CHEESE NOTES

On The Bookshelf: Cheese and Microbes

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There is a universe of invisible players participating in the creation of every wheel of cheese; at the microbial level, an army of bacteria, molds and yeasts do the heavy lifting of transforming the white fluid that emerges from the udders into the rainbow of cheese varieties we know and love. Some of those microbes are present in the milk even before it leaves the animal; others are added by the cheesemakers — whether from lab-produced foil packs or carefully nurtured mother cultures — or are resident in the making and aging spaces through which the wheels pass.

Here to tell the story of this microbial world comes a new book: Cheese And Microbes, a compendium of current writing on the role of microbiology in cheesemaking, from ASM Press (the American Society of Microbiology). Dr Catherine Donnelly, the editor, as well as the author of the first chapter, is a professor of nutrition and food science, an international Listeria expert, and was one of the founders of the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese, at the University of Vermont, Burlington (which sadly had to close down its venerated educational program just a couple years ago). As such she is someone who really knows her Candidum’s from her Staph’s, and has been at the forefront of the explosion of new cheesemakers in the US in the last couple decades. (Note: I completed the VIAC Cheesemaker Certification program right before it closed, in 2013).

We might not be able to see these organisms at work, but we can certainly see the results, whether in the brainy wrinkles of a Loire Valley goat’s milk cheese, the pungent red smear of a washed rind or the vibrant indigo veins running through a blue cheese. Whether a cheese, at peak, oozes into a puddle as it warms or sags but holds firm; whether it smells faintly of mushrooms or strongly of barnyard, can come down to which microbes were dominant at crucial points in the aging process.

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Is the secret to a perfect grilled cheese sandwich substituting the butter with…mayo? According to Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune, it is. Via Food52.com

A grilled cheese sandwich is a perfect union of bread, butter, and melty cheese — so why would you ever want to turn your back on one of its key ingredients? Especially if that ingredient is butter? 

Lots of reasons, as I learned from Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune. Even diehard lovers of the buttery version (I am one) will find something new and valuable out of smearing their bread with mayo instead. As she says in this CHOW video, “This is the greatest cooking medium of all time for a grilled cheese sandwich.”

Mayo won’t burn as easily as butter does, which — just like that — solves the biggest challenge of grilled cheese: how to get the insides to heat through before the outside blackens.

But these are matters of convenience and reliability; what’s most important are the results, which are not like any grilled cheese that butter could make. The oil and egg in mayonnaise brown and crisp more evenly and lavishly than butter, creating a glossy crunch from edge to edge.

Get the full recipe

(photos ©2014 Food52.com)

High-res Over at Cheese Underground, Jeanne Carpenter reports on the rise of small cheesemakers. Her focus is on Wisconsin, but the trend is evident from coast to coast in the US:

Small Cheesemaking Operations Lead Growth in U.S. Cheese Industry
Specialty Food News today reports that while the overall U.S. cheesemaking industry is on the rise, interestingly enough, the number of small cheesemaking establishments is far outpacing the growth of larger operations in America. 
According to the Census Bureau’s 2012 Economic Census, between 2007 and 2012, the total number of cheesemaking establishments in the U.S. rose by 13 percent to 542, while growth in small establishments, (defined as employing up to 19 people), rose more than double that rate, by 28 percent, to 250.
The report reveals that in 2012, small cheesemaking facilities accounted for 46 percent of all cheesemaking establishments, compared with 41 percent in 2007. As for employment statistics, 44,432 people in the U.S. were employed in cheesemaking in 2012, 7 percent more than five years earlier.
Just as with dairy farming, there is room - especially in Wisconsin - for cheese plants of all sizes - big, small and in-between. While the mammoth plants churn out the state’s cash crop of pizza mozzarella, smaller plants help put Wisconsin on the map for high quality artisan cheese. The past two U.S. Champion cheesemakers are both from Wisconsin, and are both small operations: Katie Hedrich Fuhrmann of LaClare Farms and Marieke Penterman of Holland’s Family Cheese.
The pair are part of a growing trend. The USDA reported in May that of Wisconsin’s 126 cheese plants, last year, 93 manufactured at least one type of specialty cheese, up from 80 plants in 2007. 

Read the full story.
(Photo ©2014 Cheese Underground)

Over at Cheese Underground, Jeanne Carpenter reports on the rise of small cheesemakers. Her focus is on Wisconsin, but the trend is evident from coast to coast in the US:

Small Cheesemaking Operations Lead Growth in U.S. Cheese Industry

Specialty Food News today reports that while the overall U.S. cheesemaking industry is on the rise, interestingly enough, the number of small cheesemaking establishments is far outpacing the growth of larger operations in America. 

According to the Census Bureau’s 2012 Economic Census, between 2007 and 2012, the total number of cheesemaking establishments in the U.S. rose by 13 percent to 542, while growth in small establishments, (defined as employing up to 19 people), rose more than double that rate, by 28 percent, to 250.

The report reveals that in 2012, small cheesemaking facilities accounted for 46 percent of all cheesemaking establishments, compared with 41 percent in 2007. As for employment statistics, 44,432 people in the U.S. were employed in cheesemaking in 2012, 7 percent more than five years earlier.

Just as with dairy farming, there is room - especially in Wisconsin - for cheese plants of all sizes - big, small and in-between. While the mammoth plants churn out the state’s cash crop of pizza mozzarella, smaller plants help put Wisconsin on the map for high quality artisan cheese. The past two U.S. Champion cheesemakers are both from Wisconsin, and are both small operations: Katie Hedrich Fuhrmann of LaClare Farms and Marieke Penterman of Holland’s Family Cheese.

The pair are part of a growing trend. The USDA reported in May that of Wisconsin’s 126 cheese plants, last year, 93 manufactured at least one type of specialty cheese, up from 80 plants in 2007. 

Read the full story.

(Photo ©2014 Cheese Underground)

Northeast cheese lovers take note: coming this Sunday, June 20th, the 2014 Vermont Cheesemakers Festival will be returning to Shelburne Farms, just south of Burlington. If you want to taste the best cheeses (and wines, beers, liquors, chocolates, meats and much more) that Vermont has to offer, this event is not to be missed. As you can see from the list below, a large number of Vermont’s cheesemakers will be present, so this is a rare opportunity to meet the cheesemakers in person while tasting their product.  

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Sunday, July 20, 2014 - 10Am-4Pm
Coach Barn, Shelburne Farms, VT

Vermont is the premium artisanal cheese state with the highest number of cheesemakers per capita: over 40 of them! We invite you to experience our passion for making fine cheeses, taste local and fresh foods and wines, and meet the artisans who make them. Spend a high summer day along the shores of Lake Champlain at the historic Shelburne Farms Coach Barn sampling, buying, learning, and networking. Come and celebrate the season.

CHEESEMAKERS

Big Picture FarmBlue Ledge FarmBlythedale FarmBonnieview FarmBoston Post DairyBoucher Family FarmBridport CreameryCabot Creamery CooperativeCellars at Jasper HillChamplain Valley CreameryCobb Hill FarmConsider Bardwell FarmCrooked Mile FarmCrowley Cheese CompanyFairy Tale FarmFranklin Foods Grafton Village Cheese CompanyHi-Land FarmMaplebrook FarmMountain Home FarmMt. Mansfield CreameryNeighborly FarmsParish Hill CreameryPlymouth Artisan CheeseSage Farm Goat DairyScholten Family FarmShadagee FarmShelburne FarmsSpoonwood Cabin CreamerySpring Brook FarmSweet Rowen FarmsteadTaylor FarmThistle Hill FarmThree Shepherds CheeseTwig FarmVermont CreameryVermont Farmstead CheeseVermont Shepherdvon Trapp FarmsteadWest River CreameryWillow Hill FarmWillow Moon FarmWoodcock Farm Cheese CompanyRogue Creamery (Guest Cheese maker- Oregon), Cherry Grove Farm (Guest Cheese maker- New Jersey), Cricket Creek Farm (Guest Cheese maker- Massachusetts)

Get your tickets here. This event tends to sell out, so don’t delay. 

High-res A post-beach weekend cheese board, via the Fairfield Cheese Co. in Fairfield, CT. Clockwise from bottom-left: Wabash Cannonball, a goat’s milk ash-coated ball from Capriole Goat Cheese in Greenville, Indiana; Tunworth, a cow’s milk, Camembert-style British cheese from Hampshire Cheeses; Ossau-Iraty, a Basque sheep’s milk cheese from Fromagerie Agour; and the Stichelton, from Stichelton Dairy.

A post-beach weekend cheese board, via the Fairfield Cheese Co. in Fairfield, CT. Clockwise from bottom-left: Wabash Cannonball, a goat’s milk ash-coated ball from Capriole Goat Cheese in Greenville, Indiana; Tunworth, a cow’s milk, Camembert-style British cheese from Hampshire Cheeses; Ossau-Iraty, a Basque sheep’s milk cheese from Fromagerie Agour; and the Stichelton, from Stichelton Dairy.

Now open in north Brooklyn, Greenpoint Cheese & Meats, at 192 Driggs Avenue (between Newell and Diamond St). I recently had the chance to pop in and check it out, and meet Jessica Mark — a chef by profession — and co-owner, with Ursula O’Hara, of the new shop. The space is cozy but well stocked, with a well-curated selection of American and locally produced cheeses, meats, and accompaniments, as well as housewares, cheese slates and gear, and more. The pair is working with Brooklyn distributors  Food Matters Again to source their cheeses and meats.  

When I was there, I picked up a wheel of the Meadowood Farms Juvindale (a gorgeous wheel, as it turned out: see my tasting notes here), as well as a wedge of the Vulto Creamery Ouleout and the Bellweather Farms San Andreas. Jessica told me that they were still working out the balance of what to stock in the case; interest in sheep’s milk cheeses had spurred them to expand that area, and the soft-ripened cheese case was selling out faster than expected each week, encouraging them to ramp up on those varieties as well. 

In addition, GP Cheese & Meats will be offering daily sandwich specials and even picnics-for-one: little cheese boards with a selection of cheeses and pairings perfect for picking up on the way to the park or beach. 

So if you’re in the neighborhood make sure to check them out and get your cheeses! 

Over at the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, Marge Perry explores six French goat’s milk cheeses, in order to expand our understanding of the often misused term “goat cheese”: 

We all know that American blue cheese, cheddar and burrata are entirely different cheeses, yet we don’t lump them together and say, “Oh, I had a wonderful dish made with American cow’s milk cheese.” Yet many of us might say, “Oh, I had a wonderful dish made with goat cheese!”

It’s really kind of silly because goat cheeses can be as varied as, well, cheddar and blue. The photo above shows six French goat cheeses recently sent to me as part of an outreach by an organization calledGoat Cheeses of Franceto educate the US cheese consumer. And so, for the sake of you, Dear Reader, and in the name of science and education, I nibbled and scribbled my way through those cheeses, tasting and making notes in order to make this country of ours more goat cheese-aware. You’re welcome.

Read the full post

(Photos ©2014 asweetandsavorylife.com)