Being a Kiwi of Dutch heritage; I have always been a bit cheese obsessed. Combine that with being a chef and you can understand why I have had such a keen interest in learning the craft of cheese making for several years now. However, trying to find a cheese maker is task enough, let alone finding one who is willing to impart some of their knowledge on me….. So I had to resign to the fact that I am on my own in my pursuit of becoming an artisan cheese maker.
Fortunately, help came in the form of “Mad Millies, DIY Artisan Food kits”. Mad Millies offers DIY kits for products ranging from cider and sausages to preserves and of course cheese. The cheese kits come in four options depending on your skill level and the variety of cheese you intend on making. I opted for an intermediate kit. One that will allow me to do Brie, Camembert and blues. These cheeses require a maturing time of 3-4 weeks as opposed to the hard cheese kit which needs up to 5 months in some cases. I don’t have that kind of patience waiting to taste my initial cheese. It will definitely be next on my list though.
The biggest challenge and I believe, what is the key to determining the defining characteristics of any good cheese; the milk! Since this is my first attempt and I was in a rush to get started, I just grabbed some full cream milk from my local supermarket but I am currently trying to source some unpasteurized milk from local farms, but I guess its important to get the basic process down before worrying about the finer details.
The actual process of cheese making is relatively simple and the main difference from one cheese to another is the strand of culture used, combined with a few tweaks to the basic recipe.
1. First off you need to heat your full cream milk (quality of milk is very important).
2. Add calcium chloride.
3. Stir in culture and/or rennet into the milk.
4. Incubate until the curd has set.
5. Cut the curd.
6. Scoop the curd into moulds and allow the whey to drain off
7. Salt the cheese and age for 2 weeks to 5 months depending on the type of cheese.
The pick for my first cheese was the French Neufchatel. Believed to be one of the oldest varieties of cheese in France dating back to the 6th century, it has been certified AOC to the region of Normandy. I certainly have big shoes to fill……….
The next cheese variety I chose to tackle was finally a blue. I decided to make a Stilton style and then a sunset blue also made using the Stilton cheese technique. The big difference when making a blue is that once the cheese is made, it is aged for 4 days at room temperature before being aged for a minimum of 60 days. It going to be a long 60 days……