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Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell  RSS feed

Burra Maluca
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Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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I give this book 10 out of 10 acorns.

The subtitle is The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers

This is a different approach to a cheesemaking book than the collection of recipes in most cheesemaking books. The author sets out to teach the cheesemaker all that's involved in the transformation of milk to cheese. The first section of the book (100 pages) is comprised of several chapters on ingredients, concepts and processes, fundamentals of acid development and monitoring, adding flavors, aging and so on.

There are plenty of charts comparing various brands and trade names of various starters, appendices with charts for making brines of different strengths, for washing, for initial brining or for aging. It is a complete course in "everything you need to know about making cheese" as opposed to a cookbook of exact recipes with precise timelines and exact temperatures.

When Caldwell comes to the recipe section, she groups cheeses by "family" eg: fresh acid coagulated, brined cheeses fresh and aged, white mold surface ripened, and so on. She explains the fundamentals of that family of cheeses. In each family she gives recipes for a few members of that family, both for small batch (~2 gallon) and commercial batch (~12 gallon).

At the end of each chapter, she gives the reader a chance to test his/her understanding by presenting scenarios where things went other than as expected and gives some possible options for what happened, or how to fix it, or how to prevent it next time. These "thinking outside the vat" exercises allow the new cheesemaker to develop an understanding of the process, so that s/he will have the confidence to just make cheese, without having to follow timing to the minute, or temperature to the exact degree, but can let the cheesemaking process be more relaxed.

For me, personally, making cheese several times a week (3.5-4.5 gallons), and doing several other things at the same time, I came to understand that it will still be good cheese even if I get waylaid on the way back from the chicken house, and did not cut the curd at exactly 45 minutes.

It's an excellent book for those who don't tend to follow recipes exactly or want to understand the minutia, or are homesteaders or parents of small children with several processes going at once. You won't get the exact same cheese every time, it will vary in texture, dryness, piquancy, flavor, from one batch to the next, but maybe that's a good thing!

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