CHEESE NOTES

High-res If you’re looking for an educational introduction to cheesemaking, Vermont Tech is now offering an “Essential Principals and Practices of Cheesemaking” class that is definitely worth checking out. It’s taught by Dr Montse Almena, who was one of my instructors at UVM’s VIAC program and is definitely someone who knows cheesemaking, from the fundamentals to the chemistry to sensory evaluation and much more. Via the VT Tech site:  

Essential Principles and Practices of CheesemakingEvent Start: Jul 9, 2014 - 08:30 AMEvent End: Jul 13, 2014 - 04:30 PM
Where: Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center, VT
The Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Technical College (VTC) is hosting a practical and comprehensive guide in cheese technology and the principles governing the quality of cheese in a five day intensive course. During this course, participants will learn the fundamentals of cheesemaking, quality control practices, and useful considerations in starting a small scale cheesemaking business. The course will be led by international cheese technologist and former instructor/program developer of VIAC programs Dr. Montserrat Almena-Aliste and is structured in three main sections. The first section focuses on the chemistry of milk and the different aspects defining the quality of cheesemaking milk. The second part describes the principles of cheesemaking, the different families of cheese, and also includes comprehensive hands-on demonstrations in making three different cheese styles: a fresh acid-coagulated, a bloomy rind variety, and a semi-hard cheese. Finally, the last section of the program focuses on how to monitor and control the fundamental factors driving the quality of the product. All the cheesemaking exercises will be performed by award winner master cheesemaker Brian Schlatter and will be hosted at the facilities of Neighborly Farms, an organic Vermont farm producing award winning cheeses. At the end of the program students will also have the opportunity to get a private tour of Neighborly Farms and learn what the main challenges and rewards of being a farmer and a cheesemaker are from owner and cheesemaker Linda Dimmick.
Please note that this course can be taken for academic credit for an additional $100.00 (this is a one credit course). Registration fee includes a comprehensive course manual, breakfast, lunch, and refreshment breaks for all days of the course. Optional lodging at the college is also available at a very competitive price. If you are interested in staying at the college please contact Melissa Neilson at aginstitute@vtc.edu or call 802.728.1677. To register for the course please visit http://www.vtc.edu/essential-principles-and-practices-cheesemaking

If you’re looking for an educational introduction to cheesemaking, Vermont Tech is now offering an “Essential Principals and Practices of Cheesemaking” class that is definitely worth checking out. It’s taught by Dr Montse Almena, who was one of my instructors at UVM’s VIAC program and is definitely someone who knows cheesemaking, from the fundamentals to the chemistry to sensory evaluation and much more. Via the VT Tech site:  

Essential Principles and Practices of Cheesemaking
Event Start: Jul 9, 2014 - 08:30 AM
Event End: Jul 13, 2014 - 04:30 PM

Where: Vermont Technical College, Randolph Center, VT

The Institute for Applied Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Technical College (VTC) is hosting a practical and comprehensive guide in cheese technology and the principles governing the quality of cheese in a five day intensive course. During this course, participants will learn the fundamentals of cheesemaking, quality control practices, and useful considerations in starting a small scale cheesemaking business. The course will be led by international cheese technologist and former instructor/program developer of VIAC programs Dr. Montserrat Almena-Aliste and is structured in three main sections. The first section focuses on the chemistry of milk and the different aspects defining the quality of cheesemaking milk. The second part describes the principles of cheesemaking, the different families of cheese, and also includes comprehensive hands-on demonstrations in making three different cheese styles: a fresh acid-coagulated, a bloomy rind variety, and a semi-hard cheese. Finally, the last section of the program focuses on how to monitor and control the fundamental factors driving the quality of the product. All the cheesemaking exercises will be performed by award winner master cheesemaker Brian Schlatter and will be hosted at the facilities of Neighborly Farms, an organic Vermont farm producing award winning cheeses. At the end of the program students will also have the opportunity to get a private tour of Neighborly Farms and learn what the main challenges and rewards of being a farmer and a cheesemaker are from owner and cheesemaker Linda Dimmick.

Please note that this course can be taken for academic credit for an additional $100.00 (this is a one credit course). Registration fee includes a comprehensive course manual, breakfast, lunch, and refreshment breaks for all days of the course. Optional lodging at the college is also available at a very competitive price. If you are interested in staying at the college please contact Melissa Neilson at aginstitute@vtc.edu or call 802.728.1677. To register for the course please visit http://www.vtc.edu/essential-principles-and-practices-cheesemaking

Ag Weekly: Artisan cheese startups face six-digit costs

The Prairie Star’s Ag Weekly column reports on an Oregon State University study that will be eye-opening, and very useful, for anyone aspiring to open their own cheesemaking operation: 


Artisan cheese startups face six-digit costs, finds OSU study

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Aspiring artisan cheese makers should be prepared to shell out at least $250,000 to set up operations, according to an Oregon State University study.

OSU researchers developed a tool for predicting artisan cheese startup and operating costs based on a number of factors, including types of milk (like goat, cow and sheep), cheese types (such as cheddar, blue and mozzarella), labor expenses, creamery location, marketing; and even the fuel needed to transport products to farmers markets.

"We wanted to give cheese entrepreneurs a realistic idea about what they’re getting into," said Lisbeth Goddik, a food science and technology professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and co-author of the study. “In this industry, lack of economic data has sometimes made it difficult to craft a business plan, obtain financing and plan for the future.”

They found that a large-scale artisan cheese company producing 60,000 pounds a year faces startup costs of $623,874, assuming the company purchases its own processing and aging facilities. First-year operation costs are an additional $620,094, the researchers estimated.

A smaller operation producing 7,500 pounds a year would spend about $267,248 to set up processing and aging operations, with a first-year production cost of $65,245.

"Since profits are unlikely in the first few years, access to sufficient capital is critical to survival," said Cathy Durham, an applied economics professor at OSU who works at OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland. She also is a co-author of the study.

"Despite the challenges,” Goddik added, “the industry is active.”

Read the full story.

(Photo ©2014 PrairieStar.com)

When you hear “Piedmont”, you may think of Italian cheeses, but did you know that Virginia has a Piedmont region as well? Caromont Farm — an artisan cheesemaking operation in the town of Esmont, 23 miles south of Charlottesville, Virginia — is in the heart of that region, and is producing cheeses worthy of the parallel. 

Gail Hobbs-Page is the cheesemaker and driving force behind Caromont; for the last 8 years she’s been producing small-batch cheeses, working with a mixed herd of Alpines, Saanens and La Mancha goats. Hobbs-Page transitioned from almost three decades in the restaurant business. Caromont also sources cow’s milk from dairy farmer Nathan Vergins, a former apprentice who also put in time at Joel Salatin’s acclaimed Polyface Farms and is now the owner of Silky Cow Farm in North Garden, Virginia. 

I had the opportunity to meet Gail and her husband Dan at Virginia Craft, a culinary event hosted by the Virginia Tourism Board and held at Chelsea Market. The event featured many Virginia artisans from across the culinary spectrum, with restaurants, distillers, brewers, oyster farmers and more sampling and discussing their wares with the NYC crowd (the photos above include shots from the event). Caromont was the only cheesemaker in attendance, and made a strong showing with two cheeses: Red Row and Esmontonian Tinto.

Red Row, a washed rind, raw cow’s milk wheel, aged 60 days and washed with hard cider from a neighboring cider maker, Albermarle Cider Works. The rind is amber-colored and lightly mottled, tacky to the touch. The paste is dense and velvety, buttery but not oozing, well-balanced on the salt, with peanuty, meaty and grassy flavors, and a nice yeasty, floral overtone from the cider wash. The washed-rind aroma is assertive but not strong, wet hay and a beguiling hint of barnyard. 

The Esmontonian Tinto, a raw goat’s milk tomme, is washed with Merlot from local Barboursville Vineyards. The stony gray,  basket-weave rind, with a lightly musty aroma, opens to reveal a firm white paste, dense and flaky, lightly eyed, with an earthy, nutty flavor profile and fruity notes from the wine wash. The Esmontonian took 2nd place in 2013 at the ACS competition in Madison, Wisconsin, in the “American-made, International-style Goat” category.

Caromont’s cheeses are still mostly available regionally, but they’re finding their way further north and west as they expand production. Murray’s Cheese in NYC carries their Esmontonian.

High-res A huge thank you to Rachel Wharton, food journalist and Editor at Edible Brooklyn, who visited me in my “nano-creamery” and wrote about it in their Summer 2014 issue! Food photographer Natalia Moena shot the photos for the piece, you can check out her work at natimoe.tumblr.com. Via Edible Brooklyn:

Artisan Cheese Made in a Gowanus Apartment
First published in the Summer 2014 edition of Edible Brooklyn
Some home cooks ferment their own yogurt or make mozzarella from a kit. Matt Spiegler takes DIY dairy to another dimension: Technically he’s a layman — keeping his day job as a web developer, and giving his homemade caseus away to friends — but he is anything but an amateur.
In his tidy Second Street kitchen, Spiegler creates real cheese — bloomy rounds of Brie; pinkish slabs of washed-rind beauties; mold-ripened Gowanish, made with raw goat’s milk; and tangy tommes with butter-colored pastes — that look and taste like they belong in a professional cheese case.
In fact some have already made their way there: After a recent stage at Vermont’s Woodcock Farm, Spiegler washed some of the cheeses he made on-site with a smoked porter from Queens’s new Finback Brewery. Billed under his byline at Saxelby Cheesemongers in the Essex Market, they sold for $21.99 a pound.
A graduate of the cheesemaking certificate program at Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese, Spiegler hopes to try his hand at more “gypsy” cheesemaking in borrowed pro spaces. Until then, his home base is his apartment kitchen, aka his “nano-creamery.”
It’s an apt description, considering the place is home to teetering stacks of perforated plastic cheese molds, a stainless-steel spring press for packing curds, cheesemaking books with recipes for blending cultures, a tub of commercial-grade dairy sanitizer and two freestanding wine refrigerators, whose humidity- and temperature-controlled racks serve as Spiegler’s stand-in for caves. (One was purchased from Ted Allen, who posted it on Craigslist after the celeb chef renovated his Clinton Hill home.)
He admits the work appeals to both sides of his brain: “It has the complexity of creating,” he says, “but with a very technical mindset.”
Spiegler is one of a tiny number of homestead cheesemakers in the city; they occasionally get together to swap samples and share stories of their shared passion. For Spiegler, the obsession seems obvious, given his heritage (his mother is French) and his education, at the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, part of a 400-acre biodynamic farm upstate, complete with 65 dairy cows and an on-site creamery.
Today Spiegler gets his milks from several pristine local sources like the Traditional Foods raw milk delivery club. His long-term goal is to make cheese professionally, perhaps upstate, where all the milk is, or maybe right here in Brooklyn.
Why shouldn’t Gowanus have the first Brooklyn creamery, he muses aloud.
Some would argue it already does.

A huge thank you to Rachel Wharton, food journalist and Editor at Edible Brooklyn, who visited me in my “nano-creamery” and wrote about it in their Summer 2014 issue! Food photographer Natalia Moena shot the photos for the piece, you can check out her work at natimoe.tumblr.com. Via Edible Brooklyn:

Artisan Cheese Made in a Gowanus Apartment

First published in the Summer 2014 edition of Edible Brooklyn

Some home cooks ferment their own yogurt or make mozzarella from a kit. Matt Spiegler takes DIY dairy to another dimension: Technically he’s a layman — keeping his day job as a web developer, and giving his homemade caseus away to friends — but he is anything but an amateur.

In his tidy Second Street kitchen, Spiegler creates real cheese — bloomy rounds of Brie; pinkish slabs of washed-rind beauties; mold-ripened Gowanish, made with raw goat’s milk; and tangy tommes with butter-colored pastes — that look and taste like they belong in a professional cheese case.

In fact some have already made their way there: After a recent stage at Vermont’s Woodcock Farm, Spiegler washed some of the cheeses he made on-site with a smoked porter from Queens’s new Finback Brewery. Billed under his byline at Saxelby Cheesemongers in the Essex Market, they sold for $21.99 a pound.

A graduate of the cheesemaking certificate program at Vermont’s Institute of Artisan Cheese, Spiegler hopes to try his hand at more “gypsy” cheesemaking in borrowed pro spaces. Until then, his home base is his apartment kitchen, aka his “nano-creamery.”

It’s an apt description, considering the place is home to teetering stacks of perforated plastic cheese molds, a stainless-steel spring press for packing curds, cheesemaking books with recipes for blending cultures, a tub of commercial-grade dairy sanitizer and two freestanding wine refrigerators, whose humidity- and temperature-controlled racks serve as Spiegler’s stand-in for caves. (One was purchased from Ted Allen, who posted it on Craigslist after the celeb chef renovated his Clinton Hill home.)

He admits the work appeals to both sides of his brain: “It has the complexity of creating,” he says, “but with a very technical mindset.”

Spiegler is one of a tiny number of homestead cheesemakers in the city; they occasionally get together to swap samples and share stories of their shared passion. For Spiegler, the obsession seems obvious, given his heritage (his mother is French) and his education, at the Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, part of a 400-acre biodynamic farm upstate, complete with 65 dairy cows and an on-site creamery.

Today Spiegler gets his milks from several pristine local sources like the Traditional Foods raw milk delivery club. His long-term goal is to make cheese professionally, perhaps upstate, where all the milk is, or maybe right here in Brooklyn.

Why shouldn’t Gowanus have the first Brooklyn creamery, he muses aloud.

Some would argue it already does.

BREAKING NEWS: FDA STATEMENT

The FDA just came out with a statement. This sounds promising, but we shouldn’t start celebrating just yet until further follow up tomorrow: 

FDA Statement:
The FDA does not have a new policy banning the use of wooden shelves in cheese-making, nor is there any FSMA requirement in effect that addresses this issue. Moreover, the FDA has not taken any enforcement action based solely on the use of wooden shelves.

In the interest of public health, the FDA’s current regulations state that utensils and other surfaces that contact food must be “adequately cleanable” and properly maintained. Historically, the FDA has expressed concern about whether wood meets this requirement and has noted these concerns in inspectional findings. FDA is always open to evidence that shows that wood can be safely used for specific purposes, such as aging cheese.

The FDA will engage with the artisanal cheese-making community to determine whether certain types of cheeses can safely be made by aging them on wooden shelving.

ON BACKGROUND:
The CSFAN letter sent in January, 2014 to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services was a responsive letter to questions New York state raised, and was not a policy statement.

More coverage of the FDA “clarification”. This paragraph really struck me: 

"The FDA tells 27 News that this policy of not allowing wooden aged cheese is nothing new. Officials say the agency has had this policy for several decades. This official also says that imported cheeses are forced to follow this guideline as well. That means all imported cheeses from Europe are also subject to this regulation. However, cheese shops, restaurants and grocery stores have featured wood-aged European cheeses for decades. "

What this tells us, more than anything, is that the FDA is making these regulations without even having a clear grasp on the realities of cheese production domestically or globally. I seriously wonder whether any of the people who wrote these regulations understand that many of the standard cheeses they themselves might buy at the supermarket every day — Parmigiano Reggiano, classic Swiss Cheeses, English Cheddars, and more — are aged on wood. 

Via WKOW in Wisconsin: 

Cheesemakers concerned after FDA cracks down on wood-aged cheese

The FDA recently conducted a handful of routine inspections in New York and cited cheesemakers for using wooden planks to age their products. News of these citations quickly spread through the cheesemaking industry and many business owners are concerned about their livelihood.

"It’s a game changer in the industry. Wooden boards are so important for so many flavors of cheese," Fromagination Artisanal Cheeses owner Ken Monteleone says. "Without this process many of our favorite cheeses would cease to exist."

Monteleone says more than 80% of the cheeses he sells are made using this process. The way it works is cheesemakers combine all of their ingredients and then place their cheese on wooden planks to age. The process helps the cheese to develop a variety of unique flavors and helps it develop a thick rind around the cheese.

Read more

Game Changer: FDA Rules No Wooden Boards in Cheese Aging

This news has been ripping like wildfire through the cheese world for the last couple days. Its hard to exaggerate just how much of a financial and infrastructure hit this would be to cheesemakers, small producers in particular, who have been aging their cheeses on wood as standard practice for a very long time. From the smallest, newest caves to well-established producers with decades under their belts, cheese, particular longer-aging, larger format styles, are being aged on wood EVERYWHERE. In addition, the FDA has clarified that this position applies to imported cheeses as well. Say bye-bye to many of those amazing Swiss Alpines and French washed rinds. 

This is huge. Hopefully the cheese world and their supporters won’t take it quietly. Via Cheese Underground

Game Changer: FDA Rules No Wooden Boards in Cheese Aging

A sense of disbelief and distress is quickly rippling through the U.S. artisan cheese community, as the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week announced it will not permit American cheesemakers to age cheese on wooden boards.

Recently, the FDA inspected several New York state cheesemakers and cited them for using wooden surfaces to age their cheeses. The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets’ Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services, which (like most every state in the U.S., including Wisconsin), has allowed this practice, reached out to FDA for clarification on the issue. A response was provided by Monica Metz, Branch Chief of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s (CFSAN) Dairy and Egg Branch.

In the response, Metz stated that the use of wood for cheese ripening or aging is considered an unsanitary practice by FDA, and a violation of FDA’s current Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations. Here’s an excerpt:

"Microbial pathogens can be controlled if food facilities engage in good manufacturing practice. Proper cleaning and sanitation of equipment and facilities are absolutely necessary to ensure that pathogens do not find niches to reside and proliferate. Adequate cleaning and sanitation procedures are particularly important in facilities where persistent strains of pathogenic microorganisms like Listeria monocytogenes could be found. The use of wooden shelves, rough or otherwise, for cheese ripening does not conform to cGMP requirements, which require that "all plant equipment and utensils shall be so designed and of such material and workmanship as to be adequately cleanable, and shall be properly maintained." 21 CFR 110.40(a). Wooden shelves or boards cannot be adequately cleaned and sanitized. The porous structure of wood enables it to absorb and retain bacteria, therefore bacteria generally colonize not only the surface but also the inside layers of wood. The shelves or boards used for aging make direct contact with finished products; hence they could be a potential source of pathogenic microorganisms in the finished products."

The most interesting part of the FDA’s statement it that it does not consider this to be a new policy, but rather an enforcement of an existing policy. And worse yet, FDA has reiterated that it does not intend to change this policy.

Read more

High-res saveourcheese:

The FDA has declared that aging on wood is a violation of their Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations. Aging on wood has been standard practice for decades and after extensive scientific study (and thousands of years of using the practice) has been deemed perfectly safe by regulators in the EU. 
Read an excellent overview of the issue at the Cheese Underground blog, and stay tuned to saveourcheese.tumblr.com for more updates. 

saveourcheese:

The FDA has declared that aging on wood is a violation of their Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations. Aging on wood has been standard practice for decades and after extensive scientific study (and thousands of years of using the practice) has been deemed perfectly safe by regulators in the EU. 

Read an excellent overview of the issue at the Cheese Underground blog, and stay tuned to saveourcheese.tumblr.com for more updates. 

Camembert may lose last farmhouse maker

The town of Camembert, in France, may lose its last AOC Camembert maker Camembert will continue to be made in the region of course, but the Durand family was the last in the town that gave the world this wonderful cheese in 1791. Via English-language French news site The Connexion

No buyers for last real Camembert
June 04, 2014
CAMEMBERT could soon be just a fragrant memory in the Orne town that gave the famous French cheese its name more than 200 years ago.

François and Nadia Durand are the last Camembert manufacturers in the Normandy town where the cheese was invented in 1791 - and, after 30 years in the business, they want to sell up.

But, the Durands said, no one seems interested in buying the profitable business. They turnover €600,000 per year, and have three partners and two employees.

Ms Durand, 46, told Ouest France: “Our customers are wholesalers who supply specialist dairies and delicatessens.”

Maybe it’s the heavy workload that is putting off potential buyers. The couple work seven days a week and, Ms Durand said: “In 25 years, we have taken 11 days’ vacation with our children.”

Ms Durand said her husband, who is 52, gets up at 6.30am to make 600 handmade cheeses per day, while farmer brother Nicolas looks after the 70 dairy cows that supply the milk.

In order to qualify for Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) certification, at least half the milk must come from Norman cows.

None of the couple’s three children want to continue the family business, Ms Durand said. “Our eldest is a cook in a gourmet restaurant in Caen; the second is training to be a nurse; and our last is in primary school.”

Their decision has caused uproar in the town, which is hoping that a buyer can be found to keep cheese-making alive in the town.

Read the full post