Author Topic: How to find a cheese mentor?  (Read 1628 times)

Offline Annie

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How to find a cheese mentor?
« on: September 15, 2011, 08:21:16 AM »
I have gotten pretty good at feta cheese, but I am the only one who likes it, so I need to concentrate on mozzarella, parmesan, and cheddar (which I haven't even tried yet.

I have so many problems and questions that I think it would be good if I could find someone who really knows what they are doing, but I live in the middle of nowhere. How do people find other cheesemakers? Then I could at least meet up with them when I get to their area, if you see what I mean.

The places I go to are in eastern NC, Alexandria, VA, and I could get up to the Chesapeake VA area. (I live near Nags Head/Kitty Hawk).

I would be very grateful for help in finding someone :)



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Offline Tomer1

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2011, 08:30:47 AM »
The best way to become a good cheesemaker is like the best way to become a good musician or a carpenter,
Practice practice practice!
Make as much cheese as possible and expiriment. Learning why and not just how from various technical books will also take you far in terms of understanding cheesemaking.
Amatuar winemaker,baker, cook and musician
not in any particular order.

Offline Boofer

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2011, 09:32:53 AM »
Your search ends HERE.  :)

There are plenty of cheese mentors, aficionadas & aficionados, professional cheesemakers, and scads of people who just want to make good cheeses here on this forum. All you have to do is ask questions, post pictures of your problems or successes, and immerse yourself in your cheesemaking. If you have an urgent need for an answer, you will most likely receive some suitable response in very short order.

No doubt a lot of folks here, like myself, do not have a personal guide/mentor, but instead rely upon the kindness of strangers (hmm...) here for the support that I/they need. I do feel after being on here that the folks here are strangers no more.

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Offline Annie

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2011, 11:44:46 AM »
The best way to become a good cheesemaker is like the best way to become a good musician or a carpenter,
Practice practice practice!
Make as much cheese as possible and expiriment. Learning why and not just how from various technical books will also take you far in terms of understanding cheesemaking.
Well, I may have to do this, but I just hoped I'd be able to stop re-inventing the wheel and throwing out the products of a fair amount of hard work (since we get the milk from our cow). Not to mention the looong learning curves on stuff you have to wait 6 months for the results of ;)

Perhaps too I should stop reading about how perfect everyone's 30-minute mozz came out the first time they made it....

Offline Annie

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2011, 12:05:04 PM »
Your search ends HERE.  :)

There are plenty of cheese mentors, aficionadas & aficionados, professional cheesemakers, and scads of people who just want to make good cheeses here on this forum. All you have to do is ask questions, post pictures of your problems or successes, and immerse yourself in your cheesemaking. If you have an urgent need for an answer, you will most likely receive some suitable response in very short order.

No doubt a lot of folks here, like myself, do not have a personal guide/mentor, but instead rely upon the kindness of strangers (hmm...) here for the support that I/they need. I do feel after being on here that the folks here are strangers no more.

-Boofer-
Oh, thanks so much, Boofer! I haven't been able to get here for a few weeks, so I have a *huge* backup of questions. I just thought that maybe the number of questions I have might break the board or something (just kidding). Everyone here *has* been totally great and supportive and I am so very grateful :)

Thanks again!


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Offline Tomer1

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2011, 12:14:38 PM »
Ultimatly it requires time,
Self teaching is never time or energy efficient.
If you set a modest goal of going through an entire sub forum in say... a month Im sure you will be able to answer alot of your questions.
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not in any particular order.

Offline Cloversmilker

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2011, 08:08:50 PM »
Hi Annie,

I can empathize!  I would have said exactly the same thing a few years ago.  Now I'm fairly confident in making several types of soft and pressed cheese, and have started trying some mold ripened varieties.   :)

Here's my concrete advice:  get a book that has a range of recipes and also offers some explanation.  RC's book is one, but there are others as well.  Tim Smith's book, Making Artisan Cheese, may also fit the bill.  If you have questions about procedure, then ask here.  (I am still asking some very basic questions, and have received very helpful answers here.) 

Start with some soft cheeses to give yourself inspiration and confidence.  They just take good milk, which you have, a culture, and perhaps a bit of rennet.  Cheeses like quark and chevre.  You can add seasonings and enjoy soon.  The only equipment you need is a ss pot, a thermometer, and some cheesecloth.

Then try a couple of simple hard cheeses.  Monterey jack is one I would recommend.  Gouda is good too.  Don't get an expensive press right away perhaps, but improvise a mold and a weight.  (I still use a ss steamer with a plate and a jar of water sometimes.)

It is essential to get a good thermometer.  I use my husband's brewing thermometer.  It has a long stem and the appropriate temperature range. 

If you have any brewing supply shops in the area, they may have cheese making supplies and be able to connect you with fellow cheesemakers. 

Hope this helps.  Don't get discouraged!  Cheese making can be very rewarding!
Mina

PS I didn't find mozz an easy cheese to start with. 

Offline Annie

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2011, 09:46:14 PM »
Ultimatly it requires time,
Self teaching is never time or energy efficient.
If you set a modest goal of going through an entire sub forum in say... a month Im sure you will be able to answer alot of your questions.
I have picked up a lot by going through the fora--I said before my bio teacher would be amazed at how much science I've picked up!--but sometimes I can't find the answer or else (blush) I don't understand it!

Offline linuxboy

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2011, 09:57:56 PM »
Quote
but sometimes I can't find the answer or else (blush) I don't understand it!
Feel free to ask. We're all here to help :). Everyone starts out knowing nothing :)
Taking an extended leave (until 2015) from the forums to build out my farm and dairy. Please e-mail or PM if you need anything.

Offline Boofer

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2011, 10:02:16 PM »
One more note, Annie....

Perhaps too I should stop reading about how perfect everyone's 30-minute mozz came out the first time they made it....

I have yet to complete a mozzarella. I tried a cultured version twice, failed, and put it on the back burner. I have somewhat successfully tackled 34 cheeses of various styles, but no mozz. Eh, me worry? Nah, too many other cheese styles to try.

You can make a Tomme that will be ready to eat in two months. There are other washed-rind choices that can be ready even sooner...Reblochon, Taleggio.

A fairly solid book with recipes, explanations, and techniques is 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes. You'll see it mentioned in multiple places throughout the forum.

Quote
but sometimes I can't find the answer or else (blush) I don't understand it!

Everyone starts out knowing nothing :)
Boy, you've got that right!  ;)

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Offline Annie

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2011, 10:50:23 PM »
Hi Annie,

I can empathize!  I would have said exactly the same thing a few years ago.  Now I'm fairly confident in making several types of soft and pressed cheese, and have started trying some mold ripened varieties.   :)
Thanks so much, Mina!

Quote
Here's my concrete advice:  get a book that has a range of recipes and also offers some explanation.  RC's book is one, but there are others as well.  Tim Smith's book, Making Artisan Cheese, may also fit the bill.  If you have questions about procedure, then ask here.  (I am still asking some very basic questions, and have received very helpful answers here.) 
I got a book (Skokol's), but he made quite a lot of mistakes (like not including a culture in one of the recipes...), so I have taken to getting recipes from here or elsewhere to supplement.

My main problem is the results don't come out right. I feel like may e I am starting off with a ph difference in my milk--raw--because it curds up (flocculates) so fast and tends to end up dryer than it's supposed to. I have been through ten thermometers and the one I've got now is adjusted to boiling but 10 degrees off at freezing.

Then there's the issue of cutting the curd. ???? My curds are so badly cut. It wigles and slides and I never get the bottom no matter how hard I try :(

Cooking the curds? The directions are all over the place. Skokol is big on raising the temp slowly; no one else seems to care. I can't get the temp to go up that slowly anyway.

And it just goes on like that. Every step of the way I seem to not get right.

Quote
Start with some soft cheeses to give yourself inspiration and confidence.  They just take good milk, which you have, a culture, and perhaps a bit of rennet.  Cheeses like quark and chevre.  You can add seasonings and enjoy soon.  The only equipment you need is a ss pot, a thermometer, and some cheesecloth.
That is two of my questions :) I can make several soft cheeses; well, if you count the three that seem suspiciously similar, but  my family doesn't eat them--we kind of don't know what to do with them, except for ricotta (my husband's a great cook, but mostly Italian). I want to do things with the cheeses, but when I try to put salt in, they seem to get messed up somehow.

Quote
Then try a couple of simple hard cheeses.  Monterey jack is one I would recommend.  Gouda is good too.  Don't get an expensive press right away perhaps, but improvise a mold and a weight.  (I still use a ss steamer with a plate and a jar of water sometimes.)
I have two cheese presses :)

Quote
It is essential to get a good thermometer.  I use my husband's brewing thermometer.  It has a long stem and the appropriate temperature range. 
I cannot wait to get your kind of thermometer!!!! Could you tell me exactly what kind it is? I have used two kinds of meat thermometers, 2 or 3 candy ones, and 3 electric. All so slow, inaccurate, and fragile.


Quote
If you have any brewing supply shops in the area, they may have cheese making supplies and be able to connect you with fellow cheesemakers. 
Thank you so much! Now I know what to look for... Our area runs more to moonshine (just kidding, I don't know that anyone is doing it nowadays). And it looks like I can start with that and maybe find someone who's not nearby but somewhere I can get to.

Quote
hope this helps.  Don't get discouraged!  Cheese making can be very rewarding!
Mina
This has been very helpful. I felt pretty bad because I had to throw out a bunch of cheese... I was feeling discouraged. I'd love to be able to get this right...

And thanks for the book recommendations, too. I really need another book, one I can trust.

PS I didn't find mozz an easy cheese to start with.
[/quote]

Offline Cloversmilker

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2011, 11:57:45 PM »
Hi again Annie,

Here's the type of thermometer I use. http://www.cheesemaking.com/TelTruTwelveInchThermometer 
(There are a lot of places online that carry them, and this might not be the best price, but now you know what to look for.)  The temp range on mine is 32F to 220F.

I feel like may e I am starting off with a ph difference in my milk--raw--because it curds up (flocculates) so fast and tends to end up dryer than it's supposed to.  
You are probably starting with very fresh raw milk.  You don't need to add calcium chloride.  (That was a very recent question of mine!)  You can also even very slightly decrease the rennet.  With fresh raw milk, you can also keep the temperatures a degree or two lower than the recipes call for according to some sources.  Remember that higher temps = dryer cheese.  If I am using a mesophilic culture, I add it to the fresh milk warm from the cow with the cheese pot placed on a heating pad.  A towel around the pot keeps it at the right temp for the first ripening through the curd cutting.  Then I put the pot in the sink and run hot water around it to increase the temp to finish it off.  This generally does increase the temp gradually.  (Actually, a rule of thumb is to do everything with cheese gently and gradually.)  The reason you want to increase the temp gradually is to keep the curd surface from hardening so that it moisture can't be expelled from the interior.

The size of the curd affects cheese moisture as well.  It is all connected, but very roughly small curd = dry, large curd = moist.  Use the longest knife you have to do the cutting.  (I finally got a curd knife this summer.)  I always have some big blocks appearing from the bottom of the pot so I end up stirring and cutting, and then stirring and cutting some more.  If you are cutting into smaller cubes (say 1/4 inch), you might try using a ss whisk to do the cutting.  Or combine, cut with knife, then stir with whisk.  The curd doesn't have to be cubes, just have roughly the given surface to volume ratio.

I don't have a way to test ph, so I just try to follow the suggested times and temperatures in the recipes.  It has been working fairly well.  Once you have a few successful cheeses, you will get a feeling for what is coming out well as it goes into and comes out of the press.

Cheese!  ;D
Mina

Offline Boofer

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2011, 01:26:56 AM »
I got a book (Skokol's), but he made quite a lot of mistakes (like not including a culture in one of the recipes...), 

Skokol is big on raising the temp slowly; no one else seems to care.
If you're referring to "And That's How You Make Cheese!" by Shane Sokol, I don't know why I haven't thrown my copy in the trash. That's what it is. There are much better books available.

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Offline Annie

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2011, 07:22:04 AM »
I got a book (Skokol's), but he made quite a lot of mistakes (like not including a culture in one of the recipes...), 

Skokol is big on raising the temp slowly; no one else seems to care.
If you're referring to "And That's How You Make Cheese!" by Shane Sokol, I don't know why I haven't thrown my copy in the trash. That's what it is. There are much better books available.

-Boofer-
I haven't thrown mine out because I have so many notes and "good" recipes written in it!

Offline Annie

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Re: How to find a cheese mentor?
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2011, 10:15:35 AM »
Oh, my, Mina, how can I thank you!!!! the info about the raw milk was **just** what I needed!!!!

I had started making cheese with milk fresh from the cow, but the heating pad and hot water and reduction of rennet I hadn't known, and I am sure all that will really help. I have the milk fresh in, and am writing this while my sanitizer does its magic (no more boiling: I totally love that stuff!). I am so looking forward to using your hints *today* on a plain cheese :D

Let me ask one question tho: you said I don't need to use Calcium Chloride, but I've only used it in mozzarella. Is it often used in other recipes?

Oh, this is grand :) Do you think I can just cut the curds into *really* big pieces?

Sanitizer's finished.... off I go!