Faces From The Neighborhood

Claudia Lucero and Urban Cheesecraft: Sharing the Joy of DIY Cheese

June 21, 2016 | People in the Neighborhood

The story of Claudia Lucero and Urban Cheesecraft is one of those stories that just gives you goose bumps. It’s a story of a woman who went to her kitchen to preserve and cook real food and also to solve a problem. Her solution was so ingenious and her energy so contagious, the idea quickly turned into a business that caught on fire. Claudia’s business, Urban Cheesecraft, is really quite simple. She teaches you how to make your own fresh cheese in just about an hour, and she sells kits and books and teaches classes to get you started.

DIY cheese starts at home

Something about pickling

It all started Claudia tells me with a CSA membership from a farm out in Troutdale. You get lots of fresh vegetables and fruit from a CSA, and Claudia wanted a way to use and preserve all of it. Claudia began pickling and preserving her bounty. I think she had fun doing this, and began to explore other types of fermenting and preserving.

Fermenting at home

Soon Claudia began experimenting with fermented dairy, such as homemade yogurt and kefir. She learned about the healing properties of fermented food, and wanted to incorporate more of it into her family’s diet. The typical processed yogurt and kefir purchased in the supermarket lack the healing probiotics found in naturally cultured dairy and are full of fillers and preservatives. Claudia liked making her own healthy natural yogurt and kefir at home in her kitchen.

Some cheese please

It wasn’t long before Claudia also began learning how to make cheese. Claudia says it’s not that hard to make fresh cheese, such as mozzarella, on your own. Aged cheeses, like parmesan, are another story. While researching how to make her own cheese, Claudia discovered that most of the recipes and instructional material were for making large quantities of cheese and not really practical for a family. This didn’t stop Claudia.

Family-size cheese

Claudia took the age-old cheese making techniques and transformed them into recipes for family-size yields. She tested her recipes in her kitchen until she got them just right. She collected the ingredients and tools needed to make the cheese. She discovered making good cheese at home really wasn’t that hard and was kind of fun. Wanting to share this discovery with others, she put it all together in a nice little DIY cheese kit for making cheese at home.

Claudia was working full-time when she started making cheese. After developing her idea for cheese-making kits, she decided to invest a small sum of money in herself to make the kits and put them on-line. Claudia says her kits were found quickly on-line and started selling.

It seems people like the idea of making their own cheese. Claudia says the kits are a fun and easy way to try fermenting your own food and to try different kinds of cheeses. She’s now got recipes for 16 kinds of cheeses you can make in less than an hour.

Making room

DIY Cheese Kit
Photo source: Urban Cheesecraft

Claudia’s DIY cheese kit business took off quickly. Soon businesses were wanting to order the kits wholesale. Claudia realized she couldn’t work full-time while also growing her business. She smiles and tells me the world has a way of creating space for you if you’re open to seeing it. When Claudia was laid off from her job, she took the opportunity to dive full-time into Urban Cheesecraft and to see where it took her.

Cheese love

Claudia opened up a whole new world for herself while opening up the world of DIY cheese making to people everywhere. Claudia says maybe it was just luck, but it was around the holidays when she jumped full-time into Urban Cheesecraft. She never imagined how popular her DIY cheese kits would be that time of year! Her business grew substantially. She started teaching classes on making cheese. Williams-Sonoma asked her to make customized kits to sell with its own label.

One-hour cheese

All of this success soon led to a book deal, and Claudia wrote One-Hour Cheese. It’s a cookbook with 16 recipes for cheeses, full of easy-to-follow directions to make the cheese, and ideas on how to use the cheese. The cheese tastes good and is easy to make. What’s not to love? She took the book on tour, and it’s been a good seller.

Cheese for everyone

But Claudia isn’t stopping there. She’s working on a kit for dairy-free cheese! This may seem like a contradiction in terms, but I think she’s really on to something here. Most dairy-free cheeses on the market are full of chemicals and/or additives, and are more processed than being like real cheese. Claudia is creating something different  – something that is natural and good food.

She’s starting with cashews or almond flour to create the milk. She’s playing around with different sauces and flavors. She’s adding tapioca flour or arrow root for thickening. She’s using gelatin or agar to get a gelling quality and the right texture. She’s adding vegetables for color. Claudia says the cheese is like mozzarella, but without any probiotics because it’s not fermented. She put this all together in a kit she just successfully launched through a Kickstarter Campaign. The kits will be for sale soon, and I can’t wait to try one!

More than cheese

I really like what Claudia is doing, and I’m just so excited about her success. I think the DIY cheese kits are more than just about making cheese at home. I see the kits as part of a larger movement to eat more whole and natural foods. She’s supporting the choice to source your food close to home. I also see it as a way to get people back into the kitchen – to slow down a bit and share the joy of cooking and the joy of what you create. I thinks it’s a way to bring us closer to home and that which sustains us.

Picture of someone making mozarella cheese

I think Claudia is also a perfect example of someone who sees opportunity in unexpected places and has the courage to trust herself to take a lesser-known path. Urban Cheesecraft is the story of creativity and authenticity. It’s a story about learning and sharing what you know. To me her success isn’t just the popularity of her kits and cookbook, but it’s the joy of cheese making that she’s sharing.

Learn more about Claudia Lucero and Urban Cheesecraft:

Website: www.urbancheesecraft.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/UrbanCheesecraft/
Esty Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/UrbanCheesecraft?ref=em

Featured image source: Urban Cheesecraft
Lisa Ratzlaff

Lisa Ratzlaff is a web designer who loves telling the amazing stories of interesting people and businesses in Portland, Oregon. Her web design business is Share Your Story Media, where she builds powerful websites for small service-based businesses that help them succeed online.

Lisa Ratzlaff