All in the cheese

I asked Mandy Johnston, of Orland’s Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co.—which is having a demonstration at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op on May 18—what surprised her about becoming a cheese maker:

“When I first started making cheese with my mom, I thought I would just strictly follow the recipe she jotted down. But making this cheese really is an art form that changes with experience. Once I realized that I’m an artist creating something that’s very important to our farm’s ideals, I gained confidence. So now I’m starting to develop my own style of cheese that I take great pride in.

“It was a shock to me that the seasons have such a drastic influence on the flavor of our milk. We make our spring cheese, the Black Butte Reserve, only when the grasses are really lush. Before I started, I didn’t know how my mom could tell when to start making it, but for the last two springs, I’ve been able to tell just from that sweet, grassy aroma that rises from the milk.”