COVID-19 and cheesemaking

With Covid-19, there may be limitations on numbers attending certain venues and extra protocols such as extra sanitising when entering certain buildings.  The hygiene practices that we follow at the cheesemaking course have always been very stringent, even before Covid-19.  Cheesemaking has developed a very small Covid-19 policy in conjunction with each venue to ensure that stringent standards are maintained.

What if I travel by plane, can I take my cheeses home with me?

Yes. There are no restrictions for travelling interstate with cheese (unlike the import restrictions while travelling back into Australia). The main issue is how to ‘safely’ pack your cheese to get them on the  plane. My suggestion: securely package your cheese before you depart to the airport. An esky is great but is probably too bulky and hard to handle. I suggest you bring two reusable foil lined/insulated shopping bags. Plus, several containers with tight fitting lids, (not the thin disposable type) one for each of the eight cheese. If you are travelling in pairs there is no need to double the containers.

You will also need a decent sized (eg 1kg ice brick or 2 x 500g ice bricks or equivalent size, definitely not water ice or dry ice) plus four or so tea towels to wrap these products up in case there is a leak or condensation build up during the flight.  You can choose to carry them as checked luggage or hand luggage. If you are travelling home on the Sunday afternoon, when you get home follow the same instructions as everyone else is provided at the course.

If you travel is delayed for a few days, then call me to talk through your options. You may have to eat the  mozzarella, Ricotta and Persian Feta for lunch over the next few days but take the aged/ripened cheese back home to mature.

What do I need to bring to the Course?

Not much. A clean apron, fully enclosed clean footwear suitable for wearing in a commercial kitchen (no sandals or thongs please), a small to medium esky (or reusable insulated shop bags + a few ice bricks so that you can take home your cheeses. Then eight containers, once for each cheese that you make.  Container sizes are mentioned in the course letter. A disposable hair net is supplied but you can also bring your own hat/cap/bandana.

How many participants are in each class?

Class numbers are limited to 12. We have additional helpers, who are experienced cheesemakers, at the course. They are previous participants that have completed the two courses and have gone on to make lots of cheese at home. It is very inspirational to listen to their stories, how they started, roadblocks they have come across, and the sizes and styles of cheeses that make. These helpers mingle among the class, so you always have lots of experienced people to ask if you have questions.

When do the courses start and finish?

They usually start at 7:45 for 8 am and are usually finished around 4 pm on Saturday, but we try to get away before 2.30pm on Sunday. These times can vary a little, depending on the speed of the cheesemaking process on the day.

If I work in the food service or hospitality industry will these courses help me in answering customer’s questions and serving or cooking with cheese?

Yes. All participants whether you are working in food service or not, you will leave the course with a very thorough understanding of the characteristics of each cheese we make: how they are made, how they mature, develop different flavours, aromas, textures, body, colours etc. And how one same batch of milk can make 8 different cheeses.

If I want to establish a commercial cheesemaking facility can I attend?

Yes. Establishing a commercial operation to make cheese is an enormous task. If you started today and committed to it entirely, you will not be making that first cheese commercially for another 12 months and a lot of dollars later. However, this course is ideal for helping you along that journey. It will help you prepare yourself to make lots of the decisions that you need to make. It gets you talking the language of cheesemaking, so you can converse with other cheesemakers, consultants, regulatory authorities, suppliers etc….plus you will have a very good understanding of the cheesemaking process eg equipment required, yields, time frames, temperatures, ripening regimes.  This will help you establish your business and marketing plans. But the course gives you a very good starting point. I am happy to discuss with you the different ways to progress your project and to offer some suggestions on how to best get you started down this path.

Do I need any prior cheese making skills or knowledge?

Definitely not. You need absolutely no experience in cheesemaking to attend this course. It starts with an overview of what is cheesemaking eg: what sort of milk is needed, what is a starter culture, what is rennet, why is hygiene is important. Then after 30 minutes of arriving at the course it is straight into cheesemaking. It is hands on all the way from here. The best way for adults to learn. We build on the basics over the two days so that by the time 3pm on Sunday arrives you have a very comprehensive understanding of how to make not just one but eight cheese on your own.

At the end of day 2 we have a very important discussion about going from a course with lots of assistance and guidance, to making cheese at home. The next step is to use your new cheesemaking skills (along with your 40 pages of recipes and notes) as soon as feasibly possible. It may sound daunting, but many previous participants have succeeded and you will too, armed with your 2 days’ worth of hands on learning.

I have previous cheesemaking experience, will I get any benefit from attending this course?

Yes. There will probably be several people at the same course that have some previous cheesemaking experience. The levels of previous experience will vary. Some of the previous cheesemakers may want to fine tune their knowledge in a particular area or gain some knowledge of a cheese that they have not tried previously. For the majority there will be new techniques and information for everyone to share and learn from.

Can I attend Intensive Cheesemaking 2 if I haven't attended Intensive Cheesemaking 1?

Yes, you can. There is no vetting of your cheesemaking experience prior to you attending Intensive Cheesemaking 1. However, the pace of Intensive Cheesemaking 2 is significantly faster than Intensive Cheesemaking 1. We do not have time to go over some of the basics covered in Cheesemaking 1 as a lot of that knowledge is assumed.

We would recommend attending Intensive Cheesemaking 1 or having previous home cheesemaking experience, but if you have questions about this, please ask. The cheeses are only marginally more difficult to make but are definitely more difficult  to mature.

In summary, Intensive Cheesemaking 1 requires none to moderate levels of prior cheesemaking experience, whereas Intensive Cheesemaking 2 is for accomplished home cheesemakers

How intensive is the Course?

Both courses are highly intensive. You will be making 8 cheeses over two days all by hand. There are many steps that occur simultaneously and require constant monitoring. This is not a course where you sit down for long lunches and get to put your feet up, the number one priority is making good quality cheese. If that means lunch gets cut short because the cheese needs attention, so be it. You will probably go home quite exhausted on day 1, both from the physical activity and from the volume of information imparted.

However, when day 2 comes around you will be familiar with the processes and much better equipped to handle another busy day. You also get to see the cheese that you made on day 1, which is a great incentive and helps you refresh, re-energise and jump into day 2. There is also a big difference between how the theoretical instruction is handled on both days. On day 1 it is very much an introduction to the basics. On day 2, with a day’s experience behind you, we talk more as cheesemaker to cheesemaker. The Intensive cheesemaking courses are aptly named, but the hard work is proportionate to the rewards and learning you receive.

How easy is it to make cheese at home?

Easy. For most people, motivation will be the most difficult part. A lot of equipment used for cheesemaking you probably have at home already, what you do not have can be purchased easily for a small cost. Any specialist items (such as starter cultures, rennet, mould spores, hoops) can be bought online during or after the course, again only for a small cost. The last requirement is the milk. At the course we discuss the best milks to use and where in your region to find them.

It will be to your benefit to plan out a time to make cheese as soon as you can after the course, while the information is still fresh. You will find the notes (both provided and your own from the course) incredibly helpful. We will talk about making a specific ‘first cheese at home, after that it only gets easier as the styles of cheese become more interesting!

How expensive is it to start making cheese at home?

When you have concluded the course, you will have a very good understanding of what equipment you will need for each style of cheese. The equipment you require for just one style of cheese will require a small outlay. To make another style of cheese will require further outlay.  But that second outlay will be less as you will already have many parts. Much of this equipment is non-perishable and is a one-off purchase.  The required perishable items such as starter cultures and rennet will last between 12 months to two years (or even longer) and will make hundreds of cheeses.

The overall message that you will hear at the course is; start very simply. Just start making one cheese at a time, from there you will work out which styles that you want to make.

Do I get a qualification when I complete the Course?

Yes and no. You are presented with your own ‘Master Cheesemaker’ certificate when you complete the course. You may want to show it to family and friends or have it framed to hang on your wall. But this certificate is only a light-hearted appreciation of your cheesemaking efforts over the two days and is not recognised as a formal cheesemaking qualification.

Do I have to do any washing up at the course?

Yes, lots. If you use it, you clean it. The cheesemaking process needs to be very hygienic and therefore requires a lot of washing up. When making 8 cheeses, a lot of equipment gets used. We will have a full-time assistant for catering and clean up after morning tea and lunches. It is only your cheesemaking equipment that you will be required to clean

How important is hygiene and sanitation in cheesemaking?

This is the most important aspect of the course. At the start of day 1 we will ask that you always follow very stringent hygiene practices . These will be clearly explained, and reminders will be given at all stages of the course. The processes are easy to follow, but essential.

Do you use raw milk at the courses?

Raw milk is not used at any of the cheesemaking courses. However, using raw milk for cheesemaking is discussed, as is the pasteurisation of raw milk in a home situation. The laws relating to raw milk are also discussed. After the course, each person can make their own educated decision on whether they want to use raw milk to make cheese.

Can I ask questions after the Course is completed?

Yes, questions are highly encouraged.