Traverse City Record-Eagle

Food

May 29, 2014

Cheesemaker gathers following with creative simplicity

KINGSLEY — Good cheese makes people swoon — as in physically rocking back and forth, eyes closed and moaning. Sue Kurta sends the farm market samplers into cheese ecstasy hundreds of times any given Saturday, generating toothpick litter, a devoted following and a rockstar reputation.

”People just loooove cheese,” Kurta said of her Boss Mouse Cheese following at the Sara Hardy Farm Market where she hawks cheese and butter with her mom, Margaret Kurta, and dad, Mike Kurta. “Cheese makes people so happy.”

Sue Kurta, 49, is Boss Mouse’s “big cheese.” She’s also the only “cheese,” as she makes everything herself, by hand, in a process she likens to pottery.

Sue Kurta hip checks her 30-gallon kettle in the garage of her historic 1867 Michigan Centennial farm in Kingsley. She bought the farm in 2010. She’s looking for just the right jiggle from the contents inside. She wants the creamy Montasio cheese “squidgy,” she said.

”It’s a scientific term,” she laughed. Sue Kurta’s “everything by hand” methods are old school but Boss Mouse Cheese has a “new school” experimental twist and a rock and roll flavor. Her strong arms — “my cheese guns” — are fully tatted from her first career in the music industry. Her shirt is from CBGB’s; her riding mower sports a “Black Crowes” bumper sticker. Cheese-making has a soundtrack and tunes are always on in Kurta’s garage where she kicks out 100 pounds of cheese a week.

”The music gets in the cheese and makes it taste better,” she said. Corporate savvy also has a place in her heart, as she spent her second career in New York City corporate finance. Cheesemaking is her “curd” profession, and she loves that her farm in Kingsley blends the best of all worlds.

”I was always into cooking, making beer and fermenting vegetables,” Kurta said. A hobby cheesemaking class in New York led to a workshop in Vermont. That motivated a “cheese apprenticeship” on an organic goat farm in Maine, which cemented her decision to make an entrepreneurial return to Michigan where the Berkley native could be close to her parents. Realizing her slice of heaven, her own farm, complete with chickens and a barn swing, inspires her to be creative with her cheesemaking.

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