I love cheese.
Also, water is wet, and the sky is blue. (Okay, technically, it isn’t blue, but let’s move on).
When you ask someone about cheese, you’ll often get a list of favorite cheese; in fact, lists are often so extensive that it’s easier to detail the cheese you don’t like. One time, I patronized a cheesemonger and was asked that specific question; I answered that Swiss was my least favorite. He then coerced me to sample a small dice-sized portion of cheese, which was amazing. When asked what it was, he answered, “Swiss…you’ve been eating the mass-produced crap all your life.” I fell in love with cheesemakers, those that make the process into an art. And thanks to Tracy Johnson of Cheeseneeds, you can become your own artisan.
The first obstacle I came to learn was psychological. I assumed making cheese would require unique and expensive hardware with complicated procedures. “It’s less than you think initially,” Tracy told me. “You probably already have access to a large stainless-steel pot, spoon, colander, thermometer…all you need is milk, culture, and rennet, and you are good to go.”
On occasion, my mother will make homemade cheese, often a soft, crumbling variety not unlike feta. “The biggest problem people have when they start out is they do an ‘easy’ cheese like mozzarella…that is not a starter cheese,” Tracy said. “Paneer or feta is perfect for beginners. My top three favorite includes one most non-curd nerds will have heard of--Guido’s hard Italian. It’s similar to Manchego or Gruyere; it’s so easy to make and ready to eat in three weeks!”
Yes, one of the critical components in cheese making, if you don’t already know, is patience. That I got. What I lack is refrigerator space, but there’s an easy solution to that…I’ll just eat more cheese. Tracy also runs the Learn to Make Cheese Facebook group with more than 28,000 members. She also teaches cheesemaking classes. “I love teaching and helping people discover cheesemaking, and I’ve already started encouraging PG residents to make cheese at home.”
Cheeseneeds will be operating a vendor booth at this year’s BC Gourmet festival. Don’t miss out!