food and wineIssue 22

Make Your Own Cheese (and More) with the Gypsy Cowgirl


By Jacqui D. Sinarle

If you’ve ever wanted to preserve some type of food, chances are the Gypsy Cowgirl–a.k.a. Bambi Porter–can teach you.

That’s because Porter, owner of Gypsy Cowgirl Kitchen Co., is enamored with all types of food preservation and eager to share her knowledge and passion.

“I think it’s important to make sure the food that I feed my family is healthy. I even made my kids’ baby food,” Porter confessed. “By preserving your own food, you can avoid the preservatives and additives in processed products, and it’s a great way to enjoy your garden’s excess produce throughout the year.”

While Porter’s earliest preserving memories involve her mother’s delicious plum jam, her own inaugural effort to make peach jam was less than successful: “Not all my jars sealed properly and I didn’t know why because I’d never taken a class,” she recalled. Since that time, she’s completed a master food preserver certification program and now loves making salsa and pickling vegetables with fresh produce from her garden.

“I enjoy making something delicious that my friends and family will love, and I like knowing the nutritional value of the foods that I preserve and being able to pronounce all the ingredients,” Porter said. “Preserved foods also make great gifts. If I bring a jar of something I’ve made to a barbecue or dinner party, people often return the jars empty because they’d like me to refill them!”

Food preservation may be a lost art, but Porter is dedicated to bringing it back.

The Gypsy Cowgirl offers workshops in canning basics, making jams and jellies, pickling vegetables, preparing pie fillings to enjoy throughout the year, dehydrating foods in a dehydrator and outdoors, and creating custom nut butters. She also holds workshops for making fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi and fermented beverages like kombucha, and making fresh mozzarella cheese and spreadable ricotta cheese.

Porter also presents farm-to-jar events like a visit to the local blueberry farm to pick berries before returning to the kitchen to make jam and enjoy a light lunch; corporate classes to promote team building and employee wellness; and summer preserving classes for kids.

“Workshops are a fun way for people to put their cell phones down and reconnect with friends and family,” Porter said. “Instead of a teacher/student environment, it’s more like we’re friends enjoying a couple of hours together making some delicious food.”

If you’re intimidated by the idea of preserving your own food, don’t be.

“It’s really not that complicated,” Porter said. “It is important to follow strict food safety guidelines to avoid food borne illness, but the process is very simple. Come to one class and you’ll walk away saying, ‘I’ve got to try this at home.’ In fact, people frequently leave my class on a Saturday and make a mad dash to the farmers market so they can get what they need to make a batch of something.”

Gypsy Cowgirl Kitchen workshops range from $40 to $55 per person and are offered in Modesto, Escalon and Stockton. Classes typically last a couple of hours and are scheduled on weekends, Fridays, or can be booked privately. For registration and more information, visit

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