Cheese Blog

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All the other pages in my Cheese Log are organized, informative, and specific to an individual cheese, ingredient, or process. But sometimes I just wanna talk! So here's my cheese blog :)

Entries are listed in chronological order, with the newest at the top. If you'd like to add anything, feel free!

October 27, 2007posted by snadra

Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!...

This post is way overdue, but on August 5, I had the pleasure of cutting into three cheeses!

First, I finally opened up the 11-month-old second half of my first Chipotle Cheddar, and it was about as bad as I thought it would be. It was the last of my B.C. cheeses, so I didn't have high hopes for it. It went straight into the trash.

Second, I cut into my second Chipotle Cheddar, which was my first A.D. hard cheese. I was thrilled with the results. This cheddar had a great texture, sliced beautifully, and tasted great. It was amazing (and encouraging!) to see what great results came from using the proper milk.

Finally, I cut into another A.D. hard cheese -- the Monterey Jack. It had good texture, but unfortunately had a sour taste and wasn't enjoyable at all. I ended up throwing it away.

So, one out of three ain't... bad? I guess? While I was happy to have a successful result with the Chipotle Cheddar, I have been a bit discouraged since then. A lot of time and money goes into the trash whenever a cheese goes wrong. I need to be inspired again to make more.

And to make it worse, I've had a severe lack of free time over the summer, and it takes a full day to make a cheese, so I haven't been producing anything lately. My fridge is sitting empty. Hopefully, not for long!

May 20, 2007posted by snadra

A victim of price wars...

I finally made it over to the Good Foods Co-op store in town to see if they had any other milk options for me. They had Farmer's, but nothing new. I then noticed that the Farmer's was on sale -- regular price $4.69, sale price $3.29 per half gallon. That's a huge sale, right? $1.40 in savings, times 4! I had no intention of making savings that weekend, but with that much of a sale, I just had to do it. I grabbed four half-gallons of milk and checked out. Just as I walked away from the cashier, I realized that my total bill was pretty much exactly normal. This is when I remembered that the Wild Oats non-sale price is $3.49, and Good Foods just had a huge markup! *Sigh*

Do good things come in small packages?...

I used my two gallons of Farmer's to take another crack at a Monterey Jack cheese. The milk performed beautifully, and I had great curd formation and no problems. The only thing that worries me, though, is the fairly low yield I got. Using a 4" diameter mold, my B.C. cheeses used to give me a 5-6" tall block. The two A.D. ones I've done so far, though, only reach 3" in height. I asked a fellow cheesemaker on a forum about his yield, and he gets a 3" tall block in a 6" diameter mold. So something must be wrong. Maybe I am cooking the curds (thus shrinking them) for too long (although I am following the directions)? I'll ask around and see what I can come up with. In the meantime, I have two grand cheese openings planned for the first week of June. I just hope my tiny cheeses will be worth the wait!

April 23, 2007posted by snadra

I take that back...

Organic Valley brand milk is not an option. I tried to make mozzarella this weekend with a gallon of their supposed HTST milk. It failed miserably and I had to trash the whole pot. Either everything I've read is wrong and HTST milk is NOT in fact suitable for cheesemaking, or Organic Valley is actually ultra-pasteurizing it after all. At least I still have my vat-pasteurized LTLT milk from Farmer's All Natural Creamery. They cost the same, so it's not really a loss, but I was just hoping to have more alternatives. And of COURSE this failure occurred when I was trying to make cheese a few hours before a party. *sigh*

April 8, 2007posted by snadra

Real cheese, at last...

I made my first A.D. cheese last weekend -- a Chipotle Stirred-Curd Cheddar. It wasn't a flawless performance (I misjudged time, yield was less than ideal), but it was worlds better than any previous attempts, and I expect a great cheese out of it. Unfortunately, I have to wait 2 months to find out!

Milk it for all it's worth...

I have found a second brand of workable milk available in stores. The brand is Organic Valley, and their whole milk is HTST pasteurized, and available in one-gallon jugs. The good news is that I have another option, and the gallon size is easier to work with than the half-gallons that the Farmers' comes in. In addition, the Organic Valley is HTST (vs LTLT) pasteurized, and homogenized. I don't know if that's good news or bad news, because I don't know how much difference those two features will make in the end result. The one thing that is bad news, though, is that the cost is exactly the same as the Farmers'. I was hoping it would be cheaper, but no. I will try Organic Valley milk in my next cheese, and I will also look at a couple of other local "hippie" stores to see if any other brands (or prices) are available. It sure is nice to at least have two options now, though!

March 28, 2007posted by snadra

The beginning of a new era...

The milk troubles I described in my last post have led me down a path of research and experiments over the last few weeks, which fortunately have had great results. Thanks to what I learned about pasteurization, I was able to create a batch of mozzarella cheese that was so fantastic that it led me to label all time before this cheese as "B.C." ("Before Cheese") and all cheese from here on out as "A.D." ("After Discovery").

I also did some tests this week with mozzarella storage that had good results.

I expect many great and cheesy things to come in the near future!

March 6, 2007posted by snadra

My milk tricked me!...

Pretty much since Day 1, I have been frustrated at the structure of my cut curds. The pictures I see in books and on Web sites always show nice cubes of curd, but mine always fall apart into globby pieces. All along, I thought I just wasn't getting a firm enough set, so I tried adding more rennet, etc. The mozzarella was still working, though, so I figured it was okay. Granted, I haven't had a truly successful hard cheese yet, but could that be because of curd formation? Well, I was doing some research today and found an awesome comparison of Ultra-Pasteurized vs regular milk. Little angels started singing as I finally saw pictures of curds that looked like mine. The first three pictures in the left column of that page describe exactly what I have seen, over and over. Now, I knew about the problems with UP milk, and I specifically made sure the milk I've been using didn't say it was UP on the label. However, I've just learned that there are no regulations requiring that the labels say UP, so I've probably been using UP milk all along and didn't even realize it. Grrr! I'll have to make another batch of cheese soon with a new brand, and see if I get different results. I'm really eager to see if it helps!

March 5, 2007posted by snadra

Good news, bad news...

The bad news is that my Monterey Jack was a disaster. I over-corrected for my previous drying-out problems and ended up with a crumbly, whey-filled, mess that I had to throw away completely. The good news is that I've documented my latest attempt at Mozzarella and it turned out AWESOME! The best cheese I've made to date.

January 24, 2007posted by snadra

More crumbles...

I cut into the Sage Stirred-curd Cheddar a few days ago after aging it four months. It had great aroma and taste, and was pretty creamy. I was happy to see that it wasn't too dry, but it was crumbly! Grr, I've got to figure out why that happens and how to avoid it.

January 7, 2007posted by snadra

Merry Cheesemas...

I had grand plans over my Christmas vacation to make a bunch of different cheeses so that I'd be set for 2007. However, my time off was filled with family, friends, and fun (and so many errands!) and I only had time to make one cheese. It's a new one for me -- a Monterey Jack -- and I am anxious to see how it comes out. Fortunately, I only have to wait 2 months. I almost added peppers to it, but decided it best to stick with something simple for the first time. I'll try peppers in the next Jack.

December 6, 2006posted by snadra

Six of one...

I cut into the first half of my Chipotle Stirred-curd Cheddar today, after aging it for three months. I was very happy with the taste, texture, and aroma. I can't wait to share it with friends at a party this weekend! The other half of the round will remain in the fridge for two more months.

October 6, 2006posted by snadra

Who cut the cheese?...

I did! I finally cut into my first hard cheese on Wednesday. The Farmhouse cheddar was not what I thought it would be, but was still very good. I am planning on taking it to a party tomorrow night so that some friends can try it. Since this is my first try (I'm no pro!) and there could be potentially a dozen people tasting it tomorrow, I purposefully ate some on Wednesday so that I could be sure it didn't make me sick or anything (have I seen too many episodes of 'House, MD'?) before exposing others. I'm feeling great, though, and can't wait to share.

September 28, 2006posted by snadra

Strike that; reverse it...

The cheese-related pages of my cheese log were originally organized by attempt. If I tried to make mozzarella 3 times, I'd have three different pages. As I started repeating recipes more and more, I realized that this was not ideal, because I had to keep copying the recipe over and over to each page. Plus, do you really want to see the list eventually get long enough to include "Mozzarella #48"? So I just finished re-organizing the whole thing, this time by recipe. Each main cheese page will list a single recipe, and then the multiple attempts at that recipe (and their results) will follow. Repeating an old recipe? Add another section to the existing page. Trying a new recipe? Start a new page. I think this will work much better.

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme...

Or maybe just the sage. I've certainly got plenty of it growing in my garden and hardly any use for it. Last night I waxed my first attempt at Sage stirred-curd cheddar. I'm gonna let this one age for 4 months, partly because I haven't designated a fourth-month cheese yet, and party because there's a nice gap in my aging schedule that warrants a cheese being finished in January. I'm a little uncertain as to exactly how good a sage-flavored cheese will taste, but I got the recipe from a book, so surely SOMEbody has deemed it tasty?

September 28, 2006posted by snadra

Thanks for asking...

I finally took the plunge today and bought a huge, dedicated, stainless steel pot for making cheese. I already had a really nice stainless steel 8-qt pot with a nice solid core on the bottom. Works great for one-gallon batches, but trying to work with 2 gallons of milk in it was a pain. I also had a really cheap 20-qt pot that has a nice capacity, but it has a super-thin bottom that had me in constant fear of burning the milk. But now I have the new "SuperPot 4000", which holds 22 quarts (enough for 5 gallons of milk plus room to work) and has a nice solid-core bottom, which protects the milk. The best part of the purchase was the cashier who saw it and asked, "What are you making?" When I answered with "cheese", her jaw dropped and I could see the wheels turning in her head. She stammered out "How do you make cheese?" and I said, "Well, you start with a whoooooole lot of milk and then it gets complicated." She finally decided this was neat and declared that I was the first person she ever heard of who MADE cheese. Yay me!

September 25, 2006posted by snadra

UPS to the rescue...

We had a power outage on Saturday evening that lasted several hours. My thoughts over the first few minutes went from "How am I supposed to heat up dinner now?" to "I hope the food in the fridge doesn't spoil" to "OH MY GOD, MY CHEESE FRIDGE!!!" Losing power and risking spoilage of months' worth of aging cheeses is not something I had even considered before. I ran upstairs and plugged the fridge into my computer's UPS, which had enough power to keep it running until the power came back on about 3 hours later. Whew! My game plan if this ever happens again is to use the UPS for all it's worth and then load the entire cheese fridge and all its contents into the truck and run to Mommy.

September 22, 2006posted by snadra

And then there were three...

This week I waxed my second cheese (in two pieces). I now have three hunks of cheese in the aging fridge, which is pretty exciting. I am really eager to make more, so that I have a good backlog of aging cheeses at all times. It's hard to keep making more when I haven't even tried the first one yet, though. Only one more week of waiting, though, and I'll be cutting into that cheddar!

The lesser of two evils...

I recently ordered some more cheesemaking supplies from a new company and was surprised at how different they were from the other company. To be considerate, I'll tell the story without naming names.

The first time I ordered cheese supplies (months ago), it was from Company A. Their Web site is a bit cheesy (no pun intended) and not really sleek or super-professional looking, but the ordering process went perfectly fine and I felt totally secure with the order. The stuff arrived quickly and was as described, and I was totally happy with what I got, but the labels and other paperwork were a bit amateurish, if you know what I mean. I felt like I ordered from a someone working out of a basement.

The second time I ordered (this week), I tried Company B because they had better prices and portions. Their Web site has a more professional look to it, but there were times when I lacked confidence with the technical aspects. The shopping cart was unlike any I'd ever seen, with JavaScript pop-ups when you added something. I'll spare you the details, but there were several tiny red flags during the ordering process that made me think, "is this 10-year-old technology?" But then, 2 business days later, there was my order on my porch. And what surprised me here is that the items were FAR more professional looking. Nice containers, great labels, instruction booklets. I felt like I had ordered from a real company.

So the dilemma becomes... which company do I order from in the future? Professional input, or professional output? Then I had a bit of an "old-school" brainstorm and realized that ordering online is not my only option. In the future I will order from Company B over the phone :)

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