In 2006, Claudia Lucero moved from her lifelong home in San Diego, California, to the “maker” capital of the country: Portland, Oregon. It wasn’t long before she started making pickles, sauerkraut, butter, yogurt, and eventually cheese. Her cheesemaking began with Paneer and ricotta, then she moved on to goat cheese and mozzarella, and she was totally hooked. She was in the midst of a personal transformation that included a deep desire to know the sources of her food and focus on quality over quantity in many aspects of her life.
Inspired by cheesemaking recipes in books and a homesteading magazine from the 1970s, Claudia found cheese recipes that called for 5 to 50 gallons of milk at a time—not exactly practical for a casual cheesemaker in the city. But that didn’t stop her. She started tweaking and experimenting with those recipes to make them work for the small-scale urban cheesemaker with no more than a gallon of milk. From this philosophy, Urban Cheesecraft was born.
When Claudia’s friends and family tasted her cheese, they wanted to start making their own. But Claudia saw that for many people and for many reasons, getting started on the path of cheesemaking was a real challenge. It sounds hard, you’re likely to screw up a lot, it takes a time commitment, it’s hard to find the supplies and ingredients—the list goes on. So she decided to focus her energies on making it super easy for people to start making cheese, and in 2009 she created her first cheesemaking kit and sold it on Etsy. Urban Cheesecraft now has a line of DIY kits that include gems like Burrata & Mascarpone, Mozzarella & Ricotta, Paneer & Queso Blanco, and even Dairy Free Cheddar, Mozzarella & Ricotta.
Claudia published her first book, One-Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer–Even Burrata., in 2014 and is now working on a second book that’s all about making delicious dairy-free cheese. She started offering dairy-free kits after receiving a ton of requests for them from vegans, people following the paleo diet, and cheese lovers who are allergic or sensitive to dairy. Interest continues to grow.
When Claudia started selling on Etsy, there were no other cheese-making kits out there, so she gained momentum quickly. Before long, retailers started calling and she added wholesale offerings. During the first two years, Claudia ran Urban Cheesecraft while holding down a full-time nonprofit job—she worked evenings and weekends to pull it all off. Then, two years in, a distributor found her and she significantly expanded her reach into places like cheese shops and gourmet grocery stores. She soon left her day job to focus all her energy on Urban Cheesecraft.
The Urban Cheesecraft Values
At its core, Urban Cheesecraft is about inspiring and empowering people. “I love hearing that friends, families, and couples come together to make cheese using my kits. It’s just so darned wholesome—good old-fashioned fun that fills people with awe and curiosity,” she says. Her goal is to remove the fear factor and open up a world of possibilities for anyone who’s interested. She does this through her kits, her books, and her workshops.
Claudia is also committed to encouraging people to become more conscious of where their food comes from—something she thinks happens naturally when you make things yourself. Perhaps you start looking more closely at the label on your milk, noticing whether it’s pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, local, or organic. Claudia hopes this increased awareness might even have a ripple effect on what the grocery stores choose to sell; they might start stocking more local foods, supporting the local economy and local farmers. This is the impact she hopes to have on the world.
Hatch Lab is sharing Claudia’s most popular kit, the Mozzarella & Ricotta DIY Cheese Kit, with you beginning in April of 2017 for at least 3 months. Get it for yourself, make it with friends, conquer your fears, and start hatching!
Want to learn more about making, tasting, and buying cheese? Check out Cheesemaking Tips from Gianaclis Caldwell, Author of Mastering Basic Cheesemaking, Cheese Therapy and the Art of Buying Curd with Jessica Beer of Cured, and Urban Goat Dairy Dishes on Cheese Making, Raw Milk, and Land Stewardship on the Hatch Lab blog.
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