The place was beautiful but a bit spooky at night – all alone off the beaten path.
I did some white water rafting, took an amazing astronomy class where we looked through dozens of different high powered telescopes, I did aerial yoga on 20 foot long silks, attended the local church, visited Shambala Mountain Center, and took a couple classes at the Art of Cheese.
Kate had a great hands-on 3 hour class where we made cheese and practiced finishing a cheese. I chose to finish my cheese by wrapping it in grape leaves, tying it with raffia, and vacuum sealing it.
I took another class with her a couple days later at a local brewery. We sampled cheeses that were paired with the beers at the brewery. After the sampling, Kate brought in her adorable baby goats and we got to play with them. The classes were so much fun and I shared my love of cheesemaking with someone equally as passionate!
One funny story. The Airbnb was spooky at night. It was very dark, on a dirt road, and in the middle of farm crops. At about 2:00 in the morning, I heard a noise at the door that sounded like someone was trying to open the door. A few minutes later, I heard again, someone trying to open the door. Terrified, I got out of bed, turned on the light, and watched as someone turned the doorknob over and over again.
I found my bravery, went over to the door, summoned up my scariest deepest voice and said “If you are trying to break in, you are going to be sorry.” Again, the doorknob turned 3 times. I looked through the keyhole and finally saw the culprit. It was a cat that must have been allowed at the little house. He was jumping on the porch and grabbing the doorknob repeatedly.
I allowed him in for the remainder of the vacation and he slept in bed with me
After that amazing vacation, I decided it was time to share my love for making cheese with the world.
Despite some hiccups with Covid-19, Sock Money Ranch was born with the goal to teach the world to CHEESE!
The Present and the Future
Prior to my visit to Colorado, I had taken a local cheesemaking class. The class was making mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata. Everyone in the class was really excited. Sadly, the chef had no idea how to make cheese. The teaching material presented was incorrect, the cheeses that were made were terrible, and I was afraid someone was going to get burned. The students were so disappointed.
Between that experience and my visit to Colorado where I saw it done correctly, I was led to launch my dream – a cheesemaking school in my community. I wanted to create a school where students were taught to make cheese safely, accurately, and were empowered to replicate the experience in their own kitchens.
Just as I was getting the class approved in my city (Yorba Linda), Covid broke out. All classes through the city were closed for a couple years.
Once things opened back up, I partnered with the Big Bear Valley Parks and Recreation Department to hold the classes at their state-of-the-art facility – Big Bear Sports Ranch. They were so excited to bring cheesemaking to their community!
My first class had 19 people and my second class had 11. I also have a private class scheduled for this month.
In the second quarter of this year, I plan to add an additional class or two that will build off what the students learned in the first class.
Then, I plan to add more advanced classes and workshops and to bring it down the mountain to other surrounding cities and counties in Southern California.
In my beginner class, the students work together in friendly encouraging groups. They make a Guido Italian table cheese from start to finish and a fromage blanc or chevre. I demonstrate how to make ricotta.
Students get a wonderful overview of different types of milk that are locally available, a presentation on food safety, an overview of the entire cheesemaking process, and demos of waxing and the brining process.
Students even get to wax a mini-wheel of cheese in a variety of colors and, boy, do we get some interesting works of art!
Students leave with full recipes for the cheeses we made in the class and recipes for how to use the cheeses in delicious dishes.
Students also get an invitation to a private Facebook group where they can receive support when they make their cheeses at home.
There is a little store at the class where students can purchase genuine New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. products, so there is no delay in getting started at home.
In the class, I show the most economical ways to make cheese, so everyone has a chance to do it. My classes are also economically priced so everyone can afford them.
Currently, I am only offering the beginner class. My daughter helps me with the class and she is so much fun!
This is quite a deviation from her normal line of work, as she is a Nurse Practitioner. She feels strongly that she wants to support me in my dream as I supported her over the years in achieving her dream career. At any rate, it’s awesome doing it together with her.
My son, Ben is also a big supporter and he takes care of all the critters at the ranch while we are gone. That is no small feat!
It’s been absolutely amazing to see people experiencing the magic of cheesemaking for the first time.
It never gets old hearing the squeals and shrieks as they pull the knife up and see the curds part into a “clean break” or when they pull the wheel out of the mold for the very first time. They can’t believe all those curds knit together so fast! Everyone loves doing the waxing and watching the fromage blancs and chevres form before their eyes.
All of it is just wonderful (aside from the motherlode of dirty dishes!) but I have to say that the best part is hearing the comments after class – “We had so much fun!,” “We learned so much!,” “I can’t wait to do this at home for my family,” “When can we do it again!?” etc.
That is just the best and so rewarding.
Sock Money Ranch
Website – https://www.sockmoneyranch.com/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/sockmoneyranch/