Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Opening my first Gouda (plus my first Camembert)

I first became obsessed with cheesemaking when my wife surprised me with a cheesemaking class at Kookoolan Farms in April of 2009 (that is me in the black aloha shirt in the background of some of the pictures taken by Jill Waterbury on that page). We watched as Mary Rosenblum went through the first steps of her gouda recipe in class (we did not finish pressing or brine the cheese in class).

A few weeks ago I opened my first gouda, which was my third cheese, after 3 months of aging. Since I was gathering footage for my entry in the Travel Oregon "Oregon's Bounty" competition, I has my brother-in-law film the opening for potential footage in my entry. The editing process was cruel, and a lot footage could not be squeezed into the 2 minutes allowed, including this footage. However, it makes a perfect subject for a post, so here is the video:

I was disappointed with the cheese. It turned out sour, to my taste, and not really enjoyable. It had the aroma of sour milk. My family kept saying it was good, but I have to disagree. I think they may have just been being polite.

The gouda was made with Organic Family homogenized, pasteurized milk bought from Fred Meyers. Mary Rosenblum did say that it was probably worth making your first few batches with less expensive store bought homogenized milk, so you get your cheesemaking skills sharpened before buying expensive raw milk for your hobby. In retrospect, I think it is worth jumping into raw milk as early as you feel comfortable with it. You spend so many hours in the cheesemaking process, you might as well invest the money to buy good milk so you have something you are proud of when you are done.

In the second half of the video, I open my first Camembert, made with raw milk purchased from a farm in Redland, Oregon. This cheese turned out much better, except that it was way too salty. I attribute this to the fact I used pickling salt instead of cheese salt to salt the camenbert. The recipe I used called for rolling the fresh wheels of camenbert in a plate of salt. I think that if I had used cheese salt, or kosher salt much less salt would have ended up sticking on the cheese. The cheese has a wonderful camembert/brie flavor, but the salt is overpowering. I consider it a mild success, and a lesson learned for next time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Oregon Bounty Cuisinternship Contest

The job of your dreams? If only for a week? Sign me up!

www.traveloregon.com has been running a contest to win a dream job for a week. You need only submit a video less than two minutes long explaining why the should choose you for the job.

Well go ahead and submit yours. Just don't try for the chocolate/cheesemaker cuisinternship (try pronouncing that right in your video), because you will have some pretty stiff competition from me. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46vS6EiBgTM.

If you like it, please give me good rating. There is a people's choice award for the video who gets the highest rating, so I am soliciting votes!

I need to thank my wife, Caroline, who helped remove the chocolate stains from my daughter's cloths. I also owe a big thanks for Tami Parr who allowed me to shoot me getting one of her books signed for the video (unfotunately that footage did not make it into the video).

Now I am off to check on the other cheesemaker entries, i.e. my competition!

[postedit] I found the following link helpful for finding other entries in the Chocolate and Cheesemaking category: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B1323857B0AD670D

You might also want to check out other food videos we have done for the Portland Oregonian at the youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/annekegrace

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Wedge in Portland, Oregon

I have to do my part and plug The Wedge festival that will be occurring on Saturday, October 3rd in Portland, Oregon, my home town. If you love cheese and live in the Portland area, come on down and help make the event successful.

All of the local cheese people will be there, including Tami Parr of The Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, Steve Jones of Steve's Cheese, and Claudia Lucero of Urban Cheesecraft. Check out the seminars page for classes you may want to attend. I will be signing up to a few myself.

I had heard that Liz Thorpe, author of The Cheese Chronicles was going to make it, but unfortunately it seems she will not be able to do so.

See you there October 3rd!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Making Great Cheese At Home (30 Simple Recipes from Cheddar to Chevre Plus 18 Delicious Cheese Dishes) by Barbara Ciletti

Making Great Cheese At Home
30 Simple Recipes from Cheddar to Chevre
Plus 18 Delicious Cheese Dishes
Published by Lark Books
©1999, Barbara Ciletti

Of all the books I have read on home cheesemaking, this is my favorite. Unfortunately, it is out of print. I recommend trying to find it at your local library to see if you like it, and then consider buying it used at Amazon (as I did): paperback and hardcover.

This book starts off with a bit of cheese history, which I thought was a nice touch that is often skipped by other books. It then covers the basics of fresh and aged cheesemaking techniques. Following this are 30 cheese recipes (15 fresh, 15 aged), which are then followed by 18 recipes that using cheese.

What really stands out in this book are the beautiful pictures, in color, on every page. The printing costs for this book must have been high. I suspect that is why nearly all of her books are out of print; the cost at which the books would sell would not justify the printing costs.

Learning to make cheese requires learning techniques you do not use in any other type of cooking (e.g. checking for a clean break or cutting curd). The best way to learn these is in a hands-on class. Perhaps the next best way it to see it illustrated with photography like what is shown in this book. If a new cheesemaker were to read this book and study the illustrations, they might be able to start making cheese successfully. The photographs that don't illustrate technique show the finished product framed so nicely that they inspire the reader into making the cheese.

There are a couple of technical flaws, but they are easily overlooked. If I were asked to recommend a book, I would suggest to the new cheesemaker to try to seek this one out.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Joy of Cheesemaking

First of all, welcome!

My name is David Bleckmann, and I am obsessed with home cheesemaking.

That is my tag line. I day dream about launching a web and print media empire around that tag line. However, at 42 years of age I am a bit skeptical of myself. I have had a lot of hobbies over the past decades. Beer brewing, photography, cave exploring, scuba diving, video production, cooking, food science, hunting, and food preservation have all had their share of my free time in the past. Some of my obsessions have been intense, some short, and some long lasting. At this point in my life I find my obsessions change less frequently, so perhaps I will stick with this most recent one a bit longer.

I am excited about cheesemaking. It draws upon a lot of my previous passions associated with food. It is an artisan craft, with many pitfalls, rewards, and problems that take some science to understand and solve. It allows you to make something you previously thought you could only buy in the store. In some cases, you are able to produce a cheese that is not be available for purchase.

Perhaps one of my favorite benefits of being a home cheesemaker is that I now understand where cheese comes from, and the different types of cheese that are traditionally made. I am no longer intimidated at the huge selection of hard to pronounce names at the cheese counter and I can speak intelligently to the cheesemonger. I also now appreciate the work it takes to make cheese in small scale quantities. It suddenly makes sense why a locally made artisan cheese is $20 to $30 a pound, which I am now happy to pay.

I am disappointed with the existing literature on home cheesemaking. Most books I have read seem to cover the basics in the first one to two chapters, then launch into numerous recipes. The more recipes the better seems to be the philosophy. So much so, many books include recipes of what to do with the cheese after it is made, which seems to me to be a way to pad the recipe count. There is very little anthropology or history of the cheeses, or science explaining why the recipe is designed the way it is, and often there are factual errors. There are good technical books that provide good science, but they are usually written for the commercial producer and are not easily accessible to the home cheesemaker.

I am starting this site as a first step towards entering the world of writing, and writing about home cheesemaking. I hope to address the gaps in the home cheesemaking literature I mention above. Perhaps this will be the start of a journey that transforms me into a real writer. I have aspirations, but only time will tell. For now I am happy to post this first blog post on my new site, and see where the journey takes me.


Our family as seen in the Oregonian FOODday, May 05, 2009