In the world of cheese-making Freeland resident Pam Cassidy has staked her claim.
Cassidy recently took home a first place award in the American Dairy Goat Association’s 2013 Cheese Competition.
Cassidy made a soft cheese called “Pure Bliss Herbed Goat” that won in the “Flavored Soft Cheese Tub/Bulk” category of the amateur division. She has been working on the recipe since she first started cheese-making in 1998, perfecting it three years ago.
This was her first time entering in the competition and she was ecstatic when she heard the news.
“I was screaming and thought I was having a heart attack,” she said.
She’s gotten a lot of good feedback from people who have tried her cheese, but having an objective palate enjoy her cheese took it to a new level, she said.
The judging is difficult and in some categories a winner is not chosen. Cassidy explained the cheeses are judged on their own basis, not against the other cheeses. Each cheese must meet a minimum score in order to place.
Her cheese was a soft, fresh goat cheese with a “magic blend” of herbs including basil, oregano and garlic.
“It’s one thing to think I’m a good cook,” she said. “But to have outside judges who know nothing but what’s in front of them say I’m first place is really affirming.”
When she’s not spending her days making cheese, Cassidy works as a medical technologist at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. She finds the work akin to cheese-making, which is one thing she likes about her hobby.
“I enjoy the science and chemistry,” she said. “I like the precision.”
Cheese making is as much about science as it is about taste. She said the hobby combines the work she does in her other life in microbiology with artistic precision.
“There’s nothing better than the cheese and wine at the end,” she said.
For Cassidy, the key for great cheese is in the bacteria. One of the reasons her recipe took more than a decade to perfect is the sheer number of bacterial-cultures to choose from — there are hundreds, she said. Hers include a combination of four organisms which are from the goat.
Good cheese-making is about content, more than quantity, she said.
The care of each animal is also important to her. She likes to know what each animal is fed and how they are treated, which is easy when the goats are right outside her window. Her current milking goat, Spice, produces about 1.5 gallons of milk a day.
Along with the soft cheese, Cassidy also makes aged and more complex cheeses including a soft cheese, feta, hard wax cheese, brie, parmesan and ricotta all from goats milk.
Cassidy’s husband, Tom Leahy, finds a lot of enjoyment from her hobby.
“I’m the guinea pig,” he said. “Some are always better than others, but none are bad. She’s a great cook. I benefit from that.”
The goats and animals bring life to our home, Leahy said.
The couple own a two and one-fourth acre home filled with only their needs. Cassidy said it was important for them to use only what they need. In addition to the goats, they raise their own chickens and vegetables.
But don’t expect this to grow into a business as Cassidy is just fine keeping cheese-making as a hobby.
“I’m not ever going commercial,” she said. “It’s enjoyable now. I don’t want it to become a chore.”
Looking to the future, Cassidy wants to hone her skills in a french mold cheese course – one of the more difficult methods.
“I’ve done all I can do self-taught,” she said.
Next year she hopes to ramp it up. She’s shooting for the best in show title and is looking to create a new recipe different from her magic blend with “unusual additives.”
“It’s all about the additives,” she said.