Cheese making a backyard pursuit for local man

Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | September 12, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700

As do-it-yourself hobbies become increasingly popular, one Vancouver man has gone to an extreme — he’s built a cheese-aging cave in his garden.

Hans Bergstrom, a mechanical engineer who worked on the construction of the Skytrain Millennium Line, got the idea for the home project from Europe where cheese ripens in underground caverns or cellars at ideal temperatures.

“In France, they actually made cheese caves in the olden days,” Bergstrom told 24 hours. “They’d basically build them into a hillside. It would have a door going into a structure inside the hill, full of shelves where they’d set the cheese (to) keep the cheese cool.

“Doing it this way was a bit of a throwback to the olden days.”

The 42-year-old dug a two-foot hole in his garden, designed a rounded shelving unit, and placed it in a chimney pipe underground. His first batch, harvested last winter, was wheels of brie.

“The real magic moment is when you start to see the fuzz growing,” he said with a laugh. “It’s just exciting!”

While Bergstrom has gone to unusual lengths to make his backyard brie operation, cheese making is becoming increasingly popular, according to local do-it-yourself stores.

“It’s gained a lot of interest,” said Flory Bosa, owner of BosaGrape Winery & Beer Supplies in Burnaby. “This is one thing that people really want to do at home.

“A few years ago we only had a little shelf space for it. Now we have a whole section dedicated to it … It’s a perfect little product to try as a hobby.”

While Bergstrom ripened several batches in his cave last winter and hopes to make blue cheese next, consumers with less building skills can also buy a simpler cheese-making kits for only $50, according to Bosa who said added that in this hobby patience is key.

“In this society, everything is about instant payback,” Bergstrom agreed. “It’s painstaking to wait. The anticipation makes it more rewarding.”

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