Meet Whitney— and the cheddar she made 10 months ago! “I’m hoping this Cheddar will be my best cheese ever – fingers crossed! I’ve been aging it for almost a year.”
I met Whitney about 4 months ago at an affinage (aging & ripening) class I teach at The Art of Cheese. I could tell by the questions she asked that she already had some cheese ripening experience, and that she had ideas and plans to do more.
Whitney has been making cheese for 3 years in her home on Colorado’s front range. “I have a fancy cheese press” (and regular cheese forms to judge by her photos). “But in my early days of cheesemaking I used all sorts of objects around the house to achieve the 20 pounds of pressure needed for my Cheddar – cast iron skillet, stone pavers, textbooks, and even a bag of pebbles as the follower in my tapered cheese mold. That tapered cheese mold caused many headaches for me, but I made it work.” Been there, done that. Like many beginning cheesemakers, Whitney used her ingenuity to make cheese with whatever she had on hand. By the way, don’t you love the pebbles-in-a-bag-follower idea? I’ve made a follower with a water-filled plastic bag for odd-shaped forms before, but the pebble idea works even better for my favorite heart shaped forms. Thanks for the great idea, Whitney!
On the left, I’m using dry beans wrapped in plastic wrap as my follower, and on the right some glass gems I found in my craft cupboard. In a few weeks these will become lightly pressed lactic bloomy rind cheeses – yum!
Despite her obvious love of Cheddar, Whitney says “I most enjoy the process of making Camembert – carefully ladling the curds into the cheese molds, watching the whey quickly drain, flipping the cheese again and again and letting it settle into a beautiful wheel, and then observing the snow-white rind develop in the following days! Marvelous! Cheesemaking is a great hobby!”
When she drains her Camembert, Whitney places the forms on top of parchment paper. “Under the parchment papers are cheese mats, and then under the cheese mats are boards or trays. All this sits on cookie sheets, which are there to catch the whey. All of my cutting boards (and other flat surfaces) are in use when making Camembert to aid in the flipping process. Two boards per cheese!”
“During my initial attempt at Camembert, the cheese kept sticking to the cheese mats during flipping, so that’s why I added the parchment paper. It’s easy enough to crease the parchment so that the whey can run off. Cheese mats are a useful item in the cheesemaker’s toolkit, but I found I really didn’t need them when making Camembert!”
Whitney typically gets her milk from local groceries. But for now, she’s more focused on her cheesemaking techniques. “I typically use inexpensive, store brand cow’s milk and it has worked fine for me. Once I smooth out my techniques, I will focus more on finding the brand or farm that gives me the best results.” Sounds like a good strategy to me. “My biggest challenge is trying to achieve the appropriate humidity and temperature levels during the aging process.”
With just two cheesemaking classes under her belt, Whitney plans to continue expanding her cheese repertoire. “I’d like to make a Limburger-style (washed rind style) cheese for my father-in-law. He, too, loves stinky cheeses.” If these pictures are any indication, I bet it’ll turn out great!
submitted by Becca Heins