Frigid mornings find the sheep clumped together in one corner of the hoop house, for warmth. Fortunately I’m spending most of my time in the cheese house, where it’s almost always warm and steamy!
The wheels of Cloud 9’s in the moulds, which we’ll be turning out and salting in a few hours. This is the pasteurized cow’s milk version of Woodcock’s seasonal Summer Snow, which is made when the sheep are milking. During the winter, cow’s milk comes from Jersey Girl Dairy in Chester, VT.
Blue cheeses in the moulds. (at Woodcock Cheese Co.) Today’s make was the Kind Of Blue, a Gorgonzola dolce style cows’ milk Blue.
Exciting development in the Cheese Notes world: I’ve just started a cheesemaker visit/apprenticeship at Woodcock Farm, in Weston, VT, that will be going for the next few weeks. I hope to post about my experiences of course, but between making cheese, washing and flipping wheels or learning about sheep dairying, I may not have a ton of time for blogging! In any case, stay tuned for more news from Woodcock Farm in snowy (and at the moment quite chilly) Weston. Pictured above are some of the cheeses in the cave (the larger wheels are the True Blue), as well as some other scenes from around the farm.
You can also check out my previous post from Woodcock Farm.
Check out this video about the Cellars At Jasper Hill's ACS Best In Show cheese, Winnimere, from WCAX TV in Vermont:
What the Stanley Cup is to hockey, the Best in Show award from the American Cheese Society is to cheesemakers. And this year it went to Jasper Hill Farm for its Winnimere cheese. A rich creamy creation wrapped in cambium from spruce tree bark, found on the farm.
"This is wrapped around the cheese basically when the cheese is a day old. It helps the cheese keep its shape and also adds an interesting depth of flavor to the cheese, so you get this woodsy, dynamic flavor that you would never get from milk," said Vince Razionale of Jasper Hill Farm. The creamy consistency is what sets this kind of cheese apart from its more dense cousins. Every batch made tastes a bit different. "Some are more hammy and savory, some are more fruity and sweet, others are more oniony and garlicky— a dynamic difference from day to day," Razionale said.
Check out the full story.
The camel is not an animal traditionally associated with cheesemaking, largely due to the fact that they tend to live in parts of the world that are not hospitable to the aging of dairy products, being so hot and dry, pretty much the exact opposite of ideal cheesemaking conditions. But camel’s do produce milk, and there is a burgeoning camel cheese movement rising now, with help from European bioscience companies like Chr Hansen. Via Dairy Reporter:
Working hand-in-hand with Oleleshwa Enterprises, Chr. Hansen has concluded a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project to improve the living conditions of small-scale camel owners in Africa and the Middle East.
The project, which was launched in December 2012, focused on developing of basic knowledge about camel cheese production. One-year on, Chr. Hansen and Oleleshwa are preparing to distribute a document including several recipes and begin training of rural communities in Northern Kenya.
Alongside its recipe for Camelbert, the Camel Cheese Manual contains step-by-step instructions for the production of dried cheese and cheese sweets, feta-type cheese and fresh soft cheese, and camel cream cheese.
Camel milk, which has a different consistency to cow’s milk, is low in fat, high in calcium, and a rich source of protein. Chr. Hansen said when launching the project that developing these recipes was a means to preserving this nutritious product.
Exciting developments are afoot in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, site of the soon-to-open Crown Finish Caves, Cheese Aging and Distribution facilities. The husband and wife team behind Crown Finish, Benton Brown and Susan Boyle, have been longtime fixtures in the Crown Heights neighborhood; their Monti Building — housed at the location of the former Nassau Brewery at 925 Bergen St and renovated by their construction company, Big Sue LLC — is a model of green redevelopment, with a solar array on the roof providing electricity for the entire building, radiant heating from highly efficient boilers, and an extensive green roof. The main floors of the building are occupied by a variety of architects, artists, food producers (Sweet Roots currently occupies one of the spaces) and other creative professionals (check out some press stories about the Monti Building here).
Where the cheese comes into the story, though, is underground: When they first bought the building, they discovered a network of tunnels under the building, formerly storage spaces for the brewery but long neglected and falling apart. Benton had toyed with the idea of converting the tunnels for food production of some kind, and a few years ago he got serious, deciding that an urban affinage facility was the way to go.
After beginning renovation plans for the tunnels, Benton consulted with Matteo Kehler, of the Cellars at Jasper Hill, and French master affineur Hervé Mons, and even traveled to France to study with the Mons brothers (he actually took part in a beta version of sorts for the Academie Opus Caseus). Ivan Larcher, French affineur and technical consultant, recommended Clauger — a French refrigeration and ventilation company with decades of experience working with the cheese industry — to work with, and Crown Finish installed specialized cooling and humidity control systems, imported from France, to ensure optimal conditions in the tunnels.
Recently, work on the first tunnel has neared completion, and through fortuitous timing, Vermont cheese master Peter Dixon and his wife Rachel have recently opened a new venture, Parish Hill Creamery, where they will be producing their own cheeses. Benton had originally brought Peter to the tunnels just to get his opinion on the possibilities, but they have since struck up a partnership. A selection of Parish Hill’s cheeses will be the first to occupy the tunnels, shipped to Crown Finish at a few weeks of age, to be affinaged by Benton and the Crown Finish staff. The first tunnel will be occupied by Alpines, Tommes and hard-aged cheeses, and there are plans to convert another tunnel for colder temperatures, optimal for soft-ripened and bloomy rind cheeses.
The remaining tunnels will be renovated as well, and Crown Finish envisions their being used by other food producers that can benefit from the cool, steady temperatures and higher humidity.
We also had an opportunity to sample a few of Parish Hill’s cheeses, including: the Suffolk Punch, a Caciocavallo-style, gourd-shaped, stretched-curd (pasta filata) cheese that is tied and hung up to age; the Kashar, made from the same stretched curds as the Suffolk Punch but with a traditional basket shape; the Humble Herdsman, a semi-soft Tomme-style cheese washed with a local cider; and the West West Blue, a 2-day Gorgonzola-style cheese. It will be interesting to observe how the character of the cheeses change depending on whether they’re being aged up at Parish Hill or down in Brooklyn, A unique opportunity to observe the effects of affinage in action!
Cheeses will begin to roll in to the cave in the next couple months: stay tuned for the first Crown Finish cheeses to start showing up at your local mongers some time this summer.
There’s a new course being offered at Sterling College in Craftsbury, and the final project is served up on a plate. The school has teamed up with the cheese makers at Jasper Hill Cellars in Greensboro to teach the art and science of artisan cheese. The first two-week session ended with a tasting of some of the students’ mistakes. But first, the instructor, international cheese consultant Ivan Larcher, gave a power point lecture laced with formulas and diagrams.
Cheesemaking is an art, he said, but it’s also a risky science experiment. If the milk isn’t good, or the equipment isn’t sterile, or the heat isn’t right, or the timing is off, deadly, invisible listeria could make its way into your slice of brie. Or if it doesn’t poison you, as Larcher bluntly put it, it could taste a little like—in his words—“baby vomit.”
Photos from a tasting, on February 6th, of Cheese Notes cheeses: At the top is the Gowanus Tomme, raw Jersey cow’s milk, 2.5 months of aging.
On the bottom left is the Gowanus Bloomy, raw Dutch Belted milk, aged 3 weeks.
On the right is the Gowanus Blue, an “accidental” blue cheese really, which started as a cheddar but due to proximity to blue cheeses developed a light bluing. Aged over 2 years.
Via The BBC, the story of cheesemaking in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
A hillside village in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an unlikely site for the production of fine cheese. But here, one man continues a legacy started by Belgian priests in 1975.
Andre Ndekezi cuts carefully through thick, curdled milk with a large fork and then stirs it with his bare hands. He is making cheese in a bathtub. His workshop is a small, wooden cabin perched on the lush hills of Masisi, in the east of the DR Congo. The conditions are basic, but Ndekezi has a rare savoir-faire when it comes to dairy products.
The curd will spend a month on a shelf in a dark room in the back of the workshop and eventually become a refined cheese.
Simply known as Goma cheese - Goma is the largest town in the area - it is like a milder version of French gruyere, softer in texture. Ndekezi is 52 years old and he learned how to do his job 30 years ago. At the time, all sorts of cheese was produced in eastern DR Congo. “I know how to make camembert and mozzarella,” explains Ndekezi. “But we no longer have the necessary equipment or products to make those cheeses. During the war, everything was looted or destroyed.”
With its cool climate and abundant cattle, the area offers the ideal conditions for dairy production. That is what prompted Belgian priests to first start making cheese here in the 1970s. “The priests started in 1975, they set up factories on the hills, not only here but also in Rwanda and Uganda,” Ndekezi explains. Today, cheese from Masisi is the only local dairy product to be sold across the DRC. Cheese is not usually part of traditional food in Africa, and in fact much of the cheese found on the continent is imported from Europe.
Ndekezi was taught to make cheese by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Masisi, before being hired by a local dairy farm run by Belgian priests.
That’s where he acquired the skills to make more sophisticated dairy products, including the famous French camembert and Italian mozzarella but also yoghurt and butter. “I am proud to be able to say that my country DR Congo produces cheese.” He has bigger ambitions. For him, this tiny factory is only a first step back into the business. He is convinced that with his skills, he can achieve much more. “Little by little, I will build on this. I want to get equipment shipped from Europe so I can also start making camembert here. You’ll see, one day I will send some to you, in France.”
Read the full story.
(Photos ©2014 BBC.co.uk)