Q&A with Liat Efraim, Yoav’s resident cheesemaker

Editor’s Note: In advance of the program “Say Cheese: Make & Taste with an Israeli Cheese Expert” on Aug. 8, co-sponsored by Partnership2Gether and Congregation Keneseth Israel, HAKOL had a few questions for Liat Efraim, the cheesemaker of Yoav.

Q: Tell us about yourself and how you came to be in Yoav?
I moved to the Yoav Regional Council about 11 years ago with my family: Arnon, my husband, Ofer, 17, (she was one of the Camp JCC Yoav teens last year) and Omer, 11. Before that, we lived in the city of Gedera. We were looking for a kibbutz with a small community with extensive culture and excellent education. We heard so many good things about Kibbutz Gat, and, to our delight, there was just the possibility of entering the kibbutz.

Q: How did you become a cheesemaker? Why cheese?
Two and a half years ago, I completed a long position in the horse riding community in Israel. I was responsible for sports (jumping, dressage, western, vaulting) at the Israeli Equestrian Federation. I decided to fulfill my dream of learning to make cheeses. To my great joy, I met a wonderful person and an excellent professional, and I learned from him the secrets of making cheese.

Q: What is a typical day like for you?
I get up very early every morning at 5:30 am to go to the dairy farm and make cheese out of the milk that comes directly from the milking. Around noon, I return home and continue my daily routine, taking care of my home and my children and my second job as director of the Israel Equine Veterinary Association. In addition, I am involved in the kibbutz culture—as one of the librarians, a connecting mother in the youth movement in the kibbutz (HaShomer HaTzair), part of the educational administration, cultural committee and, of course, the steering committee of Lehigh Valley–Yoav Partnership.

Q: What is your favorite part of your work?
The thing I like the most about my work is the process of cheese making. It's amazing to me that milk that is milked in the morning turns into cheese a few hours later. I also like to think about new flavors and invent new cheeses. In the end, it's a source of great pride that I make cheeses by myself and get good feedback from people.

Q: What can people expect at the event happening here in Allentown?
I am very excited to be visiting the Lehigh Valley, and especially for the event! It will be a nice evening, in which I'll explain in general the process of making cheese and the various types of cheese and how each one of them requires a different treatment. There will be a tasting of cheeses (unfortunately, not mine, as I cannot bring cheeses from Israel), and, in addition, each one of the participants will prepare a pellet of labaneh balls coated in different toppings. I’m sure it will be delicious, and I very much hope that the participants will get a general idea of the cheese making process and enjoy the evening!

Q: What’s your favorite cheese?
What is my favorite cheese…? This is a difficult question. I can’t decide—I love all of them!