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Cheese Culture Takes Hold

Cheese Culture Takes Hold

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By: Tenaya Darlington

Eating healthy should still be delicious.

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Twenty years ago, most of the best cheeses were European imports. Today, the American cheese scene is developing beautifully, like a bloomy rind on a luscious round of Humboldt Fog. Within the last five years, the number of artisan cheesemakers has doubled, from around 400 in 2006 to more than 800 in 2011, according to Jeff Roberts, cofounder of the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese. Leading the movement are people like Emily Bryant Montgomery of Calkins Creamery, a sustainable dairy in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Her lush Noble Road—whose "cheese portrait" by Mike Geno, shown above, we commissioned for this issue—smells sweetly of truffles and herbs and fully expresses the terroir of her family's sixth-generation farm. For the ultimate tasting experience, try it with a fine glass of American bubbly.

How To Make Blue Cheese Cultures (Penicillium Roqueforti)

In this article you will learn step by step how to make your own blue cheese culture (Penicillium Roqueforti) at home.

You will save hundreds of dollars by producing your own Penicillium Roqueforti.

It allows you to have blue cheese cultures on hand for when you make your next blue cheese at home.

Are you a blue cheese fan? Do you love yourself some funky blue mold?

I have to say that blues aren’t my favourite cheese, but I can certainly enjoy the right one when I’m in the mood. I’ve had a couple of blue cheeses that were absolutely delicious, and there are certain times when I crave that extra something in my cheese.

If you’re a blue cheese fan and a home cheese maker, I’m guessing you’re either already trying your hand at making your own blue cheese? Or at least it’s in your future plans.

A lot of Curd Nerd’s are absolutely passionate about their blue cheeses, and are busy perfecting their own versions. Some have great success, others are finding it a bit more challenging. Getting that blue mold to grow as it should is usually the biggest test.

Isn’t it typical that when we don’t want the molds they happily grow, but when we do want them, they often seem to be elusive?

A Great Home Cheese Making Cost Saving Tip

The great thing is that like most cheese types, you can easily buy the cultures you need to make blue cheese. But in another cost saving tip, and so as to provide you with a new cheese making challenge, I want to share a resource with you that tells you how you can cultivate your own free source of blue molds (Penicillium Roqueforti).

While noseying around the internet at what other cheese makers are writing about I found this article about how to make your own Penicillium roqueforti – blue cheese mold.

Now I haven’t tried it myself yet. As I said, blues aren’t my favourite cheeses, therefore I don’t make them often. When I do it’s normally as a gift for my father in law who LOVES a good stinky cheese.

But I’m all for ways to get back to the traditional ways of making cheese, and this ‘recipe’ involves growing your own blue mold spores, similar to how it would have been done traditionally, rather than using a mass produced culture.

Mark McClusky's DIY American Cheese

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Mark McClusky, Wired magazine’s special projects editor, adapted this Velveeta-like cheese recipe from the Modernist Cuisine cookbook. He melts Comté, cheddar, and Gouda cheeses, adds sodium citrate and iota carrageenan to emulsify and gel the cheeses, then pours the mixture into a loaf pan to cool. Once it sets, the cheese can be shredded to use in macaroni and cheese, or sliced to top burgers for a supremely melty and gooey cheese. Watch McClusky make the cheese and use it in a grilled cheese sandwich in his My Go-To Dish video for CHOW .com.

Special equipment: Because the amounts of the chemicals used in this recipe are so small, we recommend a digital ingredient scale that weighs down to the hundredths of a gram to measure out the sodium citrate, iota carrageenan, and salt.

You will need a 9-by-5-inch silicone loaf pan for this recipe. A metal loaf pan can also be used, but you’ll need to line the inside with parchment paper first in order to easily remove the cheese.

Ingredients & Equipment for Traditional Cheddar

The ingredients for making cheddar are pretty straightforward. You’ll need just one cheese culture, along with a bit of rennet to form the curds, plus fresh milk of course.

I’m using raw milk from a dairy just around the corner, but pasteurized milk works as well (just not ultrapasteurized). If you’re using pasteurized milk, add calcium chloride to help the curds form (since it’s damaged during the pasteurization process).

    (for a 4-gallon batch)
  • Slotted spoon
  • Long knife for cutting curds
  • Collander
  • Cheese press (this inexpensive one will get the job done if you have weights around) (optional, but helps with the cheddaring process discussed later)
  • Aging Space (Either a refrigerator with a temperature bypass thermostat or a wine refrigerator, that can maintain 50 to 55 degrees)

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese: About the Ingredients

This from-scratch mozzarella technique requires that 3 ingredients be added to the milk. If you have already ventured into cheesemaking, you might already have these in your fridge or freezer.

By the way, New England Cheese Making Supply Company is one of my favorite places to get everything I need for making cheese. They have a huge selection of cheesemaking supplies!

Rennet– I get the organic vegetable rennet from New England Cheese Making Supply Company. There are many varieties of rennet available- tablets or regular strength rennet is ok too– but steer clear of the “Junket” stuff at the grocery store.

Lipase– I also get this from New England Cheese Making Supply Company (I get the Mild Calf Lipase). This is a totally optional ingredient, but I like to use it since it gives the cheese more depth of flavor. And I figure if I am going to all the trouble of making homemade mozzarella, it might as well taste as good as possible.

Milk— I use my raw cow milk, but goat milk will work as well. You can use pasteurized milk if you must, but try to purchase the most high-quality, whole milk that you can afford. Sometimes I lightly skim the cream from my gallons of raw milk (if I happen to be low on cream), but otherwise, I like to use full-fat milk since it gives the best flavor. Here are my tips on how to separate cream from milk.

What It Takes to Become a Certified Cheese Expert

Chances are you’ve heard of the Masters of Wine, in which sommeliers and their ilk sip, swirl, and blindly taste their way through one of the toughest tests in the food and drink world. But did you know that there’s also a test all about cheese? The Certified Cheese Professional exam, administered by the American Cheese Society, is the highest honor for folks who work in the world of Brie, blue, and burrata. It’s not all about sitting around and sampling wedges, though: The 150-question test drills takers on everything from the cheesemaking process to the chemistry of affinage (aging) to sanitation standards. To date, 740 people have passed the test.

Among them is Christine Clark, the assistant manager of education and events at NYC’s iconic shop Murray’s Cheese. Clark chatted with me about the test, what it’s like to work in the whey cool world of cheese, and the wedges she can’t live without.

Extra Crispy: When did you first decide you wanted to pursue cheese as a career?
Christine Clark: I was working in another field and doing some freelance food writing. I was trying to learn more about food when I found out that about the volunteer program at Murray’s, where you can come early and help set up for classes and clean up afterwards, and then you can take classes for free. After I𠆝 done hundreds of classes, I thought, “I guess I really like this.”

What do you love about working in cheese?
The stories. I was an English major in college, so I love hearing why people choose the lives that they choose. Cheese is all about the producers our producers are for the most part small family farmers. They do this because they want to keep their communities alive. There’s a lot of passion in cheese that I find really inspiring.

So what was it like to become a Certified Cheese Professional?
The certification is still quite new in the US. At this point, it’s just a test. I’ve heard a range of pass rates, from 49 to 60 percent, so it’s challenging. It covers distribution and storage, animal breeds, protection laws, and more.

Do you have to sit around and sample a bunch of cheese to study for it?
[Laughs] No. In the study program, you learn about flavor compounds, whether it’s bananas or cauliflower—it’s more about the science of taste than actually tasting cheese.

Hold up. There’s a cheese that tastes like bananas?
Not exactly. The flavor compound is called isoamyl acetate. As the cheese is ripening, the protein in is breaking into compounds that create flavor and aroma. Some cheeses have the isoamyl acetate compound that makes them smell reminiscent of bananas.

So how long did you have to study for the test?
Murray’s has a very structured program to prepare its future CCPs. We had lectures once a week for six or eight months.

What were the most difficult parts of the test for you?
Since my job is mostly in cheese education, the distribution, transit, and storage areas were difficult. Also, milk chemistry is tricky. It has to do with the milk when it breaks down on a chemical level during the cheesemaking process. There’s so much to learn: That’s what the test reminds you. No matter how much you know about cheese, there’s always more to learn.

So be honest. Are there any bad things about working with cheese?
I know a lot of people at Murray’s and beyond that think buying is the coolest thing ever, but our buying department also has to taste a lot of really gross cheese. We taste everything that people send us. There’s a lot of awful cheese out there.

What are the most common mistakes people make when they’re putting together a cheese plate?
A lot of the issues that people have buying cheese can be prevented by going to a cheese shop with cheesemongers who will tell you what’s good that day, because it changes. When I make cheese plates, I’ll do three cheeses, some soft, some hard, and usually two crowd-pleasers and one that people haven’t tried before, because they always want to learn more. The cheeses I bring are the stories I want to tell.

If you were a cheese, what kind of cheese would you be?
Probably a clothbound cheddar. There’s one called Flory’s Truckle that isn’t a scary cheese, but just a little bit different.

OK, I’ve gotta ask: If you could only bring one cheese to a desert island.
I𠆝 bring Comte San Antoine, which is a pressed and cooked cheese made in the Jura region of France. It’s a cousin to Gruyère but not made in the mountains. It’s very complex but it’s not aggressive—you get brown butter and hazelnuts and freshly steamed milk flavors. It’s so complex but so snackable.

Pepper Jack Cheese History and Origin

Pepper Jack cheese is derived from Monterey jack Cheese which is an original type of American cheese that was invented by Mexican Franciscan friars of the Monterey area in California. As the name Pepper Jack suggests, this kind of cheese is highly flavored with rich peppers, some rosemary, garlic, habanero chilies and to give it that extra kick, some jalapenos are also added.

This American semi-hard and white cheese is made using cow milk to give it a mild flavor that has some slight sweetness although it’s mostly spicy and leaves you with a buttery taste in your mouth.

Everything You Need To Throw A Tiki Party

Mix the mai tais and light the torches — it&aposs tiki time!

If you want to throw a party with a tiki lounge vibe, it helps to get to know a little about tiki culture. To get a taste of it, search tiki on Pinterest and brace yourself for a tidal wave of all things tiki. Then somewhere in the scroll it&aposll hit you: There are lots of roads to tiki town, from mid-century modern purist to neon-colored plastic tourist.

You just have to decide in what direction your inner tiki god wants to go.

Tiki Tidbit #1

A mai tai takes its name from the Tahitian maita&aposi, which literally translates as "good," which is how you&aposll feel after a couple of mai tais.

A Brief History of Tiki Time

Tiki culture all started with the ancient Polynesians, who drank rum-laced cocktails out of mugs carved in their fearsome likenesses and feasted on pu-pu platters of crab rangoon, rumaki, and beef skewers.

Or so you might think if you did your cultural anthropology coursework at Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic&aposs. In the post-World War II era — with G.I.s returning from the South Seas and Hawaii achieving statehood — these restaurants fostered tiki culture by dishing up romanticized versions of Polynesia. The entertainment industry did its part, too, with movies like South Pacific and Blue Hawaii. On the small screen, TV swept you away to Gilligan&aposs Island, while Disney sealed the mainstream pop-culture deal with its Enchanted Tiki Room.

Over the decades, tiki culture has influenced food, drink, and design for better or for worse it was once the height of middle class chic to have a tiki bar in your rec room. And though its flame may dim from time to time, the tiki torch still burns brightly in many corners of the universe, as proved by these Star Wars Geeki Tiki drink mugs.

Tiki Tidbit #2

All kitsching aside, tikis do exist outside of the fantasy world of faux tropical bars. In Maori culture, Tiki was the first man, from whom all other beings sprang. More widely, the word "tiki" refers to carved wooden or stone sculptures representing deities in Polynesian culture from New Zealand to Hawaii.

Cheese Culture Takes Hold - Recipes

It won't take a lot of your time or effort to make this delicious fermented vegan cheese. For the wheel on the photo it took a week to achieve this stage.
If you get organized from the very beginning you can make it very easily.
On the very first day of each preparation you will spend about 10-15 minutes and then, after the cheese ripens, - about 2-3 minutes a day changing the cheese cloth.

  • blender (better high speed blender like Vita Mix, but any other will do too) (which can be just a simple plastic basket for berries from farmers market)
  • cheese cloth (about 7 square sheets, around 10"x10")
  • a dish/bowl for fermenting blended cashew cream

Basic scheme looks like this:

1) . Soak cashew nuts for 6-10 hours

adding salt after cheese
cream achieved desired acidity
(click to enlarge)
2) . Drain soaking water, discard it or use for blending. I use new water.

3) . Place soaked cashews into the blender and add water up to the half of the soaked nuts volume.
Turn on blender slowly increasing the speed. When it feels like you need more water to keep blender breaking the nuts - add some and then more in small portions if needed. Eventually it has to turn into sour cream like smooth paste.

4) . Transfer the paste into a separate dish and add a table spoon or two of soy yogurt, which works as a culture.

5) . Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm place. It takes about 7 hours on a sunny spot in summer or from day and a half to two days in the house during the winter to have the paste fermented.

The longer it stays - the stronger the acidity. You can smell nice fermented yogurt like aroma from it. If to dig into it with a spoon you will see that it became porous and airy. Don't leave the paste for ripening longer than 2 days not refrigerated.

6) . When you think the cheese is ripened enough add into it salt and mix well. Photo above. You need to add salt in small portions in order to make it right for YOUR taste.

transferred into mold after adding
salt (click to enlarge)
7) . Transfer it into the mold lined with cheese cloth, which can be double layered. It doesn't look that porous after you stirred it, it looks smooth, but the bacteria is still there and working. Photo to the right. Place it in refrigerator.
There the process of fermentation will continue, but slower. You can put on top of the cheese covered with cheese cloth a saucer with a weight on it to help it loose cashew whey faster.

8) . Every day change cheese cloth flipping the cheese into the dry cloth. Be very gentle the first two times when peeling the cloth off, trying to have as least as possible of cheese stuck to the old cloth. When the cloth is changed place the cheese back in the mold and put in refrigerator. Keep it in the mold till it will hold its shape without it. Every next time the cloth will come off easier and easier.

9) . When the cheese surface becomes firmer it will be helpful to rub some salt all over it to prevent undesirable bacteria from entering in. Carefully hold it in cheese cloth in one hand with the cheese cloth opened and with the other hand spread some salt by hand or with salt shaker.

If you want to have your cheese to hold shape faster - place it (still in the mold lined with cheese cloth) in the freezer. Freezing won't kill the beneficial cultures. They will go into dormant stage, but after defrosting they become active again. At the same time the cheese will start holding the shape a little bit faster. After having it a day in a freezer you can move it to refrigerator and continue changing cheese cloth to get it more firm.

The cheese wheel on the 1st photo was shaped in the mold with a weight on it in refrigerator. The surface of the wheel was rubbed with salt. At the end the cheese could hold its shape and could be sliced, but it was still rather soft cheese.

The cream cheese process takes a little time, but it's straightforward, and the results were worth it. I used pasteurized whole milk, and it turned out well.

Cream Cheese Starter Culture

This stuff is so insanely delicious and easy to make. I used 2 cups cream (with no thickening agents, just pure cream) and 2 cups whole milk. I have sensitivity to carrageenan and gums, so this is wonderful to have cream cheese with no junk. Extremely creamy and wonderfully tangy. Thank you!


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