Meet the Cheesemakers

Anne - Read about what Anne has achieved in less than one year of cheesemaking

Three years ago, I attended a cheese making demonstration run by a New Zealand group, with the thought that this would be an interesting pastime, as there was very little if any audience participation I consequently forgot most of the demo.

Sadly, nothing eventuated until the last week of April 2016 when my friend, Robyn Bannister another Curd Nerd, invited me to join her at a Cheese Making Weekend at the New Town High School, which was run by Graeme Redhead from Cheesemakers, Queensland.

Wow – it was a full on hectic two days which covered 11 different milk products (cheeses, yoghurts, creams, butter, ricotta, halloumi etc.). I so enjoyed every single minute – and there began a most passionate and fulfilling experience that I have not encountered for many years. I now hunt down recipes from literally anywhere, read books on cheese making, down load articles, ask friends for their favs, visit exclusive top end cheese outlets etc. – whatever I can find with regards Cheese.

I have produced several different styles of Blue Vein, plus Fourme d’Ambert, Saint Agur, Bleu du Queyras & Stilton.

Some white moulds which include: Camembert, Brie, Brillat d’Savarin, Chaource and a white blue cross, Cambozola.

Red Cheshire, Linden with cumin seeds, and Cheddar with Port, Leerdammer (known commercially as Maasdam which is the generic name for this cheese) and Wensleydale are some of the harder cheeses I have made.

Edam, Reblochon, Morbier with black ash through the middle, Taleggio, Esrom, Bel Paese, Muenster (washing some of the cheeses in brine and others in wine but they are not ready as yet) are classed as Washed Rind Cheeses. They are washed every couple of days (for several months in some cases) with a brine solution. These cheeses have excellent melting qualities.

I came across a cheese, Belper Knolle, which was discovered by accident in Switzerland when some cheese balls were overlooked for several months in the back of a cheese cave.  Garlic is ground with Himalayan Pink Salt and added to the cheese paste then rolled in toasted black peppercorns. I have changed this slightly by rolling my cheese in crushed green, white, red and black peppercorns. These gems are exceedingly firm but when thinly sliced or grated as one would parmesan – the meal spins in to orbit!!!

Last but not least – Caciotta with saffron, an Italian cheese and of course Feta, Halloumi with mint and Ricotta.

I would freely admit that my cheese making is now an addiction and feel that I must make something at least fortnightly – if not weekly. I would like very much to develop a cheese of my own, so am currently working on this aspect. Every type of cheese that I have made has had a vastly different process – the only common denominators being rennet, starter cultures, calcium and milk!

I love the smell of the cheeses from start to finish and find the making thereof most therapeutic, a little scientific, challenging and relaxing, and the biggest plus is that the end product is extremely rewarding – especially when shared with friends over a glass of whatever – mine being bubbles!!!

I tried making Selles-sur-Cher with cow’s milk – the flavour of the paste was good but its consistency was that of very runny cream – apart from chilling it, which did help the lava flow, I feel perhaps it would have been better baked as one does Camembert – or drizzled over cooked potatoes etc.

One of my friend’s requests was Brillat d’Savarin – which I sourced and have made many times and it was one of the most popular at my Cheese Tasting which I held a couple of weeks ago along with 14 other cheeses. The Recipe for Brillat d’Savarin is as follows:

BRILLAT d’SAVARIN

8 litres full cream milk

1 litre cream

Heat milk to 31 degrees

2.5ml Calcium chloride

1 Smidgen (1/32 tsp) MA315

1 Tad (1/4 tsp) –2/3 M272 & 1/3 MA235

1 Smidgen (1/32) Geotrichum candidum

1 Dash (1/8) Penicillium candidum

¼ Drop (1/64) KL71, ARN (flavour) & DH (yeast) (they are for flavour mostly so if you don’t have these just leave them out)

Rest for 1 hour while maintaining temperature

2.5ml Rennet

Rest 90 minutes

Cut curds into 1.25 cm (1/2″), rest 5 minutes

Gentle stir 10 minutes

Hoop the curds

Turn hoops approximately 5 times in next 24 hours

DAY 2

Morning: Salt top and sides and back to hoops

Afternoon: Turn cheese and salt the new top and sides and add back into the hoops

DAY 3

Remove cheese from hoops and dry off for 4 – 12 hours.

Store in ripening containers at 10C – 12C – removing whey and turning as per norm.

Wrap in cheese ripening paper when fully covered in white mould and store in fridge – will be ready in 3 weeks but for a more complex flavour allow to ripen for 5 weeks

Hemant - Read about Hemant’s cheesemaking journey and his Belper Knolle

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?  Or what sparked your interest in making cheese

Like most good things, cheese making came to me by sheer luck. I was looking to do something outside of my daily job, as a hobby, when one of my colleagues told me that his wife had done a cheese making course and how she was now making specialist cheeses at home.

Coming from a country where cheese is only popular in the form of Paneer, or industrially manufactured processed cheese (which I was not very fond of), I was completely unaware of the world of speciality cheeses. Since coming to Australia I was introduced to great wine which then led to its most popular partner – cheese. I never missed an opportunity to try a new cheese every time I was at a market or at a shop that sold speciality cheeses. From the gooey, buttery bloomies and washed rinds, to salty Feta and haloumis, to sweet, nutty Swiss and Dutch styles, to the bold and bitey Cheddar, Parmesan type hard cheeses and not to forget the unique aroma and flavours of the blues, each and every cheese a classic in its own.

To hear that I could actually make these wonders at home with my own hands was very exciting. I logged on to cheesemaking.com.au and immediately booked the course with Graham dated 30th and 31st August 2014.

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out?  Can you compare your experience between then and now?

After completing the course, I had a slow start and it took me a few months to start making cheese at home. This was mainly due to my full time job taking up most of my time and energy. My first batches at home were soft fresh varieties and Feta style cheeses. I didn’t have any equipment to maintain temperature for long ageing and pressing the curds to make hard cheeses. So, I was limited to what I could make.

The early cheeses were nice and I got a lot of inspiration from them to continue and develop my cheese making further.

What sort of cheeses do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?

I still make soft fresh cheeses and try different additions to these to enhance the taste, texture and visual impact of the cheese.

However, since the early days of making soft fresh cheeses, My interest kept growing and I wanted to do more, so I bought a small wine fridge. This took my cheese making to a new level and I started making Bloomy rind cheeses. I remember my initial Camembert had the texture of a semi hard cheese. This was due to over drying the cheese. It was a great learning experience and straight up I made the next batch and got it right. I have even made a Blue vein cheese following a simple recipe found online and the results were quite impressive.

In the last few months I have bought a cheese press and this has allowed me to explore the realm of semi hard and hard cheeses.

I am still in the very early stages or as they would say in the world of cheese – I am on the “edge of the wedge” with regards to cheese making. I am researching a lot and reading a lot about cheese making. I am learning from every cheese I make and I keep trying to improvise one batch to next.

To explain my cheese making journey so far in one sentence, I can put it as, “what started as a hobby has turned into a passion and I now find myself thinking of, reading about and wanting to make cheese every day.”

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s

The most rewarding part of making cheese is sharing it with family and friends and watching the smiles come onto their faces as they bite into a slice.

For me it is also great joy to have my three year old son around. He likes to help me stir the curds and he is also one of my best customers. He loves my cheeses and eats them with genuine happiness. He is always eagerly enquiring on the progress of my cheeses and waiting for them to be ready, taken out of ageing and cut open to taste and eat.

Lastly, it is very motivating and inspiring when I get honest responses and feedback on my cheeses (good and bad). As these help me to continue striving to make better cheese.

What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge/s

Trying to find enough time to make cheese in between full time work, family and social commitments has been difficult for me. Am working on this and slowly getting better at it. Luckily my wife supports my passion (in return for a portion of the end product of course).

Finding sheep’s milk is still my biggest challenge. I want to try and make sheep’s milk cheese. So, am trying to find a source of Sheep’s milk.

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?

On the top of my list of favourite cheeses to make is Camembert and Brie. This is closely followed by Gouda and Cheddar. Lastly, my affair with Blues has just begun and will be going a long way.

I have not tried making washed rinds and Alpine style cheeses yet. But I love eating them. So, hoping they will make it on the list soon.

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?

If you are thinking of making cheese – Just go for it. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and take the plunge. Graham’s courses are a great way to start the journey. You learn a lot in a short time and it forms a great base to build up from.

Last but not the least, get the basics right first and then let your imagination run wild.

Hemant’s Recipe for Belper Knolle

This is a cheese that I had not seen or heard of in Australia. I came across it while researching on the internet and tried making it a couple of times. It is a delightful little cheese from Switzerland that looks like rocks but is full of flavour. I got family and friends to try the cheese and they all liked it very much. So, I will share this recipe with you all.

Belper refers to the area of Belp where this cheese originated and Knolle translates to tuber or truffle, and it lives up to its name. It is a little nugget of intense flavour and is served as shavings, like a truffle. For those that have done Graham’s Intensive Cheesemaking Course 1, the process starts similar to the Chabichou and Quark recipe.

Ingredients list:

  • Full cream unhomogenised milk
  • Starter culture – M235 (Aromatic Mesophile)
  • Calcium Chloride
  • Rennet
  • Cheese Salt (or Himalayan Pink Salt)
  • Garlic
  • Peppercorns

Equipment List:

  • Stainless steel pot
  • Thermometer
  • Ladle
  • Large Colander
  • Butter muslin (cheese cloth)
  • Drying mats

Please ensure all equipment is clean and sanitised before use.

Day 1:

  • Take 4 litres milk and warm it to 20C – 25C
  • Add 1ml Calcium Chloride asap
  • Add approx. 1 Pinch to 1 Dash of M235 Mesophile
  • Add 2 drops of 200 IMCU strength Rennet
  • Incubate at 20C – 25C overnight until the curd firms up like a yoghurt and a small amount of whey appears on top of the curd

Day 2:

  • Line the sanitized colander with the cheese cloth
  • Using the ladle, scoop the curds into the cloth allowing the whey to drain off
  • Gather the cheese cloth, tie it securely and hang it for further drainage
  • Drain for several hours to achieve a texture that can be rolled into balls (Note: if the cheese is too moist it will slump and if it is too dry then it will crumble. Also, to get uniform drying, open the cheese cloth and mix the curds together a couple of times during this draining stage)
  • Once the curd has sufficiently drained, take 1.5 tsp of cheese salt and 2 – 3 medium cloves of garlic into a mortar, and crush them together using a pestle to form a uniform paste.
  • Transfer the curd into a bowl and mix the salt and garlic paste uniformly into the curd.
  • Let the curd sit (while you prepare the black pepper coat)
  • Grind 1.5 – 2 tbsp toasted peppercorns to a medium fine size (Note: You can either use a mortar pestle for this or a coffee mill reserved for spices works well too)
  • Spread out the ground peppercorns onto a large plate or tray
  • Take a small handful of the cheese mix and form it into a ball (slightly larger than a golf ball)
  • Roll the cheese ball into the ground pepper to get a good even coating of the pepper on the cheese (Note: The cheese is quite moist and tender at this stage, so handle it very gently)
  • Transfer the pepper coated cheese balls to the drying mat

Drying & Ageing:

  • Allow the cheese to dry at around 10C – 15C and 65% – 70% humidity until a firm dry crust is formed on the cheese. It will also become a lighter colour as it dries.
  • Now move the cheese to the cave at 11C – 13C and 75% – 80% humidity
  • The final cheese will be ready in 4 – 6 weeks but will continue to improve in flavour for a few months

Brendan - Read about Brendan’s Jarlsberg plus other cheese that he has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why? 

My wife and I have always loved cheese! I am pretty adventurous when it comes to cheese and will eat just about anything, my wife however is a little more reserved. She doesn’t like the really stinky and mouldy cheeses (particularly the blues), but loves most others, including Brie & Camembert.

About 4 or 5 years ago, we were walking through Camden Show. There was a stall there that was selling training courses for home cheese making. After I got home from the show, I got to thinking that maybe I didn’t need to do a course. Maybe I could learn what I need to online. Maybe there were kits I could buy to get me started?

A brief search confirmed my suspicions and I began my home cheese making adventures on my own with kits and internet research. The rest is history!

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out?  Can you compare your experience between then and now?

The first batch of cheese I made was Feta. I probably should have started with a more basic cheese, but I was so keen to make something familiar (instead of something boring like Quark), I just jumped right in! The kit I had bought to start me off clearly stated to use unhomogenised milk. I chose to use regular full fat homogenised milk. Suffice to say, the cheese failed dismally. I thought I knew better. I learned my lesson. Follow the recipe exactly. From that day forward, I only use unhomogenised milk in my cheese making.

The second time I tried to make Feta, I used unhomogenised milk. That worked much better. It was a relief to have made a successful cheese after my first failure.

The first few times I made cheese, I was really unsure of myself and was always wondering if I was doing things correctly. Feeling this way is now a thing of the past. The difference between how I was when I started and now is, if you excuse the pun, like chalk and cheese!

What sort of cheese do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?

My main focus is on the bloomy and hard cheeses, with the occasional fresh cheese like Feta and Haloumi. I have successfully made: Feta, Haloumi, Camembert, Double Cream Brie, Gorgonzola, Blue Vein, Stilton, French Neufchâtel, Colby, Cheddar, Caerphilly, Havarti, Wensleydale, Parmesan, Emmentaler (Swiss Cheese), Red Leicester, Cotswold, Edam and Jarlsberg.

I have made cheese more times than I can remember now, but if I were to put a number on it, I would guess at about 50 or 60 times, maybe more!

I like making cheese because I love to eat cheese and I think there is nothing more rewarding than making it yourself. I try and make cheese every opportunity that I get but weekends are really the only time I can make cheese, unless I am on holidays! I also like making cheese because it can be quite relaxing. Some cheese requires stirring the curds & whey for up to 40 minutes. Just standing there, gently moving the curds & whey around the cheese vat is quite relaxing.

Cheese making is a fascinating process. It’s a lost art that is being revived, which I think is fantastic. It’s too easy to go to the supermarket and buy a cheese, it’s something entirely different to make it yourself. I also love to share my cheese with family, friends and work colleagues! My colleagues at work love it when I bring some cheese into the office.

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s

This is probably a really boring answer, but for me, there really is no one cheese that is more interesting or rewarding. Every cheese making session is different and has its own rewards. I get a good feeling of accomplishment whenever any cheese turns out. As is often said, cheese making is part magic and part science. You can do the same steps to make a cheese as before and end up with something slightly different. Differences in the milk, the time of the year, the ambient room temperature at the time of cheese making and humidity all play a part in how a cheese turns out. Some of these factors are not necessarily easily controlled. A perfect example is a Petit Bleu I made. It was supposed to be reasonably firm inside, like a Blue Vein, but it ended up gooey inside like a Camembert! But it tasted wonderful!

That said, however, I do really love making and eating my Double Cream Brie. The first Swiss and Jarlsberg I ever made were a thrill and my first Parmesan, though as hard as a rock, tasted incredible!

What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge

My biggest challenge had to be the hard cheeses. There was a point in time where I seemed to have the knack for the bloomy cheeses, but I couldn’t make a successful hard cheese. Persistence has paid off in that area and I am now making good hard cheeses.

The other challenge I have faced is, believe this or not, I have not been able to make a successful Mozzarella! I’ve tried 3 or 4 times and I just can’t do it! I will have another go at some point in the future, but right now, it’s not my focus. I recently purchased a digital Ph meter. Once I get that, I am going to start using that to measure Ph levels in the milk during the cheese making process to try and achieve a greater level of consistency in my cheese making.

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?

I really enjoy making Swiss, Jarlsberg, Double Cream Brie and Parmesan.

What cheese do you regularly have in your fridge OR What cheese can’t you do without

We are a big cheese eating family and there is no way I could possibly make enough cheese to satisfy our requirements. We often have sliced cheddar, grated cheddar and parmesan in the fridge from the supermarket. My cheese making just adds to the existing purchased stock. When cheese I have made matures, it is eaten instead of the supermarket stuff.

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?

Don’t give up if you fail! Keep trying! Read the recipe and follow it exactly, do not deviate from it. Not until you better understand the processes involved, then you can start to tweak things

Get involved with groups and forums. I’m involved in a Facebook group called Curds ‘n’ Whey Downunder. Ask questions.

Do a cheese making course, if you can, or reach out to others nearby and see if anyone near you makes cheese. Ask if you can meet up and watch them make cheese and/or help! Watching and learning is a great way to start.

One other piece of advice I can give is that if you are going to seriously get into making cheese, you are going to have to get a cheese fridge. Most cheese matures at temperature ranges from 10°C to 15°C. Most households don’t have anywhere that has a temperature this low or reliably constant, particularly in Australia and during the summer months. To solve this, I got myself a bar fridges and I have rigged up a small mains powered external thermostat controller so I can set the fridge to a temperature that suits my cheese.

The Jarlsberg cheese I made recently turned out so well, Graham asked if I would supply the recipe I used to make it, so here it is! It’s a washed curd cheese, in that you remove a lot of the whey and replace it with fresh water. This reduces the acidity, creating a nice, mild flavour.

A recipe for Jarlesberg is coming soon!

 

Deb - Read about Deb’s Paperbark Brie and Leerdammer plus other cheeses that she has been making

What sparked your interest in making cheese

My interest in making cheese first began out of necessity- my parents had left 6 litres of milk in the fridge after visiting from California so I started off making fresh cheeses like Ricotta and Queso Fresco to use it up.  I was so impressed with myself at being able to make something edible from milk, that a friend gave me Cheesemaking lessons for my birthday.  Now it’s over a year later, but I still get a thrill at being able to make it myself.

How did you feel about the experience of making cheese and how did it turn out?

After my first course with Graham and learning to make cheeses like brie, camembert and feta, I did his second one as soon as it came up for Sydney – we learned to make blue cheese, haloumi, washed rind cheeses, whey ricotta, mascarpone, yoghurt and butter.

Camembert and Feta are still my favourites but I make blue cheese, Haloumi and Ricotta fairly regularly, I find they are good to have on hand for general eating and also cooking.

I love that I can read another cheese recipe from anywhere now and have an idea of what is happening at each stage of the process, and why – just from doing Graham’s courses and then researching the cheese I like to make I learn so much about so many styles of cheese.  It’s given me a lot of confidence to try new things.

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s

I was reading about the French and Swiss who make a cheese from winter milk that is very soft, and so they strap thin strips of spruce around the cheese to help it keep shape.  The spruce timber apparently adds a resinous flavour to the cheese.

This gave me an idea about making an Aussie version. I love Australian bushfoods and adopting a method used by the Aborigines, I’ve used charred bark from the Paperbark tree for cooking chicken and fish.  So I thought I’d experiment and make a Paperbark-wrapped Bushfood Brie.

I was aware that the European version uses the inside strip of bark, so I was careful to boil the paperbark to make sure there were no unwanted moulds.  I then let it dry overnight and the next day I charred one side of the paperbark to bring out the natural oils.

I then made the brie as per usual, and when it was ready to go into the wine fridge for ripening, I put a layer of proper cheesemaking ash on the edge of the brie, and added the paperbark strip around.

While the brie was ripening in the paperbark, I was really happy to see that the white mould grew well all over the cheese, and there were no ugly moulds anywhere to be seen.

On tasting it, I was a tad disappointed that the flavour wasn’t more pronounced; but it was tasty and had an earthy mushroom flavour that was different to my regular Brie. The paperbark didn’t peel off from the cheese completely but it was so tissue-paper thin that it didn’t affect the eatability at all.  Interestingly, it seemed that there was more flavour away from the edge where the bark was, and more to the inside. Perhaps the riper areas over-rode the paperbark flavour – I don’t know – but I’ll continue to experiment with this Paperbark Brie!

I am now making Leerdammer

I’ve also started experimenting with other recipes like the Leerdammer, a Swiss-style cheese but of Dutch origin.

From what I can tell reading other posts about it online, mine turned out as it should have, with lots of glorious holes!  Though Leerdammer has smaller holes and the texture isn’t quite as firm – the flavour is quite similar to a Jarlsberg. It’s the largest cheese I’ve made at home yet – and even then, I had to divide the original recipes I took it from by about 5!

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?

My advice is, just do it – start making cheese – and the sooner the better.  In the course you’re doing 6-7 cheeses, and it can be intense. It’s not like that at home at all.  Make a camembert or a feta at home on the weekend after the course, and get into your own rhythm– you will surprise yourself at how much you know.

Stuart - Find out some of the incredible cheeses that Stuart has been making

Can you tell us about the first time that you made cheese by yourself and about the cheese that you made?

After I finished your cheesemaking course, I jumped straight in while the knowledge was still fresh in my mind and made a batch of four bries the next weekend. Although I stressed out a bit, worrying that I was getting everything right, they turned out great.

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make and why?

Soft cheeses like Brie, Cambozola or Washed Rind are my favourites to make, mostly because they’re the ones I like to eat!

Why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?

I’m fascinated by foods that embody local ingredients and their environment, and cheese is a great example of that. But I also find that it’s a great creative outlet. It can be difficult to fit cheesemaking around full-time work and social obligations, but I try to set aside some time for it at least once a month.

What is the best cheese that you have made and what made it the best?

My best so far is a beer-washed rind, washed with locally made craft beer from Green Beacon, and wrapped in hop leaves. It was an idea I came up with after reading that hop leaves are edible, and was inspired by a pinot-washed rind wrapped in vine leaves from Bruny Island. I like it because it’s a perfect fusion of local ingredients and creativity, and it worked!

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?

Use the best local ingredients you can, do a course to get the basics right, and then don’t be afraid to experiment!

Andrew - Find out what cheese Andrew has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
I had been involved in winemaking at a boutique (but commercial) level for about 5 years, and that business was coming to an end in 2014. A lot of my friends make bread. So with all that exposure to artisan produce, it was almost inevitable I would learn to make cheese. So I took the Cheesemaking 1 course in 2014.

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out? Can you compare your experience between then and now?
After doing Cheesemaking 1 and buying a kit, I made Chabichou and Greek Feta at home, following the recipes quite strictly using the same milk we used on the Cheesemaking 1 course. And they turned out as they were supposed to! Next weekend I made Brie, and 8 weeks later it turned out as it was supposed to as well. I had proven I could do it at home. I was hooked.
With more confidence, I vary the recipes a bit – my greek feta ripens and sets for longer to make each wheel a bit firmer. There are plenty of recipes on the internet, and a few have made their way through the vat, the manchego style is a favourite.

What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
In January this year I had a spare week of holidays so I made 7 cheeses to get some intensive practice. I took the cheesemaking 2 course in March, and now make 1 or two batches a month. As well as the feta I’ve tried my hand at a wide range of hard cheeses, including cheddar, parmesan, manchego, iberico, gruyere, emmenthal (cheese with holes is hard work at home), and I have monterey jack on the go now. I have a good source of raw goats milk now, so I’ve also made goat curd cheese, and a hard cheese I call Manchegoat.
Greek yoghurt and cultured butter are also regulars. We haven’t bought yoghurt for months.

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s?
Perhaps the most rewarding moment was taking a cheese platter to a dinner with a group of foodie friends, and their looks of disbelief that all of the cheese was home made. Now, I’m expected to produce a platter every time we get together!

What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge/s?
While most of my cheese have gone right, some haven’t, and one failure stands out. I was warned natural rind cheeses are difficult in the home environment, and my first (and only) attempt at a natural rind Emmenthal produced the ugliest, stinkiest most feral cheese I’ve ever seen. What’s more – the gas that forms the bubbles split the cheese open. Don’t try this at home. Disaster.
Making blue mould blossom is a source of frustration, it seems it takes more care and attention than I have been paying in the first three attempts. This is also one of those “the more you learn the less you know” hobbies, which is taking me into some science like areas such as fat to protein ratios, which influence whether hard cheese go properly hard.

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
Brie. Easily. Just love watching it transform as it is made and matured.

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
If you haven’t already, invest in the Cheesemaking 1 course, and if you enjoy it, invest in Cheesemaking 2. Practice at home as soon as you can.
Hygiene is everything! Don’t forget it also matters in the maturing phase as well as the few hours in front of the vat. I have had a cheese with a thumbprint shaped mould patch from where I picked it up to turn it without dipping my hands in iodine first.
If you have the cash, buy a circulating heater, usually used for sous vide cooking. They are magic for accurate temperature control.

Bec - Find out what cheese Bec has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
One night as I tasted a piece of purchased haloumi I wondered to myself; “how hard could it be to make this cheese myself”.
In my youth whilst renting a cabin on a farm I decided to make myself some cheese, I had access to fresh cow’s milk and not knowing anything about making cheese I took the electric fry pan, added the milk and some junket and made curds. I drained them added salt and hung it for a month in cheesecloth and found I had a very nice hard cheese.
Remembering this I thought I could perhaps try another batch of cheese, perhaps with a bit more finesse than last time, ideally I really wanted to make some fetta and haloumi.

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out? Can you compare your experience between then and now?
I started with a Fetta cheese, the Fetta was great, but I did not know to store it in salted whey brine so my first batch ended up slimy after a few days and then started to melt into the brine.
After doing fetta I tried a haloumi and it worked fabulously, and then I decided to jump into the deep end and try camembert, with a terrible outcome…… Well as a friend said to me, “the French have spent 100’s of years perfecting the Camembert and you have jumped into it without the experience of making cheese” ….she was absolutely right. I have now managed to make camembert that my friends fight over, but as yet I have not yet perfected the perfect brie, most have been terrible failures.
Every time I make a new cheese it is an experiment, I never know if I am going to get a cheese like as should be, I just follow the recipe and see how it turns out. Then I learn from my experience.
Sometimes I take one of my cheeses from a batch and experiment with a different process for them, such as washed rind, ash rind, or different additives such as herbs etc. in the mix. But experimentation on cheese should come after you have perfected the basic recipe. (Please don’t ask me about my mushroom infused camembert….erk!)

What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
I make Camembert, Persian fetta and Greek fetta most often, and have been experimenting with a few different pressed cheeses over the last 6 months. My latest success has been a Port Salut, “smelly sox cheese” as my Mum used to call it. It was my Mum’s favourite cheese and I thought I would give it a go, a soft pressed washed rind cheese originating with the Trappist Monks, smells awful when you open the container, but has a taste to die for. My friends love it, after the smell dissipates. The modern version of it they just spray the rind to make it look orange, the traditional washed rind whilst smelling tastes so much better.
One of my great successes has been a Labnah infused with vanilla bean and then drizzled with honey, I took it to work and watched the starving hoards descend upon it; they just could not get enough. I would recommend this as an easy cheese to make for a special occasion. Takes a bit of time to make but no real effort, I made my own yoghurt and then used that to make the labnah.
I started making cheese as a new hobby, but I have since gained a great passion for it, and in the process gained a large array of equipment too. I try to make cheese at least every second weekend, alternating between soft and pressed cheeses so that I don’t have too much short lived cheese that I can’t use or feed to others. I have a few cheeses that come to maturity at Christmas so we will be indulging and I am sure the family will critique.

What cheeses have I made so far:
Edam
Edam Boule
Gouda
Baby Swiss
Port Salut
Haloumi
Havarti
Fetta – Greek and Persian
Camembert & Brie
Labneh
Ricotta
Mozzarella
Chevre – Ashed and plain
Bluecam – Yet to be unveiled

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s?
Obviously my friends comments are rewarding, and that some of my friends have asked how to make the cheese and have started becoming cheese makers themselves.
It is rewarding when a cheese works as per the recipe, i.e. the white mould covers the surface without gaps, the swiss expands as it should, and when you cut that cheese for the first time and it is just as you want it and tastes divine.
My greatest reward lately has been my successful Port Salut, it’s just like I wanted it to be.

What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge/s?
Mould, always mould, the good the bad and the ugly. I am always scrupulously clean in my processes whilst making cheese, but sometime something happens that seen to be out of control.
Starting a new type of cheese is always a challenge and you don’t know what you will get during or after the process. What works for one cheese may not work for another type and even the same cheese in a different part of the year may turn out totally differently.

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
My favourite cheese has always been Brie and Camembert. Usually Camembert is easy to make but Brie has given me so many disappointments due to the added fat content of the cream. I am still working on it, IT WILL NOT DEFEAT ME.

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
Start small and work up while learning all the trips and hazards of cheese making. I took far too many leaps and had great failures that I could have avoided with more knowledge.
Do a course earlier on so that you get the basic knowledge without the trial and error failures.
Do research on the internet, but remember that all information is not going to be correct. There are great recipes that you can use for future projects.
Take notes on each batch of cheese, you might think you will remember what you have done, but you won’t.

Most importantly, there is no such thing as a bad cheese, it may not be exactly as you expected from the recipe, but it could be a great cheese.

Cameron - Find out what cheese Cameron has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
I received from my wife Tina a surprise birthday present to attend Graham’s cheese making course in Melbourne with my brother Ben in August 2014. I’m from Newcastle, so it included a trip away for the weekend which was very generous and very much appreciated!

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out?  Can you compare your experience between then and now?
I got home from the course, ordered a cheese making kit from Graham, and once I received it I got straight into making a batch of Camembert. It all went to plan, no dramas whatsoever, and several weeks later it got cleaned up by the family who said it was the best they’d had and could I make some more? At the time I was a bit uncertain as to how my cheeses would turn out, but soon realised that if you follow given instructions it’s really not too hard to produce some fantastic cheese.
It’s been a year now since I started making cheese and with practice comes confidence. I know how my kit works, am beginning to develop a solid understanding of the cheese making process, and no longer sweat the small stuff.

What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
I’ve mainly made Greek feta, Camembert, Cheddar and Caerphilly. I’ve pretty much given away the pressed cheeses now – they’re great fun to make but I get a much bigger bang for my buck with the ‘softer’ high yield cheeses (I mainly use organic milk – $$$). I make feta that gets marinated with garlic and rosemary almost weekly as I have a family that can’t get enough of it – I can barely keep up with demand (there are 6 of us). Camembert is also really popular, and I’ve recently started making Crottin and have had a go at St Marcellin. Blues are on the horizon…

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s
I made a saffron infused Caerphilly which looked stunning, but sadly didn’t really blow us away with its flavour. It wasn’t bad, and it did get scoffed, it’s just not a cheese I’d make again. Never mind! It was fun to make and something you don’t see in the shops (at least not in Newcastle).

What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge/s
The first one was transporting all of the cheeses I made at Graham’s course back to Newcastle… Apart from that, keeping up with demand!

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
Mould ripened – I know it’s going to happen, but I still breathe a sigh of relief when the mould begins to show. The end product is also so good, and a real indulgence. Too bad they get cleaned up so quickly!

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
Get an intensive, informative, hands-on course under your belt (you know what I’m saying here). Try new cheeses and have a go at reproducing the styles you like. It’s really rewarding when you produce your own great tasting cheese based on a recognised type. Get inspired by visiting cheese shops. We visited Neal’s Yard Dairy in London Borough Markets this year – it was fantastic (see below)! Spent a fortune though…Keep making cheese!

John - Find out what cheese John has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
I did the first Cheesemaking course in June 2012 and the second one the following March. I went to the courses because I’d always been keen on cheese, especially the soft moulded types and thought I’d like to have a go myself, especially after having visited France in 2011 and had some truly great cheeses there. I was especially keen to do the second course as I wanted to make Blue. I guess deep down I’m just a cheese addict!!

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out? Can you compare your experience between then and now?
On my first weekend of cheesemaking after the initial course I made chabichou, camembert and whey ricotta. They all turned out surprisingly well, and it just increased the motivation to make more. I’ve been aiming to get more consistency in the cheeses I make; for example, I think I can now turn out the same quality camembert each time after having made 25 batches since August 2012. But I’m always keen to learn new things.

What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
I regularly make camembert, reblochon (a washed rind), blue, feta, cheddar, Romano, chabichou, paneer and whey ricotta. Very recently, I started making St Marcellin and have been very happy with that – it is a simple cheese to make and tastes great! I normally spend one day a fortnight making cheese; this keeps us in cheese most of the time. It is satisfying to sit down to weekend lunch and have 2 or 3 cheeses that you have made yourself, or provide the family’s Christmas Day cheese platter of camembert, ashed mould-ripened chabichou, blue and cheddar. This weekend I’ve made camembert, reblochon, whey ricotta and St Marcellin, using 13L of milk in all. It is a satisfying feeling knowing that your cheese-maturation fridge is totally full!

What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s
I like to make each batch better than the previous one, or at least more interesting. For example, after a few batches of standard chabichou I became aware of mould-ripened French goat’s milk chabichou so started trying to produce something similar with cow’s milk (as I’m not usually a great fan of goat’s milk cheese). I now have an ashed mould-ripened chabichou that gets positive comments from most people who try it! Washed rind cheeses are another favourite. A friend gave me her reblochon recipe back in early 2013 and I’ve been working at it ever since and am now close to satisfied!

What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge/s
Without a doubt, blue!!! I’ve been working towards being able to make a sharp crumbly blue, but have not got there yet….. And tomme – I was inspired to attempt this one after having some great ones in the French Pyrenees in 2013 but have not produced anything yet that I’m prepared to put in my mouth……

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
I think that it is the ashed mould-ripened chabichou. It is so simple to make but involves what is almost a magical transformation over only about 10 days. And it is something that I have been able to refine and develop over time. For example, realising that I could use the camembert brine to make a mould-ripened chabichou, and later on deciding to add the ash once the Geotrichum has started to grow. But my favourite cheese to eat is definitely the reblochon.

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
Do the courses, and start making cheeses that you and your family and friends enjoy eating. And buy and eat as much cheese as you can find as this provides inspiration for your home cheesemaking.

Sonya - Find out what cheese Sonya has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
I took up cheesemaking in January 2015. I have always loved cheese and have grown up eating all types and when I found out I could learn to make my own there was no looking back.

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out? Can you compare your experience between then and now?
My first batch of cheese was a camembert. I was so excited that I made it the night that the cheesemaking equipment arrived. When it was mature enough to unwrap I took photos and sent them to everyone I know. It was really good – even if I do say so myself.
My experience is still the same really. Every time I make cheese or open cheese to eat I take photos and tell everyone about it. I think it is so cool unwrapping something you have made yourself and being able to give someone the gift of handmade cheese.

What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
I make cheese, butter and yoghurt at least once a week as I want to build up a supply of cheeses of varying ages, mould strengths and creaminess. I also keep running out of butter because I give it away all the time. I make everything Graham has taught me from both courses except mozzarella (I am a wuss when it come to the hot water).

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
Washed rind brie because when it is ripe and ready to eat it is awesome

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
Just do it, don’t stress and just enjoy the process

Chris - Find out what cheese Chris has been making

When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
A friend who shares my passion for food and cooking suggested to my wife that she buy me a cheese making kit and wine fridge for Christmas in 2013. Since then I have accumulated enough gear to fill a built-in wardrobe at home, and have three cheese “caves” running – my wife tells people she has created a monster! I just love the way in which you can, with some simple steps and a little bit of innovation, turn milk into a product that everyone loves.

What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out? Can you compare your experience between then and now?
I made a batch of Wensleydale and some Mozzarella, which both turned out a bit chalky despite adhering rigidly to the recipe. With the knowledge I have picked up through Graham’s cheese making courses and 18 months of my own experience, I am now confident in making some quite intensive cheeses with consistent results, because I am much better tuned into the key signs to look for during the process (curd set, curd size and moisture levels, etc).

What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
I now make at least 2 kg of cheese every month and regularly spend time on “cheese husbandry” – attending to the various cheeses I have in my cheese caves (wine fridges). After some initial reluctance to make some of the soft cheeses, I am now making more of those as a result of the information I have picked up through the courses and lots of reading. I am still fascinated by the concept of taking one raw product (milk) and just by altering culture, time, temperature and maturation, you can get so many different tastes and textures in cheese.

What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
I am obsessed by washed rind cheeses at the moment. One of my favourites is Esrom, which I wash in brine every night for 6 weeks after it has dried. I am about to tackle Epoisses, which I first tried at a specialty fromage store in London last year so I will be interested in how the washed rind works with the soft and creamy centre.

What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
Keep good logs of every aspect of every step of making your cheeses. That way, when you crack the perfect end result, you will have a better chance of being able to repeat it.
And don’t be afraid to experiment once you get the basics under control. My most popular cheeses are those to which I have added my own personal twist in the form of additives or a different rind treatment.

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