Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Advanced Workshop with Jim Wallace

Q.  Are workshops really all they're cracked up to be?
A.  Yes!!!

Ask any great American cheesemaker how they learned to make cheese and there will be at least one workshop in their answer.  Workshops are simply the best way to learn.
This past weekend, Ricki's daughter (Sarah) and I (Jeri) joined 12 aspiring cheesemakers from near and far (including Canada), for an advanced  workshop at Jim and Robin Wallace's beautiful home in Shelburne, Falls, MA.  (As most of you already know, Jim is our technical advisor and he is always available to answer your questions via e-mail-info@cheesemaking.)
Jim, himself, has traveled all around the world taking cheesemaking workshops.  He finds it to be an unending adventure and he becomes impassioned when he is talking about the way cheese is made in other cultures.  Currently, he is experimenting with a recipe which combines the best features of two of his favorite cheeses.
Jim's wife, Robin welcomed us all.  Robin is an artist and a professional photographer.
We gathered in the basement "make room" to begin the learning process.  That's Sarah, Ricki's daughter, on the left.  Sarah has recently joined the business and she is rapidly learning everything she can about making cheese.
Jim's goal was to teach as much as possible in two full days by making Cheddar, Camembert and Vacha Toscano while we observed and asked questions.  Most of us took notes, but Jim provided the group with detailed recipes for these cheeses, as well as general cheesemaking info.
 Jim started the Cheddar with 6 gallons of milk.
  Soon it was curds.
Sandy (from Lynn, MA) volunteered to stir the curds.  (She eats a cheddar cheese sandwich every day, so she really needed to learn!  Plus, she wants to give her boss the gift of cheese next Christmas.  It looks like she's on her way to achieving her goal.)
Did we mention that Sandy brought her gigantic Great Dane, Lindsey with her?  Lindsey is a retired service dog but she still takes on a few demo gigs.  She kept quietly poking her head into the door to the basement-to check on Sandy.
We felt and sampled the curds at several points in order to understand exactly how much moisture the curds should retain at various points in the process.  In the picture below, the two cheesemakers to Sarah's left are from Canada.  They didn't know each other before the workshop, but, coincidentally, they both have their own goats.
We started the Camembert and then went upstairs for lunch.  Robin had prepared a beautiful meal.  After lunch we sampled Jim's own Taleggio, Havarti, Cheddar, Vacha Toscano and a Wine Infused Tomme au Marc.  Need we say, "Yum!"?

Jim pointed out that the first step to making great cheese is to taste great cheese.  You need to know the final goal before you can strive to surpass it.  (I'm sorry I didn't get a picture of the samples, but by the time I got to the table, they had been almost completely devoured and then I was too busy grabbing the last delicious bites.  If anyone came to the workshop not knowing that Jim can make cheese, all doubts were alleviated at this point!)

Before we returned to the make room, Carolyn from Gardner, MA posed with Lindsey.  Carolyn took Ricki's workshop last summer.  She then had a "Homemade Artisan Cheese Tasting" at her home.  She and three of her friends brought their own cheeses which they and other friends sampled and analyzed.  She promised to invite us to her next one.
Then, it was back to the Cheddar and the Camembert we were making.  In the picture below, that's Cindy on the left.  As we mentioned before, she drove all the way from New Brunswick (a 12 hour trip) to take this workshop.  She has 9 pampered goats back home and she has already begun to make several different kinds of goat cheese.
 Soon, we watched Jim prepare the curds for cheddaring.  At Jim's left, we see Wally from Fairfield, VT.  He already makes sausage- both dry cured and smoked.  He also makes bread, so he'll have some great sandwiches when he makes his own cheese!  Wally works for a pharmaceutical company, so he was able to contribute to the discussion about calibrating the pH meter.
Jim has poked holes in these plastic bins so the whey drains out.
While the Cheddar curds were draining, the Camembert curds were quickly poured into the molds.  Jim has his own technique for flipping over the Camemberts.  It takes a large hand.
Below, Jill seems to be having a good time.  She has been living in New York but she's moving to Vermont where she hopes to eventually raise goats.  She was inspired by a workshop she took at Murray's caves in NYC.  Jill brought samples of her Cheddars with her to this workshop.  She has been using a wine cooler for her cave.

Sarah and Mike showed up bright and early Sunday morning.  Mike is a veterinarian currently living in Freehold, NJ.  Soon, however, he is buying land in Hamburg, PA where he hopes to eventually raise his own sheep.  Like Jill, he also brought his own Cheddar to the workshop.
 Robin was ready for another day of entertaining the troops.
Before we went downstairs, Jim showed us the butter he had made from the butterfat left in the Cheddar whey.  (Later, we sampled it at lunch and it was truly from heaven!)
Cindy, Liz, Karen and Carolyn were ready for another day.
So, we were back on the job of finishing the Cheddar and the Camembert, then starting the Vacha Toscano. (That's John in back wearing the pink shirt.  Unfortunately, I never did get a good picture of him.  Sorry, John.  Come back to another workshop!)
Karen (on the left) came from New Hope, PA with her 15 year old son, Trey (shown in the next picture).  Trey is only 15 years old, but he makes cheese and we all agreed that he's getting a great start on a possible future career.  Actually, I think we all had a shot at torturing Trey with our bright ideas about his future.)
Compared to the Cheddar, the Vacha Toscano was simple to make.
Jimmy (at the far left) came all the way from Dover, Delaware.  He teaches high school chemistry so his lucky students will soon be learning about cheesemaking.
Meanwhile, Jim pressed the Cheddar, which was already looking good.  Just yesterday, it was nothing but curds floating in a pot.
Liz, Dawn and Carolyn took notes.  Liz lives in Rutland, MA.  She works as the only cook at the Overlook Farm (which is part of Heifer International). 
We broke for another of Robin's fabulous lunches.  Then came the most fun part of the weekend.  Three of the participants had brought their own cheeses for us to sample and critique.  The first cheeses we sampled were Cindy's Squeaky Curds (in the bowl).
Most of us had never tasted Squeaky Curds, so we didn't really know how to judge them.  But, we all agreed they were yummy!  She also brought a jar of her own Cajeta (Mexican Caramelized Candy) from our recipe in Home Cheese Making.  We highly recommend making that when you have some goat's milk to spare.  It was wonderfully sweet and rich!
In the center of the picture below, Patty appears to be concentrating on the curds.  She and her husband, John came here from their home in Groton, MA.  They have a wood fired brick oven which they use to make bread and now, cheese. 
After that, we checked out Mike's Cheddar which he had waxed and aged for two months.  We were amazed by how delicious it was.  Jim pronounced that in one more month it would be an excellent American Cheddar (it was just a little too moist now).  Any of us would have been thrilled to have achieved that cheese!
Jill brought two bandaged Cheddars she had made.  The red sections are where she had removed slices of the cheese and then waxed over the exposed surfaces.  The mold on the bandages was just a little more than Jim would have preferred to see.  He advised her to put some good cheeses in her wine cooler for awhile to get the good mold going.

She made one of her Cheddars with store-bought milk.  The other was made with organic raw Jersey milk.  You'll never guess which one we preferred . . .
Then it was back to the basement.  We were ready for the aging lesson in the room outside Jim's "cave."  Jim showed us that he sometimes uses burlap to wipe the mold off his cheeses.
 Below, his bandaged Cheddars and his brine.  He did not want to get into brining too much because he has so much information about it on our website.  There is information in the HELP section and the HOW TO AND WHY section.
His Feta looks scrumptious.  Oddly, Feta is the cheese that seems to cause the most problems for new cheesemakers.  The recipe with the most information is Jim's new one in the RECIPE section of our website.
 A peek inside Jim's cave.
Dawn and Liz were sitting in front of some of Jim's beer collection.  It isn't enough that Jim is a master cheesemaker - he is also a renowned beer and wine maker, as evidenced in the ribbons on his wall, shown in the next picture.
By late afternoon, we had run out of questions and we were all ready to go home.  We bought some supplies and went on our way.  Liz checked out an acid testing kit and gave us a gorgeous smile.  Now, let's make some cheese!


Marci said...

I would like to hear more about making butter from the butterfat left in the cheddar whey. Is that on the website somewhere?

Jeri said...

It isn't on our website, so our technical advisor, Jim Wallace, said he would write more about it. It may take a few days, so hang on and thanks for your comment.

Jeri said...

The answer to the butter question is below
Marci Asks:??
"I would like to hear more about making butter from the butterfat left in the cheddar whey. Is that on the website somewhere?"

The milk I use is a high fat Jersey milk (Yum!), but as hard as I try I can not help some of the butterfat running off with the whey. I collect the high fat whey in a sanitized container and allow it to sit at room temp (68-75F) for the butter to rise. Do not forget to cover this.

If I allow this clean whey to sit covered overnight, the culture added to the milk will increase the acidity and in the morning I will find a nicely acidified cream on top that is easy to skim off (It has become very thick).

This "cultured cream" is then chilled (42-50F) then poured into my sanitized "Kitchen Aid" blender. I then hit the stir button and watch it go for about 10 minutes until it begins to "chug" (a jar for shaking or other butter making device will also work). I then make sure the butter has formed well before pouring the contents into a sanitized bowl.
I then pour off the whey that has accumulated and fill the bowl with Cold water. Then using the back of a sanitized wooden spoon I fold the butter back on itself in the water causing any residual whey to be released. I repeat the draining and cold water additions until the water runs clear (residual whey in the butter may cause it to go sour/rancid).

Drain off the final water, add a bit of salt to taste as you like and chill for use.

Voila! Butter from Whey ..

Jim, the Cheese Maker

Marci said...

Thanks so much. I am going to try this. We have a grass fed jersey cow and you can mound up the cream in her milk. SO, I think we should be able to do this.