Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes From a Beginner

Brin Wisdom
Brin Wisdom in Atlanta, Texas

Do you remember what is was like when you first began making cheese?  It was as if a miracle was unfolding right before your eyes when you saw the milk turn into curds and the curds into real cheese.  I was reminded about this when I found Brin Wisdom's post (below) at her fun blog- My Messy, Thrilling Life.

I asked Brin what she has been making since she wrote her post in February, 2011:

My first cheese was shockingly great. The flavor was fantastic. The first cheese I ever made was the farmhouse cheddar, and I've primarily stuck to it since I got comfortable with it. I would like to master a creamier, less crumbly cheddar this year, though!

I've yet to venture into any parmesan-type cheeses, so I definitely am eager to try those. But my favorite cheeses of all time are the Stiltons and Havarti-s, so maybe I can work up the courage to try something to get close to those?

I must say, cheesemaking.com makes it possible for all of us home, cheese newbies. I was too intimidated to try it all until I found the site and resources. Now, I just order and go!

As you all know, the press and the aging "cave" are among the most important pieces of equipment for making the hard cheeses.  I asked Brin what she was using:


I am using a used press I found off eBay.  Needless to say, a new press is HIGH on my list of must-purchase items. I can't find a brand name on it anywhere, but it isn't too old, so I'm thinking someone must have made it.

I've aged my cheese two places, depending on the weather: in a small refrigerator I used just for that purpose, and in an outbuilding on the property (during winter). My part of Texas doesn't get much winter to speak of, so the temperature is usually in the 50s. I quit aging in the building when there was an obvious difference between the cheeses stored in the fridge and those that were left to the mercies of temperature fluctuations!

 

Cheesemaking, Or, How to Turn Milk Into Magic
By Brin Wisdom at My Messy, Thrilling Life

Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.
Clifton Paul Fadiman



I'm learning to make cheese. It was on my list of 30 things I wanted to do in my 30s. And so here I go, becoming quite the curds and whey girl.

(Actually, the whey girl is Millie. Did you know that dogs LOVE whey? I mean, they love it. Millie jumps in the air for it. Anyone know why this is- that dogs love whey?)




All cheese experts advise starting with "beginner cheeses" like mozarella or cream cheese. Cheese you don't have to load in a cheese press. Cheese you don't have to know advanced chemistry to make. Me? Ha. I flipped to Home Cheese Making's recipe for Farmhouse Cheddar and dragged out the milk.



My first stab at making homemade cheddar cheese was a success. Now I'm addicted. Farmhouse Cheddar is a crumbly white cheddar cheese- kinda along the same texture as feta- that you only have to age for a month. The ingredients are easily had and so's the equipment. I found the hardest part of the cheese making process to be regulating my electric stove to keep the heat just right; too hot and the curds break, too cool and the curds don't set. But with a little (okay, a cheese truck load) of patience, I made, aged, and waxed my first round of cheese.

If you're interested in giving cheesemaking a go, start here: cheesemaking.com. And by all means, find a copy of the book I linked above and decide what you'd like to try your stove at first.

Anyone have cheesemaking tips or advice for beginners? I'd love to hear from folks who do or want to make homemade cheese. Thanks! -Brin

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