So You Want To Be a Cheese Maker?

I won’t lie, I am really excited to introduce you to Shawn Saindon on the blog today. I came across his blog Of Song And Cheese when I couldn’t sleep one night and I just loved it. We have been discussing the in’s and out of making cheese here at home and this blog is just perfect if you are wanting to do just that oh and listen to some top tunes whilst doing so. You can also find Shawn on Facebook .

I’m sure the security guards at the local grocery store had me on some kind of watch list for years. They’d routinely clock me as I would get drawn, like a moth to a flame, towards the cheese section. I could almost hear them say on their radios, “There he is, boys! Keep your eye on that weird cheese guy…”

Stiring the curdsSeriously, I love cheese. I love the look, the smell and the flavor of a well-crafted hard cheese. I adore the texture of a bloomy rind goat’s cheese, the elegance of Stilton Blue and the stately stature of six-month old cheddar. I go a little crazy for cheese. And I have quietly thrown the idea around in my head for years. Why deny these tendencies that dwell deep inside me? Why not just come on out and be straight with myself:  I should make cheese. What has held me back for so long? The answer is simple: Time. Or lack thereof. With a full-time job, college and musical ambitions, time was always of the essence.  For many people in this busy modern world, starting the ancient craft of artisan cheese making seems too big of a mountain to climb. I won’t lie. Yes, it is sometimes time intensive. Yes, there is quite a commitment to the process. But I also say: DO IT! You will love it.

So if you’re ready to get started with artisan cheese making, here is a list of a few things to get started:

Identify Your Cheese

The first crucial step: Figure out what kind of cheese to start with. Are you into soft cheeses or hard, goat or cow’s milk? A lot of people start with the basics such as making mozzarella and ricotta. They’re easy to make and are a great introduction into the magic of dairy alchemy and don’t take up too much time. Look around online; there are many companies out there that have these starter kits, which come with all the supplies you need. That’s how I got started (read up on starter kits here). Then all you will need is the milk, a cooking pot and time.

DRAINING RICOTTAFind Your Zen

Plan on a time and a place where you won’t be interrupted during the cheese making process. I love early Saturday morning in my kitchen with my trusty sidekick Bowie (my dog and yes, named after certain hero rock star), helping me.

Prepare

Make sure you have all the equipment needed for the cheese you’re making. You just can’t put half-made cheddar aside until your cheese press comes in the mail. Be prepared and be ready! Read up and learn about the cheese you want to start. There are many awesome books out there and just as many, if not more, YouTube instructional videos from people all over the world making any cheese you can imagine making. Watch them- they’re essentially free cheese making classes. (Check out my blog for some great book ideas).

Let Go

Finally, be prepared to just let yourself go. In cheese making, you have to follow the rules until you become a master. It’s a humbling process. Go with it and become one with the process. For example, I was making ‘stirred curd’ cheddar and there are some steps where you are seriously just stirring for an hour. Nothing but you, the spoon and the curd. Relax and enjoy the ride because there’s nothing else you can do during that time. You may even find that you become strangely calm and present during the process.

I recommend starting out with small batches of whichever cheese you try to make. That way you won’t waste too much if it doesn’t quite work out. Also, keep a journal for your cheeses as you make them. Sometimes a ‘happy’ mistake will happen and it works out to be the best thing that ever happened. A journal will help you remember what you did.Two Cheddars hanging out airdryin'

In addition to my desire to create cheese products from my own kitchen and hang out with my dog more often, I also realized that I had become too busy to sit around and listen to the music I love. I remember the days when a new album would be released and I would run right out and buy it. Then, I would spend hours sitting around listening, analyzing and LOVING every song. I haven’t done that for years. But as I type this blog post, looking out of the kitchen window into the spring blossoms of Maine, I am just standing here, stirring the curd, typing these words and listening to the entire new David Bowie album. And all is well in the world.

The world is a busy place. If you don’t demand the space and time to do your own thing, you will regret it. Steal six hours of a day this week and make a cheddar wheel. I give you permission.

8 Comments

  1. Hmm.
    I have always been content to travel to some of the local ag-tech universities to obtain their wares at most reasonable prices. (It also helps that most of them use microbial rennet!)
    Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA recently posted..It’s coming- and our balance sheet will never be the same…My Profile

  2. I am a big fan of a good ripe cheddar. Never made any cheese, however it is done all over Mexico and one just visits the house in the area that makes the type of cheese you like and for a few peso’s has enough for a few days. My wife makes some once in a while in Wisconsin but it is harder to do in the States.
    Chef william recently posted..Apple Bread PuddingMy Profile

    • I agree it is harder to do in the states. You just can’t walk up to your local dairy farmer the way we did in the good ‘ole days. Such a shame. it really does taste better fresh.
      I’m extremely lucky since my wife’s father is a dairy farmer. I’ve able to get the milk direct from the source. I’ve met the cow that produced the milk I’ve made my cheddar with! Very cool.

  3. Oh…man…how delicious!!
    Carrie recently posted..Super Quick and OH SO GOOD Chocolate SauceMy Profile

  4. Another addition to my “want to do list”…. Could we please just have one more day in the week?
    Carolina HeartStrings recently posted..CARROT RAISIN COOKIE BARSMy Profile

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