Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting schooled in cheese

Last week I was fortunate enough to squeeze into the packed Principles and Practices of Cheese Making course at the College of Mairn. Having dabbled in home cheese making with my friend Courtney, I knew the basics of the cheese making process but there was plenty of new information I attempted to absorb.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things I learned was that we could successfully make cheese in a plastic rectangular tub from K-Mart, with plastic utensils, in a room where we had little control over the air, water or milk temperature. In this country, cheese you purchase at a store or market is made in a government inspected, sterile facility with stainless steel equipment and highly regulated temperature and humidity control. Truly, our conditions were not preferable but it was interesting to learn we could produce a tasty cheese like this.

It certainly helped to have an extremely knowledgeably instructor, Marc Bates, who was the creamery manager at Washington State University for 27 years. Using milk purchased from nearby Strauss Dairy, half the class made feta cheese in small groups and the other half the class made Havarti.

My group made Havarti - cutting the curds
The next day, after the molded cheese sat in a cold water bath overnight
A "make sheet" was new to me and extremely helpful for keeping track of what we did-to duplicate or adjust depending on results

It was a good class with a great instructor, highly recommended if you are interested in making cheese in your own kitchen or looking into it as a possible career.