Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cheese Fondue with Cider

I tried a simple Google search for cheese and cider the other day. The top results of my search was a cheese fondue with cider.

I’ve made a few cheese fondues before. Most of them contain dry sherry and dry white wine with a lot of mild melting cheeses like Gruyère and Emmentaler along with a little bit of sharper flavorful cheeses like parmesan. The sherry, dry white wine, and parmesan give it a sharp flavor. So it makes sense to replace at least the dry white wine with a dry apple cider, and the parmesan with cheddar cheese. Maybe even replace the sherry with apple brandy. Hmm.

Admittedly, over the years, I quit making fondue from scratch, as it can take awhile to get the right consistency. A local German restaurant called the Rheinlander has a fondue, whose recipe is apparently not a secret as it was on the local TV in 2004, which they bottle. I find it in the cheese section of the deli in a pint sized jar. I keep one in the back of my fridge for company, in which case I take out and put in a little dipping crock pot. Easy as that. I should try that fondue with a slightly sweet cider to cut though all the sharpness.

The fondue cookbook I have had for years had a simpler recipe, so I decided to give it a try. It called for 2 TBS of lemon juice, 2 cups of hard dry cider, 1 lb 9 oz of shredded cheddar cheese, and 2 TBS of corn starch. The lemon juice and cider are heated, and the cheddar is slowly added as it melts. Cheddar is not really a melting cheese, or rather, it melts, but a lot of oil separates out. Adding corn starch at the end did away with the separating and made the whole thing consistent. It suggested using bread, apples, ham, and pineapple as dippers, all of which were very good. I tried sugar snap peas, but gave up on that. I served it with Red Barn semi-dry Jonagold Cider, but that was a bit of a mistake. Great cider, but the fondue ended up having a slightly sweet taste, and the semi-dry cider did not cut through to be refreshing, nor did it compliment the fondue as a sweet cider might have. Next time, I would go either for a dry cider, or a sweet cider.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Apple Cheesecake

While I do eat about an apple a day, my husband eats more apples than I do. He is also a teacher, which usually conjures up an image of a bright red apple. I think it was his idea to have an apple themed wedding. We served a keg of Spire Apple Cider instead of champagne, and our favors were applets.

I love cheesecake, and would rather have a cheesecake than a regular cake any day. When I found Portland Style Cheesecake, a company who can make wedding cakes out of cheesecakes, I was quite happy. My father-in-law was not, as he loves a good chocolate cake, but it was my wedding and I got to choose. Besides, my mother-in-law is gluten intolerant, so she can’t eat wheat, and therefore could not eat a cake, but she can eat cheesecake as long as the crust is gluten free. We got him a Costco chocolate sheet cake to make him happy.

We went to PS Cheesecake to taste several types of cakes that they had, as they must have had a list of about 30 to choose from. We did not say to ourselves, “We really want an apple cake,” but when we tasted that one against a few others favorite flavors like black berry or peanut butter, it became clear that we really liked the apple cake. It had real apple chunks in it, too. Though, the blackberry was really good, but just not us.

From there, we saw that they had done a cake with pears on it, so we requested apples, which they got little artificial ones, as they were afraid of the heat and didn’t want the weight of real apples to slide off.

A lot of people loved the cake, as it was something different at a wedding, and most people would rate cheesecake above regular cake. Granted, it did cost more than a regular wedding cake would have.

Monday, June 28, 2010

History of Cheese

The history of cheese begins with the domestication of livestock, happening 9,000 to 12,000 years ago in the Near East. Cattle, sheep, and goats were kept for meat, wool, and other supplies, but when fed well enough, they would produce a surplus of milk beyond what their young could drink. Storing milk would have been difficult, as it would have soured in a few days. This souring process probably lead to the first yogurts (still very much a part of that region’s diet) and eventually cheese.

There are no written records about the invention of cheese, but popular speculation talks about how a nomad might have put milk into a container made out of a stomach, and that the rennet from the stomach curdled the milk. However, I believe this is half of the story. While the use of rennet was probably known, it was not regularly used until Roman times in the first century AD. My own thoughts is that an acid, such as lemon juice or grape juice turned vinegar, was splashed into warm milk, which caused it to curdle, much in the way the mascarpone and queso blanco DIY kits worked for making fresh cheeses. This technique would have been easier to perform and explain how cheese was made for so many centuries without rennet.

There is evidence, though, of dairy product consumption. Shane Sokol stated in And That’s How You Make Cheese!:

Ancient records mention how cheese and butter were made thought Egypt from about 4,000 BC onward. Cheese is mentioned many times in ancient texts, including the Bible where David carried ten cheeses to the army before slaying Goliath. In fact, the stadium of Jerusalem was build in the valley called Tyropaeon, meaning the valley of the cheese makers.

Barbara Ciletti writes in Making Great Cheese at Home, “According to archaeological finds, cheese was not only made, but molded and drained, as early as 2,700-2,800 BC. We know that certain terra-cotta urns were made with cheese in mine, because before firing they were perforated with tiny holes for draining.”

Being able to make cheese out of milk was very important in ancient life. Milk did not keep for more than a few days, and the livestock would only give milk after giving birth in the spring for a few months, so there was no milk later in the winter. Cheese allowed for long term storage and actually got better with age, and it was easier to transport than milk, all of which made cheese easier to trade than milk. Also, a small chunk of cheese had plenty of nutrition to sustain a person. Ciletti writes, “Roman soldiers carried great wedges of Parmesan and percorino, sturdy cheeses easy to cart around the countryside. These dryer, hard cheeses were less apt to spoil under the hot sun and staved off hunger during months of travel.”

Since Roman times, cheesemaking has spread and grown into a major industry. While I am skipping a lot of history between then and now, I must add two new modern techniques added that have changed cheesemaking. The first was producing cheese in factories. Cheesemaking, as I talked about earlier, was originally done by those who had livestock with a surplus of milk, so it was very small scale and craft. Wikipedia states:

The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland in 1815, but it was in the United States where large-scale production first found real success. Credit usually goes to Jesse Williams, a dairy farmer from Rome, New York, who in 1851 started making cheese in an assembly-line fashion using the milk from neighboring farms. Within decades hundreds of such dairy associations existed…. Factory-made cheese overtook traditional cheesemaking in the World War II era, and factories have been the source of most cheese in America and Europe ever since.

The second modern technique was Louis Paseur’s invention of the pasteurization process in 1850. Cheesemaking then turned away from using raw milk and allowed for large scale cheese making to begin, since the risk of losing a batch due to bacteria was greatly reduced. However, today there is an attempt at returning to raw milk cheeses as they taste better.

Sources and other readings:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Further readings on pairing wine, beer, and cheese:

All American Cheese and Wine Book: Pairings, Profiles, & Recipes by Laura Werlin. 2003
Werlin wrote The New American Cheese: Profiles of American’s Great Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese. Her All American Cheese and Wine Book is basically the same book but with more on wine added. Werlin did extensive research on both topics, and this is a dense book with advice and recipes. After an introduction, Werlin starts talking about cheese and how it is made, how to taste cheese extensively, seven different basic styles of cheese, how to look for and buy cheese by style, and how to serve a cheese course. Next, for wines, she talks about grapes, making wine, tasting wine, types of wine, and serving wine. I’m very impressed with both sections on how much time she takes talking about the actual tastings of both cheese and wine. She then presents the ten basic guidelines of pairing cheese and wine, talks about clues for perfect pairs by cheese style, and gives a chart of cheese and wine pairings at a glance. The core of the book is cheese dish recipes by course with wine pairing, followed by a description and profile of either winery or a cheesemaker. The Appendix alone contains 60 pages, talking about cheese terms, wine terms, cheesemakers around the country, wine makers around the country, resources (information and organizations), and a bibliography.

An Appetite for Ale: Hundreds of Delicious Ways to Enjoy Beer with Food by Fiona Beckett and Will Beckett
A cookbook that either uses beer in the recipes, or has a “best beer match” to go with the recipe. It does talk about pairing, and a lot of the food seems down to earth pub fare. The chapter on cheese is weak, but does have a good page on pairings before offering only a cheese and beer fondue and a gorgonzola and pear bruschetta recipes.

The Beerbistro Cookbook by Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin
A cookbook using beer, it has three decent pages on pairing beer and cheese, along with a large table on suggested processes for pairing the two. It has lots of recipes, including fondues, and a chapter on making ice cream with beer.

The Best of American Beer and Food: Pairing and Cooking with Craft Beer by Lucy Saunders
This book is a little bit of everything – a reader and a cook book. The first chapter is on pairing cheese and beer, and talks in great lengths about cheesemaking, planning a cheese and beer tasting, and some suggested pairings. The rest of the book goes on to talk about other pairings with beer, regional beers and their pairing trends, and lots of recipes including cheese-stuffed jumbo shrimp with bacon, using a saison-style ale.

The Cheese Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide, by Judy Ridgway and updated by Sara Hill
This is a cheese identification book that talks only very briefly about pairing cheese with wine. However, for each cheese variety listed, it provides a recommended wine pairing. For example, it suggests pairing Chèvre to with a Sauvignon Blanc wine.

Cheese and Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying by Janet Fletcher. 2007
This book goes though and briefly suggests strategies for pairing wine and cheese based on texture, intensity, acidity, sweetness, mold, and region. It then tells you how to plan a cheese course, and then how to handle and store cheese. The heart of the book is pages talking about a specific cheese style, including milk type, region, and a lengthy description. At the very end is a sentence or two about what wines would work with that cheese, so this book is about eating cheese, and the wines to enhance that experience. The appendix has two pages showing a table of wines with what cheeses to pair them to, so it is kind of a quick summary. However, there is no index to allow for the quick look up of a particular kind of cheese or wine.

He Said Beer, She Said Wine by Same Calagione and Marnie Old. 2009
This beer vs wine food pairing book does talk about how to choose wine and beer to go with cheese. Honestly, the cheeses they picked for their battles would make a very good cheese platter in my opinion, and are easy to acquire.
Mozzarella: light-bodied sparkling wine, unwooded chardonnay, Belgian White Beer, or Hefeweizen
Goat cheese: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Nior Rosé, slightly sweet hefeweizen, or a pilsner.
Brie: Pinot Gris, French Champagne, kriek limbic, or Berliner Weisse
Sharp aged cheddar: fortified Madeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, IPA, or English Brown Ale.
Parmigiano Reggiano: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, amber, or IPA.
Roquefort: Amarone, Sautenes, British Strong Ale, or Russian Imperial Stout

Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials: An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese {with 50 Recipes} by Laura Werlin. 2007
In each cheese style chapter in this book there is a small section on which kinds of wines to serve with that style and how easy it is to pair with that style. Fresh cheeses are difficult to pair, going with light white wines. Semi-soft cheese paired with fruity unoaked white wines a light red, or a light beer such as a lager. Soft-ripened cheeses, with the rinds removed, go well with sparkling wines, unoaked Chardonnay, or an earthy Pinot Nior. Surface-ripened cheeses are paired with white wines or low tannin red wines. Next, for the easiest pairing semi-hard cheeses, serve them with just about any wine. For hard cheeses, look for white wines or low tannin red wines, or even a sherry. Blue cheeses are paired with port, sweet white wines, and sparkling dry white wines. Last of all, for washed-rind cheese, Werlin pairs them with floral white wines, lighter fruitier red wines, and sweet wines. Otherwise, see Werlin’s other book, All American Cheese and Wine Book: Pairings, Profiles, & Recipes for more in-depth coverage of this topic.

Matching Food and Wine: Classic and Not So Classic Combinations by Michel Roux Jr.
A cook book which briefly talks about wines and suggests three wines to pair with that recipe. I mention this book because it has a few recipes with cheese, which he then recommends wines with.

Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. 2009
Another dense book about understanding cheese, how to become a connoisseur, and talking about great artisan cheeses of the world. This book contains a chapter each on pairing cheese with wine and beer. After talking about wine in general, the book talks about complexity, sensory profiling, balance and harmony, and the finish. They offer good advice on serving the pairings, such as paying attention to serving temperatures, smell, taste, waiting for the finish, refresh your palate with water and bread, follow an order, and reflect on the pairings. They then offer suggested tasting plates of a few cheeses paired with flights of wines, along with a recommended method of scoring the pairs. Next, they talk about some general cheese-friendly wines, and what it takes to be cheese friendly. The beer chapter, although smaller, follows along the same lines, starting with talking about beer, pairing principles and guidelines, cheese friendly brews, and a suggested testing of six cheeses and three beers.

The New American Cheese: Profiles of America’s Greatest Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese by Laura Werlin. 2000
More of an all around cheese book, it does have a small section on pairing cheese and wine, with an afterthought of pairing cheese with other beverages. Werlin expanded on this section with her later books.

The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. 2002
And older McCalman and Gibbons book dedicated strictly to consuming cheese, it dedicates chapter 6 to pairing cheese with food, including beverages. Again, it talks about cheese-friendly wines and wine driven plates. It briefly mentions, “Apple cider – not just the hard kind – as well as grape and berry juices are good [cheese pairing] possibilities. Coffee pairs well with many cheeses. But tea does not. Also, avoid orange and other citrus juices. In fact, I’m quite wary of even the lemon or lime wedge that goes with your sparkling water; it could easily interfere with a good cheese.” Their newer book expanded to talk about beer, which is not in this book.


  • The Wisconsin Milk Marking Board has a nifty website showing what cheeses go well with what wine, food, spirits, and beers.
  • Cheese Cupid has an interactive website, where you pick your cheese, and it gives suggested beverages, or you pick your beverage and it suggests cheeses. It includes beer, cider in general, and some spirits.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cheese and Beer

To begin the chapter on cheese, the book The Beer Bistro Cookbook by Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin states:

Forget all that talk you’ve heard about wine and cheese. The real partner for everything from cheddar to stilton is beer. But don’t take our word for it – as a sommelier! Any honest wine professional will admit that the motto in the grape trade is “taste with bread, sell with cheese,” primarily because the fats in cheese will help blot out the tannins and other harsh notes that may show up in youthful or aggressive wines.

Beer and cheese, on the other hand, well, that’s just a match made in gastronomic heaven. The trick, as ever, is simply picking the right style of beer for each particular kind of cheese.

The reason pairing beer with cheese is easier than pairing wine with cheese, according to Tim Smith in Making Artisan Cheese: 50 Fine Cheeses that you can Making in Your Own Kitchen, is that the carbonation of beer helps to cleans the palate.

Probably the best book I saw on this topic was Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. It had an entire chapter devoted to pairing beer and cheese, talking about ingredients, mouth feel and weight, and much more, and conclude with a pairing of three beers with six cheeses. McCalman and Gibbons state the following:

The general principles of pairing beers with cheeses are pretty much the same as the wine-and-cheese guidelines. You’re looking for balance, where neither partner overwhelms the other, and you want to consider both complement and contrast. Once you’ve sussed out a beer’s profile, you can start to look for similar, overlapping, or contrasting flavors, textures, and aromas in cheese… there will be surprises – matchups that should work but don’t and vice versa… I’ve found that wines tend to rely more on finding complements to their flavor components (i.e., harmony), whereas beers seem to be looking more for balance – it is more of a seesaw effect. The beer pairing balance is more about bitterness, in that bitter (hoppy) beers tend to go well with more sour cheeses and vice versa… Cheddars, which have good acidity, are classic partners for various types of beers, from English ales to Belgian wit styles. Salt content is also of prime importance when consider cheese-and-beer pairings. Oftentimes, when you pair a cheese with beers its salt can come to dominate, even with types you don’t think of as very salty. What’s happening is the other flavor components in the two partners are balancing each other out, leaving the cheese’s salt to come too far to the fore. In a beer-and-cheese lineup, as with a tasting of wine pairings, you’ll want to proceed from the lighter, milder lager, pilsner, and pale ale styles to the deeper, richer, heavier, darker, more complex-flavored styles of the brew.

They make the following recommendations:

  • Traditional beers of one country pair well with the cheeses of that same country.
  • Bigger cheeses such as aged farmhouse-style Goudas can be good partners, but you need a big beer to stand up to them. The full long-lasting flavors of hard Alpine cheeses can work well with bigger beers.
  • Washed-rind cheeses often make excellent beer partners as long as the later are big and bold enough. A hoppy ale is a good choice; delicate, subtler-tasting brews likely won’t stand up.
  • Another strong pairing is triple-crème cheeses with stouts. Knowing as we do that Champagne and triple crèmes work well together, this might be a bit of a surprise. When you’ve got a rich, buttery cheese in your mouth, a big dark beer that is also dry, bitter, and roasty is a nice complement, forming a “desserty” combo, like ice cream and chocolate cake.
  • Some mellow middle-of-the road cow cheeses pair well with more acidic beers such as the Beliner Weisse style, which can be quite delicate and contain a good amount of lactic acid.
  • Blue cheeses pair well with stouts and barleywines, which have the heft and inherent sweetness to provide balance.
  • Generally speaking, sweeter blue cheeses go better with more bitter beers while more bitter blue cheese go with sweeter beers.

Smith gives the suggested pairings, including:

  • Fresh cheese pair well with mellow beers, such as American wheat beers, American lagers, and German lagers.
  • Soft-ripened cow’s-milk cheeses, such as Neufchâtel, Brie, and Camembert, are excellent companions for pilsners, porters, and pale ales.
  • Washed-rind cheeses, such as Muenster, are complements to English brown, amber, and Belgian pale ales.
  • Semi-hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, Edam, and Gouda, as well as the cooked-curd cheeses, such as Emmentaler and Gruyère, go well with pilsners, IPAs, double bocks, and Belgian ales.
  • Parmesans and Romanos need a heavier beer as a partner: try a strong ale, stout, or porter.
  • Because of their intense flavor, blue-vein cheeses require a beer that can hold its own. Try stronger porters, stouts, and heavier dark beers, such as barely wine.
  • Goat cheeses are usually a bit more flavorful, so consider pairing them with IPAs, ESBs, brown ales, and porters.
  • Pasta filata, particularly Provolone, are well matched with Bavarian whites and heavier Bavarian wheat beers (doppelweizen).

One other thing to note is that I kept coming across the “ploughman’s lunch,” which is an inexpensive British meal sent with the plough man to serve as his lunch, but can be found at pubs today. It consists mainly of bread, cheese, relish, and maybe other additions such as cold meats, apples, hard boiled egg, or other items. This meal is always washed down with beer, tying it to the cheese and beer pairings.

Further Readings:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cheese and Wine

There are several different schools of thought about how to pair up wine and cheese. Judy Ridgway states in The Cheese Companion: a Connoisseur’s Guide, “Cheese seems to have a particular affinity with wine, and the two tastes can really complement each other. There are two schools of thought here; those who suggest that you should simply drink your favorite wine with your cheese and enjoy it, and those who believe that some wine and cheese combinations really do not work and that you should plan the match with care. In practice, the former view is more likely to dominate, but if you have the time you really can add to your enjoyment of cheese by finding the best partnership.”

When it comes to purposely selecting pairs, there are three main methods, as Ricki Carroll described in Home Cheese Making. They include:

  1. Serve complementary flavors (a big sturdy cheese with a full-bodied wine).
  2. Select contracting flavors, such as champagne and triple-crème cheese, to provide interest and balance.
  3. Choose products from the same region. For example, serve a California dry Jack cheese with a spicy California Zinfandel.

In Making Artisan Cheese: 50 Fine Cheeses that You Can Making in Your Own Kitchen, Tim Smith suggests keeping this in mind when pairing:

  • “In general, white wines pair better with cheese than red wines. (However, do not keep from experimenting!)”
  • “Together, wine and cheese need to counterbalance or foiling (via acidity and tannin), or they require a matched texture and flavor profile. Rich wines should be paired with rich creamy cheeses, and sharp wines with sharper cheeses.”
  • “The salt in the cheese exaggerates the taste of alcohol in the wine, making them seem ‘hotter.’ A salty taste in cheese is best counterbalanced by a hint of sweetness in the wine…”
  • “Stronger-flavored cheeses (such as mature, washed-rind cheeses) are the most difficult to match and do not go well with strong, ample-bodied wines (especially reds). Pungent cheeses are best complemented by sweet wines. Oaky wines clash and overwhelm most cheeses, unless oak flavors are inherently associated with them.”
  • “You aren’t compromising aesthetics by switching back to dry white wine for your cheese course. If your cheese course follows a dish accompanied by red wine, and is being served before (or instead of) dessert, the two styles of wine can coexist.”
  • “When in doubt, go native. Local cheese and wines tend to work well together, and can be paired confidently.”
  • “When planning a cheese course, choose either the cheese or the wine first, or pick an array of both that offers a range of possibility for all palates.”
  • “The use of herbs, spices, and crusts in or on the cheese, as they may influence the effect of the wine. Also, don’t overlook the potential for incorporating cheese into salads and other light dishes for the complementary flavors offered.”

Some recommended pairings:

  • Brie and Camembert: white wines with texture, like Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. Red wines with medium body and moderate tannin, such as Syrah and Merlot. Sparkling wines do well.
  • Cheddar: Red wines such as Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Bordeaux.
  • Feta: white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, or a dry rosés
  • Goat’s Milk Cheeses: Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah , Merlot,
  • Gorgonzola: Sparkling wines or sweet wines including a late-harvest Riesling
  • Gouda: Chardonnay, Riesling, or a light Zinfandel
  • Gruyère: Burgundy, Chardonnay, or Pinot Gris. A Pinot Noir can work sometimes.
  • Mozzerella: a light zippy wine such as a Pinot Grigio or a dry rosé
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Sparkling wine before the meal, and a full-bodied red during the meal, such as a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Zinfandel.
  • Swiss: Gewürztraminer or Riesling

As far as the order in which to serve the cheese and wines, Carroll interviewed Steve Jones of Provvista Specialty Foods in Portland, Oregon, who said, “Usually, I move from lighter to heavier fare; that seems the most natural. For instance, start with a sparkling wine and fresh chèvre. Move through an Alsatian wine served with a true Muenster or Chardonnay (my least favorite wine to pair with cheese) with a rustic sheep’s-milk cheese. Then move to a heavier red with an aged hard cheese, and finish with port or sherry served with blue cheese.”

In Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager, Max McCalman and David Gibbons get a little more specific about serving the two together. In summary:

  • Pay Attention to Serving Temperatures: Serve cheese at room temperature, red wines slightly chilled, and white wines slightly warmer than chilled.
  • Smell the wine and cheese separately
  • Taste: Taste the wine first, clear your palate, and then the cheese. Then taste both together, allowing them to commingle.
  • Wait for the finish: do not rush the tastings of the wine, cheese, or the wine and cheese together.
  • Refresh your palate: have some water and bread
  • Follow the suggested order for the pairings, but don’t hesitate to go back and do them out of order
  • Reflect

Other Readings:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pairing Cheese and Alcohol

First off, my instructor for “Le Nez du Vin”: The Nose of Wine gave a cautionary piece of advice when pairing cheese and wine, which I think would apply to all cheese and alcohol pairings. He said that when you are trying to taste and evaluate wine, serving cheese is a bad idea because it has oil that coats the mouth and affects how you taste. However, if you are just drinking a wine, cheese is an excellent accompaniment.

That said, I came across this little bit on page 155 in the Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr, and I felt like I had to share it.

For the uninitiated, pairing cheese and spirits can seem completed; novices often fear that they won’t do it right. In fact, pairing beverages and cheeses is really as simple as being present to the flavors your mouth is experiencing.

Start out with this principle: a good pairing is one where the flavors of both the beverage and the cheese are enhanced by the combination. In the best pairings, you may find that the pairing produces a remarkable transformation on your palate, and a third flavor revelation emerges. Bad pairings are easy to discern and will almost certainly cause your mouth to screw up involuntarily in an odd contortions as a result of the bitter, awkward flavors generated in your mouth. In fact, bad pairings are one easy way to start educating yourself about the ins and outs of pairing cheese and wine. Try a few pairings of wine and cheese, even random ones, and start paying attention to how combinations fit into broad categories.

Wine is the classic beverage for pairing with cheese, but that’s only the beginning. Some find that beer pairs well, if not better, than wine. Other beverages such as sake, cider, and lambic ales can also be nicely paired with cheese. More recently, people are beginning to experiment with pairing coffee and cheese, as well as whiskey and cheese.

Following are a few basic pairing principles to start you on your pairing adventures:

Trust Your Own Palate

Pairings are very subjective, and despite what anyone tells you, there are no right or wrong answers – really…

Pair Like with Like

Pay attention to the relative intensity of flavors you are pairing. Generally speaking, very strong flavored cheeses paired with light, dry libations won’t work because the cheese will overpower the wine. By the same token, a big red wine… will drown out a subtly flavored soft-ripened goat cheese. Pairing this way does neither produce a favor. That being said, see the next rule.

Be Open to the Unexpected

Whatever rules you might have learned may prove false with any given pairing at any given time. Cheese flavors vary throughout the year due to the diet of the animals and seasonal variations in butterfat content of milk; wines and beers also vary by vintage and by batch. In addition, counterintuitive pairs often work very well. For example, ports typically pair well with strongly flavored blue cheeses. You just never know.

The Wisconsin Milk Marking Board does have a nifty website showing what cheeses go well with what wine, food, spirits, and beers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Making Wine with Whey

Shallon Winery in Astoria, OR makes a cranberry whey wine that is really good. I had written before that he “touts the health benefits of adding whey to the wine… This wine is not milky colored at all, and it is another bottle we take home. He recommends adding a little bit of 7-up to it for the bubbles, which is also excellent. I’ve never eaten it with turkey, which I imagine it would be good with, but to do so would probably mean I would have to share, and I would rather horde his wines.”

This wine has been the inspiration of trying to make my own whey wine, and I have been researching and experimenting.

First off, milk sugars called lactose are not fermentable by traditional yeasts, but instead require microorganisms such as Kluveromyces lactis or Kluveromyces fragilis to convert lactose to alcohol. Therefore, powdered lactose is actually used as a sweetener in beer and wine, as the yeast will leave it alone, leaving a sweet product in the end. Lactose is not usually captured in cheese, but is left in whey. I should note, though, that it takes a lot of lactose to make it sweet.

My original theory was that a wine maker would start a batch of wine fermenting, and then add the whey later. My reasoning behind this is that the alcohol would hopefully prevent the whey from spoiling. I should admit that from my own farming days, we would keep milk for the baby calves at room temperature for a few days before it would finally start to spoil around day three. In fact, before refrigeration, people would have left it sitting out. So I know that this is possible, but I was afraid it would spoil before anything would happen. Also, would the government allow a wine maker to leave whey out at room temperature for that long? My theory was that if the whey was added in the secondary, it would possibly preserve the whey so it doesn't spoil. Another theory I had running against it was that adding acid to milk makes it curdle, and even whey curdles with acid at higher temperatures, so what would adding whey to high acid wine do to it? So many theories running though my head...

It turns out that in 1977, the Department of Food Science and Technology at the Oregon State University conducted an experiment using cheese whey to make wine. The results were published in a paper titled Utilization of Cheese Whey for Wine Production. It takes about 10 pounds of milk (1.15 gallons) to yield one pound of cheese, which means that 9 pounds is waste, or a whey by-product. The most common method used to make this whey waste profitable is to dehydrate it into powdered whey to use as a food supplement. However, the 1970s saw an energy crisis, so dehydrating whey was expensive, and they were looking for other cheaper usable methods to use whey and realized whey wine might be the answer.

So, armed with a research paper that is most definitely not a how-to, I kept some whey from three of my cheese batches, mixed it with some cranberry juice, added potassium metasulfite to get sulfur dioxide released, and some yeast. It started fermenting. Let the whey wine making experiment commence!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: Six Cheesemaking Books

Wanting to expand from DIY cheesemaking kits, I checked out from the library some cheesemaking books.

The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley
This book tells you how to make fresh dairy products, such as butter, yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and nine fresh cheeses. It has a short introduction, and then you are making stuff. I find it a bit odd in places, as one recipe for buttermilk is to add buttermilk to skim milk. Also, I didn’t trust the feta recipe because it did not make brine or age it at all. It does have 109 pages dedicated to cooking with your freshly made dairy products, along with a small glossary and a list of sources for cheese making supplies, classes, and useful links. The book has only a few drawings, and it was the other dairy products and recipes included that held my interest with this book.

And That’s How You Make Cheese! by Shane Sokol
It is a small book with black and white photos. It gives a short history of cheese before going over ingredients, supplies and equipment, basic steps, how to start a cheese culture, and then finally cheese making recipes: 23 soft, hard, and mold and bacteria ripened cheeses. The back of the book contains a few sources for cheesemaking supplies.

Making Great Cheese At Home by Barbara Ciletti
A book very similar to And That’s How You Make Cheese! It starts off with an expanded history before going into the basic process of cheesemaking, supplies needed, and starter cultures with troubleshooting advice. It includes diagrams on cheese presses before launching into the cheese making recipes, broken down by fresh, soft and semisoft cheeses, mold- and age-ripened cheeses, and age-ripened hard cheeses. It contains 30 cheese making recipes, 18 cheese dish recipes, and numerous color pictures. However, the end of the book is just a glossary. I prefer this book over And That’s How You Make Cheese!

Making Artisan Cheese: 50 Fine Cheeses that You Can Make in Your Own Kitchen by Tim Smith
This book probably has the best organization for new cheesemakers. It goes through the history of cheese and then cheese making basics including milk types and composition, and other supplies. The thing about this book is that when it gets to making the cheeses, it is broken down into basic cheese making, intermediate cheese making, and advanced cheese making. Smith talks about how to drain the curds by hanging the cheesecloth for basic cheesemaking, but then builds on that in the intermediate cheese making by talking about with molds and presses. So instead off bombarding you with information all at once, he starts off easy and builds on the information by difficulty. This book has pictures of equipment and the finished cheeses, but illustrations of the techniques used. It does contain resources in the index, including legality by state of buying raw milk.

Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
An excellent cheese making book with 75 cheese making recipes. Skipping history of making cheese, it provides much more information on other topics, like the composition of different types of milk. It runs through different rennet, what chlorinated water does to rennet, how to make a starter cultures and troubleshooting, other ingredients needed, different types of equipment, how to make a cheese press, a homemade cheese record form, and a 15 step picture diagram of the cheesemaking process followed by a written description. The cheese making recipes are then presented: soft, hard, Italian, Whey, Bacteria- and mold-ripened cheese, goat’s milk cheese, other dairy products. This last category covers everything found in The Home Creamery, plus a few extra like Devonshire clotted cream, though it only gives one recipe per item. The last part of the book is titled, “For the love of cheese – serving, enjoying, and cooking with cheese,” which is includes 40 pages of cooking recipes. In its appendixes there is a glossary of terms, a trouble shooting guide, resources, and other recommended cheese and cheesemaking books. One downside to this book is that has drawings instead of pictures, but it does have some personal stories from cheesemakers around the country. This is definitely the book I am going to buy when it comes to cheesemaking.

200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes
This book begins with a short description of the different styles of cheeses there are, and then walks though, with drawings, the basic cheese making steps and techniques. It, too, talks about different kinds of milk and their natural chemical makeup before talking about other the different cultures required, equipment, and how to store the cheese. It then has different cheese style chapters with a table of contents at the beginning, a few recipes thrown in, and style troubleshooting pages at the end. After it covers cheeses, there are also chapters on yogurt and kefir and then butter, buttermilk, and crème fraîche, though most of it is for flavored butters. This book has a glossary and some sources for supplies in many countries. It has a few colored pictures in the middle of the book, but not enough to cover all the cheese or any recipes. I do like how it tells you how big of a yield to expect from each batch. I think I will eventually purchase this book, that is, if I want a cheese not found in Home Cheese Making.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cheesemaking – Beyond Kits

Admittedly, my skills making cheese has not really expanded my further than the DYI kits. I’m still making mostly fresh cheeses, though I have tried to expand into a slightly aged cheese.

As a child, we had for a short amount of time a Mexican worker. His wife would come and get raw cows milk from us and make queso, which I loved. Don’t get me wrong – the DYI queso blanco recipe is good, but it isn’t how I remembered our worker’s wife made it. Hunting online, I found this recipe, and I went and got some rennet, buttermilk, milk, and rennet to make it. Since I was already working with pasteurized milk, I just started making the cheese. The nice thing about it was that I didn’t need to heat it quite so much. However, it does require a second heating without stirring, which caused a bit of problems because I got different temperature readings from different locations in the pot. In the end, I got it to hot, but it still turned out tasting better than the DYI kit.

The other cheese I have attempted to make was a cow’s milk feta. I found some recipes online and tried twice, but they both failed to curdle. My local Clark County Goat Association had former commercial cheese maker Mary Rosenblum come give a demonstration on making feta and then ricotta from the left over whey. I learned a lot from her that day, and I went home and had my first success at making feta. Rosenblum also gives demonstrations at Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill, OR, and my regions Whole Foods Markets and Homebrew Exchange frequently give cheese making demonstrations. Look for classes in the Food Day section of the newspapers to find other classes. I highly recommend attending a cheese making class when moving beyond kits when making cheese.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to Make Fresh Cheese Using Kits

I recently picked up two different cheese making kits for fresh cheese.

The first one I got from The Homebrew Exchange for making mascarpone. I had never even really looked into making cheese before I bought this kit, which ended up containing enough tartaric acid to make 30 batches, some cheese cloth, and instructions. It took about an hour to make, and the batch turned out very well when I did get around to making it because we had bought fresh strawberries. The mascarpone was actually better than the early cheap strawberries.

The other kit I bought was at the 16th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest back and Tour de Cheese back in April from Urban Cheese Craft. I paid $15 for a queso blanco and paneer DYI Cheese Kit, in which the kit contained cheese cloth, cheese salt (AKA flaked salt), citric acid, and instructions. This kit is supposedly good for 10 batches, and all I have to do is buy whole milk after buying the kit. I have also seen their kits at Whole Foods Market, where I believe they have taught some classes. I made the queso blanco the same day I did the mascarpone, and it turned out a little bland due to me going a bit easy on the salt. I will note that as part of the instructions, it does say that if you run out of the citric acid, you can use vinegar to make queso blanco, so when I run out of the citric acid, I do not have to worry about finding more or buying it from them. I looked at the difference between paneer and queso blanco, and I saw very little difference between the two recipes, so I’ve just been sticking to making the queso blanco.

Both of these kits are good beginners kits, as the cheese cloth provided is good quality cheese cloth unlike what you might find in a grocery store. However, both kits called for an accurate thermometer to get the milk up to 185⁰. I did use a digital one that had been given to us as a gift, but later I purchased a better one that had a holder on the side of the pot from the Homebrew Exchange.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to Make Ice Cream

When my mother’s family would get together for summer holidays or even Thanksgiving and Christmas, they would make ice cream. Homemade ice cream is wonderful stuff. The texture of it is more similar to soft serve ice cream unless allowed to freeze, and you can control the ingredients that went into it.

The hardest part about making ice cream is finding an ice cream maker, and maybe having to put up with the noise for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the model. I recommend getting an electric ice cream maker because making ice cream is too time consuming to have a manual crank, though there are now ice cream maker balls that you roll around.

I have made small amounts of ice cream by using a double bag method, where the ingredients are in a smaller bag placed in a larger bag with ice and mixed up. The same time I made ice cream in small bags, the organizers served us all the ingredients already mixed and then frozen. It wasn’t as good because it was missing an ingredient – air. The stirring action adds air, making it “light and fluffy,” so it tastes better. I do recommend that if you use this bag in bag method to rinse off the inner bag before opening to remove any salt and therefore prevent salt contamination inside. It happened to me.

The process, especially with a machine, is to have crushed ice and rock salt in the bucket around the canister holding the ice cream materials. The ice is to chill the ingredients, and the rock salt helps lower the temperature of the melted ice. I recommend that the churning with a machine take place with the bucket in a large sink, bath tub, or outside, as the ice will melt and make a mess. Also, secure the canister and motor in the bucket before adding ice. Adding ice before doing this will push the canister into difficult angle for securing the motor.

There are two main types of homemade ice cream – custard style, which makes a custard base by lightly cooking eggs, and American style, which is just cream and sugar.

Further reading and recipes:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Making Whipped Cream and Butter

I like making whipped cream in the fall when there are homemade apple pies and Costco pumpkin pies. It tastes better because it is fresher, creamer, denser, and not as sweet as canned whipped cream.

To make whipped cream, you buy 1 quart of whipping cream in the milk section of the grocery store. Chill a mixing bowl and the egg beaters from your electric mixer, as this will help the process. Pour the whipping cream into the bowl and beat it until the whipping cream is the right consistency for you. You have the options of starting with a teaspoon of powdered sugar and adding more for your taste, and sometimes I add vanilla. Be careful not to over beat it, as that is how you end up with butter. Seriously.

Basically, you take heavy cream and you mix it for a long time, and you will get butter. Add a little salt, and that is all there is too it.

Making butter is very easy to do. I have memories of being a small child in pre-school and through early elementary school where my mother would come to school to talk about how good milk was for us to drink, and she would have us make butter. For the process to be a little more interesting for children, the heavy cream should be put into a large jar with something inside, and then the jar can be shook by the children or rolled across the floor. The item put inside helps add to the shaking process, and it could be marbles, a broken plastic fork, a clean plastic clothes pin, etc. This is a good hands on learning experience for children, with the added bonus of working a little extra energy off of them.

WikiHow appears to have decent pictures on this topic, but I wanted to share with you my childhood memories on making butter.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Review: Books on Consuming Cheeses

The Cheese Companion: A connoisseur’s Guide, by Judy Ridgway and updated by Sara Hill. 2004
Starting off with a brief history of cheese, this book then talks about the regional developments of cheese. Next, a brief description about how cheese is made to help you understand different styles and how they might taste, which they then explain along with how to serve it. The rest of the book is about the different kinds of cheeses there are, arranged alphabetically. Each cheese is described, identified where it originated from, given variations (Mozzarella has Bocconcini, a cow’s milk variation sold in bowls of whey), and facts including milk, style, fat content, maturity, pungency, and a suggested wine. This is more of an encyclopedia style cheese book to help you get a general grasp of cheese varieties, complete with color pictures.

The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. 2002
This book starts with the history of cheese, describing what cheese is, and moves on to the art of cheesemaking. Then it moves into how to buy, store, and serve cheese, and is followed by how to taste cheese, cheese pairings, and cheese courses. The last part is favorite cheeses of the authors. This book is more of a dense reading book, kind of like a textbook. It does have some good sections, but nothing to really skim.

Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins. 1996
This is a thicker encyclopedia style cheese book, though it organizes the cheeses by region. It starts off talking about the geography of cheese, and then talks about cheese, including milk, how it is made, classifications, and how to buy, store, and serve cheese. When it comes to the cheese, the chapters are by country, further broken down by region, such as the Alsace and Lorraine region in France. It talks about the region and its affect on cheese, and then the cheeses that come from there, including how to choose and serve that cheese. There are a lot of side bars and other fun facts thrown in. For the United States, it does try to list cheesemakers. In the back , there is a section on “The Great Cheeses: Ready Reference,” which gives a small summary of the cheese in alphabetical order. It has lots of pictures, but they are unfortunately in black and white.

Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials: An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese {with 50 Recipes} by Laura Werlin. 2007
This book has a great progressiveness to it. Werlin starts you off by introducing you to cheese, trying to give you words to use to describe what kind of cheeses you might like, and therefore guide you into selecting styles to fit your tastes. From there, there is a chapter devoted to the eight styles of cheeses: fresh, semi-soft, soft-ripened, surfaced-ripened, semi-hard, hard, blue, and washed-rind. She lists different cheeses, talks about them, lists which ones melt, what to look for when buying cheese, how to store them, and a few noteworthy ones and recipes. This book gets you familiar with cheeses and teaches you how to buy what you like.

Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. 2009
McCalman and David took their Cheese Plate book and expanded on it, taking it up a notch. If you ever wanted to work in a cheese shop, this is the text book to study to get you there. At the end of each section is a chapter review with bullet points, which are nice, but add to the textbook feel. The book is broken down into three sections: understanding real cheese, becoming a connoisseur, and talking about great artisan cheeses of the world. The first section has chapters on why cheese is good for you, expanded cheese history, more on cheese making, talking about cheese flavor, judging cheeses, milk animals, and raw milk. In the Connoisseur section, it has chapters on a visiting a cheese farm, everything you need to know about buying cheese, cheese in restaurants, putting together cheese tastings, wine and cheese, and beer and cheese. Finally, it has chapters on artisan cheeses from America, Switzerland, Iberia, Italy, France, stinky cheeses, Cheddars, blue cheeses, and Chèvre. The appendixes include appellations, US cheese makers, courses, conferences, conventions and organizations, and an index to cheeses of the world.

The New American Cheese: Profiles of America’s Greatest Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese by Laura Werlin. 2000
This is more of an all around cheese book, covering a little bit of everything. It starts off talking about cheese, including how it is made, the benefits of eating cheese, how to taste cheese, how to buy and store cheese, how to pair cheese with wine and a little bit about other beverages, basic information about cooking with cheese. It has a quick reference guide about different styles of cheeses and varieties, mentioning which are good for cooking, eating, or melting. The book then moves on to recipes and creamery profiles. It has a glossary, list of cheesemakers with addresses including ones not profiled, and cheese retailers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to Taste Cheese

Just like drinking wine, I get frustrated when I eat cheese that I can taste a difference, but seem to lack the vocabulary to describe what I taste. I end up describing probably a vast majority of the cheeses I taste as “nutty”, but not all cheeses taste the same, so I should be able to describe them differently. The New American Cheese: Profiles of America’s Great Cheesemakers and Recipes for Cooking with Cheese by Laura Werlin is about the only book that I’ve really seen address how to taste cheese.

When drinking wine, one talks about how a wine looks, smells, how it feels in the mouth, and how it tastes. Cheese can follow along those same lines.

Visually, one should ask a cheesemonger how a cheese should look. Different varieties will have different qualities too look for, such as a blue cheese should show mold, but a Cheddar cheese should not.

Cheese might smell pungent, strong, sweet, or other descriptors.

When it comes to mouth feel and cheese, it is usually thought of as texture. Cheese can be smooth, granular, creamy, rubbery, etc. Werlin even suggests that the average cheese consumer can realize when something is wrong with the cheese due to texture, and gives the example that a semi-soft cheese should not taste granular. In addition, a cheese labeled hard should not have a soft mouth feel, indicating it was not aged as long as it should have been.

Finally, for tasting, Werlin suggests that certain cheeses have certain characteristics:

For example, fresh goat cheese naturally has a lot of acid, resulting in a tangy flavor, while an aged sheep’s milk cheese usually has a more pronounced, earthy flavor. Aged cheeses in general, devoid of most of their moisture, are often saltier and stronger, while a young cow’s milk cheese might be a little tangy. A cheddar is often nutty, as is a Gruyère and some Goudas. As for blue cheese, the salt factor often distinguishes the style and age of the cheese.

Nothing replaces actually eating the cheese, so when looking to purchase cheese, Werlin says to ask for samples, and try several of the same kinds of cheese within a category. Consume the cheese at room temperature, and take your time. “What is the first sensation you get? Is it salty? Bitter? Strong? Sweet?… What is its texture?” When tasting at home for the sake of tasting, do not consume with other foods except bread or unflavored, low sodium crackers so that they do not taint your palate, and consume only water.

Werlin suggests the following words to use as a cheese vocabulary. Some attributes appear in both the favorable and less favorable groups, so it depends on the cheese and your senses as to which one it is:

Texture and/or Apperance, favorable: cloth-wrapped, cracked, crumbly, crystallized, firm, fresh-looking veiny, natural rind, open, plastic-wrapped, runny, silky, smooth, soft, solid, supple, vacuum-sealed, veiny, velvety, wax or paraffin rind, well-shaped

Texture, less favorable: chalky, curdy, dried out, dull, gummy, huffed, ill-shaped, lopsided, moldy, mottled, off-color, oily, open, pale, pasty, rind rot, rubbery, rust-colored, saggy, slimy, transparent, unnatural color, unappetizing

Aroma, favorable: barnyardy, earthy, floral, fresh, fresh milk, fruity, gamy, garlicy, moldlike, musty, nutty, oniony, perfumy, smoky, subtle, sweet, truffly, vegetal

Aroma, less favorable: acrid, ammoniated, barnyardy, gamy, pungent, sour, sour milk.

Mouthfeel, favorable: body, buttery, chalky, chewy, crumbly, dense, fondant-like, grainy, hard, pasty, silky, smooth, soft, toothsome, velvety, waxy

Mouthfeel, less favorable: acidic, chalky, coarse, curdy, gymmy, porous, rubbery, runny, supple, tough

Flavor, favorable: acidic, applelike, balanced (milk/acid), barnyardy, butterscotch, buttery, citrusy, clean, coffee, complex, creamy, delicate, earthy, explosive, farmlike, feed, fresh milk, fruity, grassy, hay, hazelnut, herbaceous, herb-flavored, lemony, moldy, mushroomy, nutty, peppery, piquant, rich, ripe, robust, rustic, savory, sharp, smoked, smoky, spicy, springlike, strong, sweet, tangy, tart, toffee, truffly, vegetal, wine-cured, yeasty, zesty

Flavor, less favorable: acidic, acrid, ammoniated, artificial, barnyardy, bitter, flat, garlicky, metallic, moldy, oily, one-dimensional, overpowering, overripe, plastic-wrap, pungent, rancid, soapy, sour, strong, sulfurous, watery, waxy, weedy

Most importantly, have fun. Werlin says, “Unlike wine, cheese has never been a source of intimidation for Americans, nor should it become so now.”

Additional readings: The Cheese Plate and Mastering Cheese, both by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. The later has a chapter titled, “Cheese Flavor: What it is and where it comes from.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Cheese Board

Years ago, I went to a creamery in south west Sweden that had a cheese buffet. We thought it was the coolest thing ever! It wasn’t all cheese, of course, as there was bread, crackers, fruit, vegetable, and cold salads, but it was very filling.

How does one go about making a cheese board or buffet? The Cheese Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide by Judy Ridgway and updated by Sara Hill talk about this subject. They recommend, “Rich or complex cheeses are best served after plain roasted and broiled meats where as hard goat cheese and the traditional English cheeses are a good choice to follow more opulent dishes. Young and refreshing cheeses do well after spicy food.”

They go on to talk about how cheeses of different colors, textures, pungency, and flavor create a more attractive board than if they were all the same. Ricki Carroll interviewed Steve Jones of the Provvista Specialty Foods in Portland, OR for her book, Home Cheese Making. He suggested to also mix up the type of milk used to make the cheese, so one cheese might be made of cow’s milk, while another is made of sheep’s milk.

For serving, have multiple knives around in case the cheese sticks to the knife. Do not have too big of a big of a board so that it can be passed around. If a buffet is being served, shake things up a bit by serving off of tiles, marble slabs, or wicker trays and other types of surfaces instead. Serving it on a lettuce leaf, or decorating it with fresh herbs, wild flowers, berries, vine leaves, nuts, and other safe and edible vegetation also dress up the display. Offer bread or a neutral tasting cracker.

The preparation beforehand includes covering the cheese and board with something like plastic wrap or a glass dome to help keep it fresh.

Some cheese board suggestions by country in The Cheese Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide:

  • French: Comté, Brie de Meaux, Chèvre Log, Pont l’Évêque, Roquefort
  • Swiss: Appenzell, Emmental, Sapsago, Tête de Moine, Vacherin Mont d’Or
  • Italian: Fontina d’Aosta, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Robiola, Taleggio
  • English: Duckett’s Caerphilly, Farmhouse Lancashire, Mature Cheddar, Stilton, Wensleydale

Other cheese board recommendations in the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins:

  • Italain: Mozzerella di bufala, Aged Pecorino Toscano, and Taleggio served withItalian sopresata, roasted sweet red peppers, olives, Tuscan style bread, an a Chianti riserva wine
  • Spanish: Cabrales, Roncal, Mahón, served with chorizo, thin-sliced smoked or serrano ham, dried or fresh figs, almonds, marinated olives with lemon zest or garlic, walnut bread, and a Spanish Rioja bread
  • French: Crottin de Chavignol, Fourme d’Ambert, Pyrénéss brebis served with sweet peppers, radishes, celery stalks, lightly steamed green beans, rustic farmhouse-style bread with unsalted butter, and a chilled white Sancerre wine.
  • American: Maytag blue, Vella Dry Jack, Grafton Cheddar served with medjool dates, honeydew melon, prosciutto, chutney, crusty sourdough bread, and a zinfandel wine.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How to Serve Cheese

Some time ago, I purchased the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins, published in 1996. I thought I would use it to improve my cheese variety knowledge, but each place has its own kinds of milk, recipes, molds in the air, and techniques that I was overwhelmed.

One thing I did learn from this book was how to serve cheese:

In France, often one, two, or three – rarely more – cheeses are offered as a separate course at dinner. An individual serving is cut from the larger piece, and then put on the diner’s plate, and eaten with a knife and fork. This cheese course is meant to be eaten accompanied by bread and any dinner wine that remains from the main course, or perhaps with a special dessert wine.

In Italy, cheese is often eaten as part of a meal with some form of [cured pork products] and fruit or vegetables, olives, nuts, bread, and wine. It is also frequently served as an appetizer before and evening meal. However, there is an argument in favor of offering cheese after a meal rather than before, as cheese is very filling and may dissipate the enjoyment of the course or courses that follow….

Always serve cheese at room temperature, not cold from the refrigerator. In order to ensure the emergence of its full flavor, always take the cheese out of the refrigerator early enough for it to come to room temperature. Depending on the harness of the cheese, this could take about an hour in cool weather, or in hot weather, as little as 30 minutes. Hard cheeses take longer to come to room temperature than soft ones. When you take it out, leave the cheese wrapped so that the exposed surfaces don’t dry out. Just before you serve the cheese, unwrap it and throw the wrapping away. Never use the same wrapping twice – it won’t reseal properly.

Jenkins goes on to say that he uses a flat surface like a cutting board to cut cheese, as a plate is sort of wobbly. He also recommends using just a good all purpose knife, as they are study and will not flex, though unflavored dental wax might do a better job at cutting fresh cheeses, though I have problems hitting my knuckles with that technique.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Different Styles of Cheeses

When it comes to classifications of cheeses, they are usually broken down into how firm they are, what kind of rind, and how they were allowed to ripen and age.

First off, the basic fundamental part of the cheese is knowing what kind of milk the cheese was made from. In Making Artisan Cheeses, Tim Smith describes cow’s milk as being the most common, with its creamy high moisture yield. Goat’s milk makes for smoother, softer cheeses than cow’s milk due to its smaller fat globules. Smith reasons that since sheep produce a smaller volume of milk than cows yet has the same total amount of solids, it makes for a denser cheese with an oil and butterfat that goes to the surface. Thing is, you can process all three milks the same way to make the same cheese, but they will all taste different.

The Cheese Companion by Judy Ridgway and updated by Sara Hill talk about cheeses in the sense of softness, rinds, cheesemaking process, and ripening process. I have supplemented some of their descriptions with information from the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins.


  • Very Soft: 80% water and spoonable; includes most fresh cheeses
  • Soft: 50-70% water and spreadable, including Brie and Camembert.
  • Semi-hard: 40-50% water and sliceable with a slightly rubbery texture. Gouda is a good example.
  • Semi-hard blue: crumbly or springy blue cheeses including Roquefort and Stilton
  • Hard: 30-50% water and firm, perhaps slightly crumbly or dense cheese, including Cheddar, Gruyère, and Parmesan


  • White mold rinds: Cheeses which contain an outer rind of white mold that is edible. The mold is introduced either via exposure, or being sprayed on. Examples include Brie and Camembert.
  • Washed rinds: a cheese that is washed in brine, wine, beer, or spirits to act as a food for bacteria, causing an orange-red rinded cheese that is soft.
  • Dry Natural rinds: rinds in which the outer curds dried out. They are sometimes oiled. These rinds are not eaten. Examples include Stilton, Cheddar, and Emmental
  • Organic Rinds: rinds of cheeses made from herbs or leaves.
  • Artificial rinds: rinds made of ash, wax, or plastic.

Cheesemaking Process

  • Fresh: Uncooked curds that are unripened or allowed to ripen only for a few days. Maybe be slightly pressed or molded, but most of the time just packed into tubs, so they are usually very moist and mild. Examples: Mascarpone and cream cheese
  • Unpressed ripened cheese: Curds are cut up finely to allow whey to drain naturally. They maybe be quick-ripened with surface molds or bacteria, or slow-ripened with starter cultures for one to three months. Examples: Brie, Camembert, and Stilton
  • Pressed ripened cheese: cheese that are lightly or heavily pressed before ripening for two to eighteen months. Example: Cheddar
  • Cooked, Pressed, and ripened cheese: The curds are heated in the whey before drained, molded, and heavily pressed, and possibly aged for up to four years. Examples: Gouda, Parmesan, Gruyère, and Emmental
  • Pasta Filata cheese: cheeses in which the curds are cooked and then kneaded and stretched before shaping. They can be eaten fresh or allowed to ripen. Examples: Mozzerella and Provolone.

Ripening Process

  • Soft cheeses: ripened at lower temperatures from the outside in quickly, such as mold rind. They tend to be semisoft.
  • Washed rind: a cheese that is washed in brine, wine, beer, or spirits to act as a food for bacteria, causing an orange-red rind cheese that is soft.
  • Natural-rind cheeses: self-formed rinds; no microflora or molds and no washing are used to create their thin exteriors. They are denser in texture than other cheeses and usually aged longer.
  • Blue cheese: a cheese that has been pierced with metal skewers to introduce oxygen into the interior of the cheese, which causes it to mold.
  • Hard cheeses: ripened at higher temperatures from the inside out slowly. They may be covered in oil or rapped in bandages.

Additional Readings:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review: Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest

Growing up, my folks would usually stop at the Tillamook Cheese Factory on the way to visit my aunt further down the Oregon Coast. As I got older, my parents stopped going there as much. For starters, Tillamook Cheese Factory went from open vats that were worked by humans to a closed system done by machines. Not only did it make it less interesting to watch, but it also changed the flavor of the cheese into something blander. As the company got larger and began distributing nationwide, the practices of the company became more corporate like – they even tried to sue other companies in Tillamook for using Tillamook in their name, citing that it creates confusion between products, and if the other products are inferior, that reputation would become latched on to the cheese from there. Very un-neighborly, as some of these companies had verbal agreements with the Cheese Factory, and I believe every business should have rights to use the name of the town and county they are in (see Controversy). In fact, Tillamook is a Native American name, so the Natives should be making the Factory change its name if they are going to have that attitude. As former dairy farmers, these practices made us stop buying Tillamook Cheese.

So when I was at Powell’s Book and spotted Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr, I was quite excited. Here was a book that mapped out all the little craft cheese makers in my neck of the woods! Later, after attending the 16th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest back and Tour de Cheese back in April, I realized that most of the immediate area’s craft cheeses were represented at this festival.

Parr has a map on following the Table of Contents showing to the cheese makers in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and then breaks the book down into sub regions such as Southwest Washington or the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Each site is then named, tells who the owners are, where it is located, visitor hours, and any contact information and then the styles of cheese they make, grouped by fresh or aged. It shows the company logo, and maybe a few pictures while it talks about the company, farm, cheese, or anything else to help establish a connection with them. At the time of publication in 2009, there were 15 cheese makers in British Columbia, 31 in Washington, 17 in Oregon, and 3 in Idaho for a total of 66 cheese makers, excluding Tillamook and any of their sub companies.

The appendixes of the book contains a glossary of cheese terms, cheese basics including an explanation of styles, how to buy, care for, store, and serve cheese, and how to pair cheese with wine, beer, and other spirits. The appendixes also contain information regarding where to buy these cheeses by region, and a small section of recipes obtained from the cheese makers and including a suggested cheese course using regional northwest cheeses. The last part of the appendix would be my favorite – a listing of northwest cheese makers by milk source, broken down by state. That allows quickly look up only cow’s milk cheese makers.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tour de Cheese

As part of the 16th Annual Spring Beer & Wine Fest back in April, there was also a Tour de Cheese portion. This brought together several different northwest craft cheese makers.

Most cheese makers in the area are using goat or sheep’s milk. I don’t blame them. Both species take up less space than cows, reach maturity sooner, and require less feed to maintain, so it is an easier livestock for the backyard farmer to raise. I tried some as my first cheese, but I unfortunately got it stuck in my throat due to my dislike of this style of product. I’m sure their products are quite wonderful, but I just struggle so much with it.

However, that’s not to say that all of the cheese was goat or sheep’s milk, as there were several cow milk cheeses represented, of which I could eat. From Chehalis, WA, Rosecrest Farm was there with swiss style cheese from their milking shorthorns. I bought some of their garlic flavored swiss cheese, and thought it was delightful.

There were also a few cheese makers and distributors from outside the Pacific Northwest present at the event, such as Beehive Cheese Co from Utah. I admit, I’m a sucker for cheese curd, and my husband loves Cajun food, so I got their Ragin’ Cajun Squeaky Bee Curds.

The other interesting booth that was cheese related that I should note was Urban Cheese Craft. They are a company that puts everything you need to make a simple cheese into a box except the milk. For $15, I bought a DYI Cheese Kit to make queso blanco and paneer. I have also seen their kits at Whole Foods Market, where I believe they have taught some classes. I’ll give a review on that shortly.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cheese and Cider

I am one who loves eating cheese and apples. My favorite is to take a tart juicy apple like Pink Lady and pair it with an aged nutty cheese, like the Irish Dubliner. My grandfather loved to eat cheddar cheese with apples and with apple pie. Why would eating cheese with cider be any different than these examples?

On page 101 of Cider: Hard and Sweet, Ben Watson states that when it comes to having a cider tasting, that cheese makes for an excellent choice:

Cheese is a simple and natural accompaniment to cider, so long as it is mild-flavored; a strong-tasting variety like Stilton [blue cheese] or extra-sharp Cheddar will overwhelm the delicate taste of most ciders. But soft cheeses like Camembert and Pont l’Évêque, both of which come from Normandy, will complement cider nicely…

Speaking of cheeses, for the past several years I have had the honor of leading cider and cheese pairings along with some of the nation’s top cheese authors and cheese mongers. These tastings are rather different than those focused exclusively on cider, because the object is to find the best matches between cider and cheeses. In general, strong cheeses, especially blue types, pair well with sweeter ciders, or even fortified dessert wines like pommeau or ice cider. Otherwise, this is not an exact science, since ciders and cheeses from individual producers vary so much. You might try a fruitier cider with a fresh chevre, but a more acidic or sparkling cider with an aged goat cheese, for instance. For a party tasting, I suggest buying four or five different types of cheese (sheep, cow, or goat’s milk; young and aged styles), and then having guests try a sip of each cider with a bite of each cheese, then scoring them and seeing which make the best pairings. For a good book on American cheeses, I recommend [Jeffery] Robert’s The Atlas of American [Artisan] Cheese (Chelsea Green, 2007), which profiles cheesemakers all across the U.S. and describes the cheeses they make, as well as giving suggested pairings with cider, beer, and wine.

Based on this book review, I got my hands on The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese. It gives one page per cheesemaker talking about who they are, where they are, what they make, awards, and history about the company. The book is grouped into geographical regions, and at the top of each cheese maker’s page is icons indicating the milk used. Occasionally, there will be an extra page talking about a cheese with pictures. At the end of the description there is a “Serve with:” section, indicating a style of cider, then a style of wine followed by a style of beer to serve the cheese with. These are all generic styles, not brands, which makes a pairing a little easier to do. For example, the book highlighted Rogue River Blue from the Rogue Creamery in Central Point, OR, saying, “Serve with: Semi-sweet sparkling cider •Late-harvest Muscat or Riesling •Dry or chocolate stout”. Another cheese from this area that it highlights is Killeen, a spring cow’s milk cheese from Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano, WA. “Serve with: Still, single-variety cider •Medium –bodied Merlot or Pinot Gris •Amber or red ale”.

Crispin Cider recently had three people pair their cider with cheese. Their recommendations included:

  • Crispin Light: chevre with ginger-pear preserves, cheddar, and mascarpone
  • Brut: apple smoked cheddar or an emmentaler-style swiss cheese
  • Original: gouda, aged cheeses, or bucheron
  • Honey Crisp: blue goat cheese

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June is Dairy Month

As I mentioned before, I grew up on a dairy farm, and anyone in the dairy industry knows that June is Dairy Month. I tried googling it to provide more information, but what I got was a list of events and teachings from nutrition, regional councils, and even Crayola has pages to color for this year’s dairy month already up online. As a kid, I was always told that Dairy Month marked the beginning of summer, in which there is always a rise in dairy products consumed, especially cheese and ice cream. Maybe it is a great marketing ploy to kick off the summer by encouraging people to get all the recommended calcium they need via dairy products. Personally, I don’t care – I do love my dairy products.

So for the month of June, I’m going to pay homage to my roots and talk a little bit about dairy products. I’ll try to keep it somewhat pertinent to the Candle Wine Project, and talk about cheese and alcohol pairings. Actually, making cheese is fermentation, so that really isn’t that much of a stretch. However, there will be times where I’m just flat out going to talk about dairy products. Sorry.

I have to make one other note to my readers in regards to cheese – I cannot stand blue cheese or goat’s milk cheese, and sheep’s milk cheeses are hit and miss with me. Thing is, it can be a blind taste test with goat’s milk cheese, and I will know, so it isn’t in my head. Some think I’m crazy with this because they can’t tell the difference, but it is the truth. Goats and sheep smell differently than cows, and that smell is in their wool, meat, and milk, and I just have a hard time dealing with it. Last time someone talked me into trying some, it caught in my throat and I couldn’t get it down for like a good 20 swallows. And the thing is, I want to like it, as I feel I’m missing out on a great deal of cheeses, and I love cheese! I also figure that I will go to Greece some day, and it will be pretty much all goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, and I’ll miss out on some of the wonderful food because I can’t deal with this cheese. The other irony in this is that I want to smell things in wine and find that I struggle, and then I have no problems with cheese and wish I couldn’t.