|Tommy Reddicks washing up after moving a Manchego from mold to brine|
You know the saying, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well?" Some people just seem to do everything well.
When I read Tommy Reddicks's entry in our 35th Anniversary Essay Contest, it seemed apparent that he has become a master home cheese maker. This is, in itself, of course, very interesting.
However, when I asked him about his other hobbies, I was amazed to hear that:
- He just released a New Age CD called "Time and Space" (available at Amazon or iTunes).
- He plays all instruments, specializing in woodwinds and world percussion.
- He is an avid ping pong player. (He said that as a school principal, he doesn't have the polish to beat ranked players, but he can make the closet enthusiast sweat.)
- He's publishing a book right now. It's called (unless the publisher changes it) "The Insane Book of Riddles, Codes, and Secret Math." It uses riddles as a hook to keep the brain active. All riddle answers are coded, and it takes some math savvy to solve the math, crack the code, and answer the riddle.
- And, this summer he'll be traveling to Colorado on an endowment to film 11 state parks in 3D and compose a CD with a song for each park to accompany the 3D video.
Here's his essay and a few questions I asked him about his cheese making hobby:
|Ripe Valencay at room temp and oozing|
|Aged GoJack (a jack style cheese made with cow's and goat's milk)|
I am a lifelong "foodie." While others may dream of cashing in on a great car, new home, new TV, or new smart phone, I am guilty of spending my extra cash on exotic fruits, aged meats, wonderful wines, and pungent cheese.
My favorite meal is a spread of six to eight cheeses, sliced cured meats, palette cleansing fruits, macerated olives, crusty artisan bread, fine olive oil and balsamic for dipping, and a beautiful red wine. In fact, I met my wife twelve years ago on a blind date where the standard for the connection was a love for wine and stinky cheese. In my opinion, that's an excellent way to start a relationship!
|St. Marcellin ready to eat|
Four years ago, my wife and I moved to Indianapolis, Indiana from Denver, Colorado. Denver is a wonderful culinary hub, and the cheese shops are notorious for tasting experiences and worldly diversity. Indianapolis, however, seemed to be void of good artisan cheese. Sure, the markets were full of mass-produced Brie, Dill Havarti, Queso, Feta, Mozzarella, Jack, Cheddar, and Swiss, but there were little, if any, "rich" cheeses like French and Spanish blues, aged cheddars, washed rind cows, and ash treated goats. It was obvious that my wife and I had arrived in a cheese desert.
|Cooking down the curd|
We spent the better part of our first two years in Indianapolis complaining about the cheese scene and reminiscing about the old days in Denver. But, something snapped along the way as we decided to end the moaning and groaning and begin making our own cheese.
We purchased a cheese making kit, cheese press, pasteurizer, and a couple cheese making books. After some plodding with simple Queso Blancos, we decided to dive right into French style Reblechon cheeses and ash coated Valencay style cheeses.
These attempts were very colorful initially as we perfected our affinage process and learned how to respond to the varying levels of humidity through the ripening period. But, after three months, we had made our first few lovely examples of artisan cheese in the middle of our desert.
|Straining the whey|
It's now 20 months into our cheese-making journey. We've settled on seven cheeses: Valencay, Reblechon, GoJack (Goat/Cow Jack Style), Albert (Goat Farmstead Style), St. Marcellin, Saffron Thyme Manchego, and Chèvre. I turn and wipe my cheeses daily like putting my children to bed. Our house takes on the occasional waft of a fromagerie, and we even hire a cheese sitter when we're away from home.
Today, we make cheese for private parties. We were the cheese provider for the Indianapolis Repertory Theater's year-end celebration in 2013 and we were delighted at the evening fame brought on by our Reblechon and GoJack. We currently stage our weeks around raw milk deliveries and weekend cheese-making timelines; a choice we happily make in making light of life in our desert! To say that our lives have changed because of cheese is an understatement, but certainly changed for the better as Indianapolis has a private oasis in what was once a cheese desert.
|Prepping for molding St. Marcellin|
What kind of equipment are you using?
We use a traditional Dutch cheese press for our GoJack, Reblechon, Albert, and Manchego.
Where are you aging your cheese?
We use an Edgestar 38 bottle wine fridge for the cave with a wide variety of tupperware depending on the cheese. We'll be upgrading to three wine caves (fridges) soon so that our cheeses are on display more intentionally in our home.
How are you controlling the humidity in your cave?
Humidity is controlled by feel now. I have a hygrometer, but it doesn't serve me as well as my eyes. Most of our cheeses are washed rind or mold ripened, so I adjust lids in the individual boxes for each cheese to compensate for the right amount of mold growth.
In Indiana, I found if I followed recipes, I over-molded. So, I typically adjust for less humidity since our average relative humidity is fairly high.This requires daily attention of course, but that's what it takes to get it right.
|Valencay in the ripening box|
|Finished Valencay, ready to eat|
What are your goals?
Initially our goal is still to perfect our craft. We're 20 months into the process, have started to get very consistent results from our five core cheeses*, but we have plenty of room for improvement. We also needed to zero in on a farm for the milk - something we have recently done. In the coming years we want to continue to provide cheese for friends, family, and local events. We'd love to be in a position to open a cheese shop in the Indianapolis area in three to five years to provide great artisan stinky cheese to our cheese desert. We continue to mull over an attached B&B or cheese shop w/restaurant.
* Manchego, Valencay, GoJack, St. Marcellin, and Albert are the five. However, our version of Reblechon could also end up being part of the signature set. It's much more finicky, and we have yet to get it as consistent. Fresh cheeses (goat and queso, etc) are frequent but not as noteworthy.
|from top left: Saffron Manchego, Albert (farmstead goat), Aged GoJack (Goat-Cow Jack Style), Regular GoJack: Bottom left to right: Valencay in pyramid, Reblechon, and Valencay in square.|