As I discovered during my last library visit, number 637 in the Dewey Decimal System is devoted exclusively to cheesemaking! I was intrigued, so I picked up a very elegant-looking book called The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making, and Eating Fine Cheese. The first aspect of the book I really enjoyed was the elegant, sophisticated feeling it imparted, with both the cover and its description of “classic” cheeses I’d never even heard of. The next thing I wanted to know, as I read impatiently through the introduction, was whether or not I could reasonably expect to make my own cheese. Given enough money to spend on it, with this book I’d say the answer is yes.
When I first got to the step-by-step overview my first thought was that there was no way I could ever do this. But the book does an excellent job of walking you through each step, chapter by chapter. All of the math necessary to find the quantities of each ingredient to use is carefully explained and the materials needed for each section are all listed in tables with websites where you can purchase them. To do cheesemaking right, however, it is necessary to purchase some specialized equipment, the most expensive items being a scale accurate to two decimal places and a temperature-controlled refrigerator. There is one simple recipe given where the cheese ages at room temperature and does not require a specific application of pressure or the purchase of anything not available at the grocery store (many cheeses would require you to order specific bacteria cultures). So I may try that recipe, for Queso Blanco, myself later 🙂
Another part of the book I really enjoyed were the “Rockin’ the Wedge” stories, which described exceptional farms and cheese makers. These stories were enjoyable reading and personalized the business and art of cheesemaking. I personally appreciated that authors often highlighted farms which had received awards for humane treatment of their animals and for sustainable practices. These stories, as well as home-style recipes from many of the farms and incorporating many of their signature cheeses, were included both at the end of each chapter and as a dedicated chapter at the end of the book. The farm stories and the fun facts about cheese both made what could have been a boring instruction manual a fun read.
The book also wrapped up with some guidelines for creating and tasting your own cheese board, as well as a section on wine and beer pairings. Although I may not seriously dive into making cheese myself, this was a section I could appreciate. In fact, I just went and bought some exciting cheeses and sides today (see picture) and am very much looking forward to trying them! As suggested by the book I picked up five cheese, one from each category of cheese. In order of increasing flavor, the cheese I got are: Chevra, Camembert, Gouda, Cheddar, and a blue cheese.