Over the past nine months, filmmaker and artist Farrah Hoffmire has transformed herself into a goat cheesemaker, crafting batches of Giddy Goat Cheese from Split Creek Farms' raw milk and selling them at the Charleston Farmers Market.
It's not as big a stretch as it sounds.
As a documentarian, Hoffmire has always followed an organic process in finding and telling stories. So much so that she named her organization Organic Process Productions. Her documentaries are studies of the environment, from New Orleans' post-Katrina recovery to the Lowcountry's vast web of water.
"I've always wanted to get into agriculture," she says. "It's natural for Organic Process to go that way, to balance with technology. I come from a farming family and have always had a pull towards an agrarian way of life, but I never knew how or when it would happen."
It happened by chance when her friend Vikki Matsis at NotSoHostel talked to her about sustainable permaculture and then showed her how to make cheese.
"It just took off," says Hoffmire. "That's really how that started."
Nine months later, Organic Process Productions balances technology with agriculture, making and selling cheese, helping to establish and promote the Rosebank Farms CSA, filming commissioned documentaries, following Hoffmire's own interests and story ideas, and painting agriculturally-themed portraits. One documentary she's working on is telling the story of the New Moulin Rouge, a legendary club that was part of Charleston's golden age of jazz and funk clubs.
But it's cheesemaking that takes up a majority of Hoffmire's time these days. She receives nine five-gallon buckets of goat milk every other week from Split Creek Farms in Anderson, S.C. The milk gets poured into 13 quart-size pails for pasteurizing — it gets heated to 165 degrees and then chilled on ice to 86 degrees. At that point, Hoffmire adds mesophilic culture and vegetarian rennet, an enzyme, and lets it sit for about 12 hours.
"It turns into a sort of yogurt," she says.
The next day, she cuts the curd and scoops the yogurt mixture into cheesecloth and hangs to drain the whey from the curd for 12 hours, and — voila — cheese is made.
All in all, it's a three-day process.
"I'm so new to it," says Hoffmire, "that it's constantly changing and the process continues to get better and more efficient."
She's experimented with several flavors, and you can usually get green cracked pepper and sea salt, crystallized ginger, pimento cheese, and pure chevre. She also has cheese pops rolled in pistachio, sundried tomato, and lemon rind or bourbon pecans, sugar, and mint.
Currently, Rosebank Farms and Our Local Foods CSA and farm store carry it, and she has a booth at the Charleston Farmers Market each week, where she almost always sells out. Hoffmire has recently hired an assistant to help her make more Giddy Goat.
Avondale Wine & Cheese will soon be carrying Hoffmire's chevre too. Last Saturday night Farrah had her cheese on display and handed out tastes, including new flavors like pesto and pimento. Keep an eye out for her at other foodie events around town, and don't be surprised if you start seeing her cheese pop up on menus around town. Chefs are starting to take notice.