Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oregon Cheese Festival

I we be making the trip down to Central Point, Oregon this weekend to attend the Sixth Annual Oregon Cheese Festival. I'm looking forward to meeting all of the cheesemakers and trying avoid the cheese overload I experienced at the Wedge last October by carefully rationing the amount I sample.

If you see a guy walking around with a fancy camera and microphone trying to make it to every booth, come up and say hi!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Without getting super technical, can you tell me how you make cheese?"

Recently my wife and I took our two year old daughter to our local wine shop for a Friday night tasting. No, we did not give our daughter wine, but we did bring some of my homemade blue cheese, which she loves, to keep her content while we tasted a Portuguese wine flight. Our server was intrigued and asked for a sample of my cheese, which I was more than happy to show off. After at least saying she liked the cheese, she asked me, "So without going into all of the details, tell me how do you make cheese?"

I tried, but I did not really do a good job. I gave too many details of the process that I know too well, and I am sure it was too much information for someone who merely knows that cheese comes from milk and just wants to know a little bit more. I disappointed myself because answering a question like this in a simple manner is something I should be able to do. So I resolved to do better next time and decided to write a "how you make cheese" elevator pitch that I can spew in 2 minutes or less. Here it goes:

"Making cheese is the process of turning liquid milk into a solid (or semi-solid) by trapping the milk solids and extracting a large portion of the water. Although there are as many variations on the method as there are types of cheese, in general bacteria and rennet are added and cause some of the proteins to coagulate into something that resembles gelatin. In fact, the proteins in gelatin trap liquid just like the milk proteins do. The coagulated milk is cut into pieces which are called curds. The curds weep a clear liquid, called whey, similar to firm yogurt weeping liquid to fill in the hole left by a spoon. Curds and whey are exactly what Miss Muffet ate while sitting on her tuffet. When heated or stirred the curds release more whey, then they are separated by pouring through cheesecloth or some sort of sieve. The curds are formed into the final shape of the cheese. Often the curds are pressed so they mat together, and hard cheeses are aged to improve their flavor. Aging can last from one month to two years.

"The same four ingredients of milk, bacteria, rennet, and salt are used to make cottage cheese, feta, mozzarella, Montery Jack, colby, cheddar, and gouda. The only difference is how the cheesemaker treats the curds during cheesemaking."

How was that?