Make Cheese in French!

28 Apr

OC Cheesemaker is now in her second semester of French at Chapman University.  Why, do you ask?  Because I want to go to the French Alps and learn to make cheese!  This semester I put together a presentation with two of my classmates of how to make farmer’s cheese in French.  So, go make some cheese, and learn some language skills at the same time.

Book Review: The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

25 Mar

The Art of Fermentation(2)

This book is not just about cheese, but I had to write a review anyway because I enjoyed it so much.  I love Sandor Katz (my favorite book is The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved), and his books always include tons of practical information for the home experimenter.  He is extremely passionate about his subject, such that you put down the book mid-sentence, yelling, “I need to make tempeh NOW!”

The cheese chapter is not particularly long but contains a concise blueprint of the steps that go into cheesemaking as well as many answers to questions I often get asked in class.  He discusses several methods for creating your own vegetable rennet, many ideas for using the whey that even I, the whey evangelist, had not heard of, and gives pointers on soy and nut cheeses (I am really fired up to try making Keckek el Fouqara, “poor man’s cheese”, which even has Slow Food Presidium designation!)

So, check out this book for cheese knowledge you won’t get compiled elsewhere, get excited about some other ferments while you are at it, and also enjoy Sandor’s trademark extreme ideas — fermented urine, anyone?

Book Review: Cheese and Culture by Paul Kindstedt

9 Jan

Cheese and Culture

I have been so excited to read Cheese and Culture ever since it came out last year.  The verdict?  It’s a pretty dry read but full of great information and definitely worth picking up.  Kindstedt talks about the role of cheese from when it was first mass-produced as an offering to the goddess Innana in Mesopotamia to the current global bickering about raw milk safety and Protected Designation of Origin.  There are so many fascinating tidbits.  For example, the hypothesis that aged cheese never caught on in India because of their religious food purity laws.  And the gradual disempowering of women as cheesemakers as cheese moved off of the farm and into the factory.  He spends a lot of time talking the reader through Western history and I think this makes the book longer than it needs to be…most people who are going to pick up this book have a basic knowledge of the Roman Empire, feudalism, and so on.  But even if you are not a cheese maker, Cheese and Culture will give you a new appreciation of the cheeses you love and the forces that made them what they are. 

Gouda (sort of) for the Holidays

21 Dec

Gouda 12 21 12

I did it.  I cracked open the gouda we made in February, for sharing with our holiday guests.  The good news:  it’s delicious.  The not bad but different news:  it doesn’t really have anything to do with gouda.  More like a sharp cheddar.  Did I mention it is delicious?  I look forward to sharing it with my holiday guests!  Especially with my homemade mead and Mr. Cheesemaker’s latest batch of beer.  (BTW, the red color on the cheese is from the wax.  Not sure how I feel about that.)  I guess more gouda experimentation is in order.

Book Review: Over the Rainbeau by Lisa Schwartz, Judith Hausman, and Karen Sabath

14 Dec

Over the Rainbeau

I was so excited to receive “Over the Rainbeau” — Lisa Schwartz lives my dream of a tiny, diverse farm in suburbia that started with just two goats and now produces award-winning cheese.  The book is a beautiful chronicle of the seasons at the farm, with heartstring-tugging photos of baby goats.  However, I thought it would read more like a memoir, and less like a cookbook.  It is mostly recipes, with short sections of narrative in-between.  I really wanted to learn more about how Lisa got to where she is.  For example, finances are never mentioned.  How did they manage to slowly expand their land holdings and their business and still afford to pay their bills?  I SO wanted this to delve way deeper into their story.  My request:  Lisa, can you write another book?  A real memoir including the literal and figurative dirt?

Mozzarella in Under an Hour Kits Available Soon at the Bruery Provisions in Orange!

29 Nov

I had an awesome class at the Bruery Provisions in Old Towne Orange this week.  The beer was flowing and the mozzarella was divine.  If you’ve never been to this shop, they have a small but mighty cheese selection, as well as cheese books and magazines.  And in the very near future, OC Cheesemaker’s Mozzarella in Under an Hour kits!  So if you need a kit RIGHT NOW they will be there for YOU.  Stay tuned.  I almost forgot — they have amazing beer.  You can get all of your holiday needs in one place.

One-Day Chevre Kits Now Available!

21 Nov

The wait is over.  You can now make soft goat cheese in the comfort of your own home.  This super simple method just requires you to pick up some goat milk (if you are in California, I recommend Summerhill Dairy brand from Trader Joe’s) and do a few minutes of work, then wait for 12-18 hours of setting and draining time, and you’ve got homemade chevre!  So much less expensive than buying chevre at the store and perfect for holiday parties.  Or give the kit as a hostess gift!  More details on the Buy a Kit page or buy now!

Mozzarella Class at Artisanal

15 Nov

OK, this is the last New York trip post.  I wish I could say, like Vanessa Williams, that I saved the best for last, but sadly it is not true.  Oh Artisanal, you used to be the end all be all of cheese in New York, as far as I was concerned.  But wow, I have had some bad experiences with them of late.  Like the time when I had to confront the cheesemonger in the restaurant because I received a cheese plate with both 1) a cheese so overripe it was all ammonia and 2) a completely different cheese substituted for the one I ordered with no explanation whatsoever.  BUT because I love Mr. McCalman I decided it was still worth my while to take a class at the Artisanal Cheese Center.

You may have read in my post below about New York cheese classes.  Expensive, date night events in which you do not actually make cheese.  At least at Murray’s the instructor was super knowledgeable and I learned a thing or two.  But then there was the EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE class at Artisanal.

This is the waiting room where we spent the first 40 minutes of the two-hour class.  You did not read that wrong.  There was champagne.  There was fondue.  There were all kinds of cheeses for tasting.  However, there was nary an instructor to be seen.  As I was the only singleton in the group (someone actually asked me, “Why would you take a class like this by yourself?”), I sat awkwardly at this end of the room the whole time, wondering if the class was in fact happening or if it was just a cheese party.

We were finally let into the beautiful (if cold) kitchen space.

Here is the sad little cheese plate we ate through during the talk about mozzarella once the class began.  It had been sitting out for a very, very long time.  At least there was freeflowing wine and beer.

Our instructor, Erin Hedley, is probably a very good cooking teacher.  However, her knowledge of cheese was limited and sometimes incorrect. As in the Murray’s class, there was no actual making of cheese in this class, just the pouring of hot water over curds and working them together.

Here is the bag of said curds, before they became mozzarella (the instructor suggested we try New England Cheesemaking Supply to purchase curds.  NECS does NOT CARRY CURDS.  They carry supplies to actually make cheese from MILK.)  I ended up actually answering all of the cheesemaking questions of everyone working at my table, prompting the other students to think I worked for Artisanal.  No, if I worked for Artisanal you would actually be making cheese in this class (and paying half the price).

Here’s me with the end product:  some mozzarella to take home and the loss of my last bit of respect for Artisanal.

Mozzarella Class at Murray’s Cheese

8 Nov

First of all:  Murray’s cheese shop and cheese bar are back open for business after Sandy!  So GO THERE AND EAT CHEESE!

While I was in New York I took two mozzarella making classes in order to brush up on my skills.  I learned some things I didn’t expect:  Cheesemaking classes are a date night event in New York.  Cheesemaking classes in New York are very expensive.  You will not necessarily make cheese in a cheesemaking class in New York.

That being said, I did enjoy the Murray’s class.  Here I am in front of the classroom.

This is the interior, which is just beautiful and overlooks the shop.  You may ask, Heather, that looks like you are going to eat cheese and drink wine, not MAKE cheese from scratch.  And you would be right.  The first half of the class consisted of eating our way through several delicious samples of variations on mozzarella, free-flowing wine included.  Our instructor, Anuradha, was really a cheese whiz (forgive the pun) and talked us through the chemistry of cheese as well.  Definitely interesting, but when are we going to make some cheese?

The last half of the class was the “cheesemaking” portion.  By cheesemaking, they mean “we will give you some premade curds and you will pour hot water over them and work them into a ball”.  To the credit of the instructor and Murray’s, they were quite generous with the amount of cheese we got to bring home, and I certainly didn’t need dinner.

Also, we spent some time working on this little beauty — burrata.  A welcome addition to the curriculum.

So, I left the class full, slightly inebriated, and better educated about cheese, but not really knowing how to make it.  Murray’s, I love you, but how about a REAL cheesemaking class?

Eating Cheese in New York

2 Nov

After our jaunt through New England, we headed into New York City (thankfully before Sandy!!!) to take cheese classes (more on that in future posts) and eat cheese, of course.  Now, there are sooooo many awesome places to eat and buy cheese in New York.  This is just a tiny sample of the goodness to be had:

This was my first trip into the hipster haven of Williamsburg.  Yes, I ate vegan fried chicken.  AND, due to the recommendation of the gentleman at Consider Bardwell, I visited the Bedford Cheese Shop.  He promised they carry the finest selection of esoteric European cheeses and he did not lie.  This is the place to go if you want a “challenging” cheese or you are just looking for something new and different.

Look how cozy it is inside!


We also visited Mario Batali’s famous Eataly, a spectacular food emporium which you will NEED to eat your way through.  House-made pasta?  Check.  Vegetable butcher?  Check?  Aisles and aisles of Italian cheeses PLUS a cheese counter PLUS a dedicated mozzarella maker?  CHECK!

Probably my favorite cheese experience, though, was the new Murray’s Cheese Bar, which recently opened right next to their shop downtown.

So many cheese-themed items to eat, so little time.  Of course, there are these buffalo cheese curds.  Tasty, but I do prefer a straight-up cheese plate, of which we had two, deftly constructed  by the expert cheesemonger who also came to our table to explain all of the selections in detail.   Couldn’t recommend it highly enough!

I’m thinking maybe I need to do even more posts on where to eat cheese in New York, what do you think?


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