A Few Pointers for the ROOKIE Cheese-maker
Experience is the teacher, but it’s a heck of a way to learn
When I first got the cheese bug----it was full steam ahead—damn the torpedoes and all that stuff. After all, how hard can it be? People have been making cheese for thousands of years, right? Before too long I discovered making an edible cheese wasn’t all that hard---making a palatable cheese was much more difficult.
The Cheese Forum has over 3000 members, but how many are still active? Where did they all go? I suspect that quite a few got the cheese bug, but gave up after some disappointing results. That’s a shame, because good results can be had. The following is a list of some of my mistakes as a rookie and some recommendations. I know that some of the regulars won’t agree----we all have our own opinions and our own stories----these are some of mine, based on my rookie experiences.
1. Have reasonable expectations, remember, those people making cheese for thousands of years, had all those years of experience being handed down through the generations. Nothing beats hands on experience. You might want to try a cheese making class to get a feel of what’s involved.
2. Every cheese looks good to me! So I wanted to make them all---my advice----avoid that urge----you have to learn to crawl before you walk. When I first started, I couldn’t tell the difference between a squeaky curd and a mouse.
3. When I first started, I posted this question on the forum “Is it best to start out making one type of cheese or various types”? And of course I got different opinions. Now with some experience under my belt, I would have to say---stick to one type until you have all the basics down pat-----preferably a short aging cheese----so you can check the results without waiting for what will seem like forever. The more difficult makes will be easier with the basics down pat.
4. If you have very little patience----or available time----cheese making may not be for you-----I could never have done this in my younger days.
5. Everything you read in all those cheese making books and web sites is not written as a stone-hard gospel. There are lots of mistakes, misprints and right out fallacy. Sometimes it’s just the fact, that there are different ways to get the same result. That part was really frustrating to me, an avid reader. The forum can help clarify some of this info. All info is best viewed with a cat’s eye.
6. GOOD NOTES!---When I first started, my notes were a joke---“Oh I’ll remember how I did this”--- sure you will. Thirty days from now, a year from now? I doubt that. Those notes will help you correct mistakes and almost as important will help you reproduce that really fantastic cheese you made. There are make sheets available and spread sheets. Observe what others are doing with make notes on The Forum.
7. Type of milk-----I can’t stress enough how much difference there is between raw milk, cream line, and P&H milk. Unfortunately P&H is the most readily available and affordable for most of us. A lot of the problems I ran into as a rookie disappeared when I made the same cheese with raw or cream line. You may find that P&H is suitable for only certain types of cheese.
8. PH meter----I have found that once I broke down and invested in a PH meter ---- my cheese vastly improved----I had way too many bitter cheeses. I am sure that someone with lots of experience probably doesn’t need one, but it’s been a godsend to me.
9. Unless you have a very reasonably priced source of milk and equipment--- YOU WILL NOT SAVE MONEY making your own cheese. Just the time and energy invested can be huge. Make sure you have the time, and really want to learn a skill that can be very rewarding.
Finally, I apologize for getting long winded, this is certainly only part of the issues I have run into, but I hope it will help the rookie or someone just anticipating making cheese----It really is addictive!
If I somehow offended anyone---my apologies---that certainly wasn’t my intention, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying cheese making.