Pros: Very Comprehensive
Cons: Very Comprehensive
From start to finish, “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking” teaches you how to become a cheese pro! Unlike many other books that simply provide recipes for cheese, author Gianaclis Caldwell writes to you as if you are a protégé, allowing you to develop an understanding of the cheese, instead of merely being able to make cheese.
The book is divided into two main sections. First is a thorough discussion about the science behind the production. You are introduced to milk standards, sanitation, bacteria strains, necessary acids and the like. This lays a great foundation for the later chapters when you will actually be making the cheese. This information helps demystify the processes and gives you a boost in confidence in what you will be doing. Better, you will be able to walk into a grocery store and wisely select the best products for your cheese.
The second section contains the recipes. Yet, here again, the author does not simply expect you to make the cheeses she lists. In another example of her master-protégé-like relationship with you, she shares the foundations of different styles of cheese and gives you some freedom to explore each of them. For instance, you will not necessarily find a pure recipe for the common feta cheese. Instead, you are taught about the crumbly, brined cheese family, and then taught how to make that style of cheese. To clarify, the index will still list feta as a recipe found in the book, but you will be exposed to the broad family of brined cheese with tips on refining that style of cheese to fit your desired outcome—in this case feta. This angle on cheesemaking quickly shows you that while cheeses go by many different names throughout the world, many of them are the exact same cheese with only minor differences.
While the book is well written and detailed, there were a few minor drawbacks to note. First, the food science section was overwhelming. The information itself was good to have in hand, and there were indeed many useful things to know before starting on your first batch of cheese. But often, the author did not link the science to any kitchen application—making the information seem extraneous and better suited to a separate book. But, at least the book’s introduction forewarns you about this mountain of information and gives you permission to skip the science portion until needed.
A second drawback, not surprisingly, is the similar amount of fine details in some of the recipes. Since cheesemaking is not common in the American home kitchen, fine-point details are provided within each recipe. The recipes, as a whole, are clear—improving your chances at good results. However, because of the attention to detail within the recipes, even simple recipes read like chapters in a book. Instead of a step-by-step, straightforward cooking method, you will find recipes divided into paragraphs—limiting your ability to quickly reference a step while in the heat of the moment. In fairness, the author’s use of fine details, the many interspersed pro-tips, and best-practices recommendations are so helpful that they feel as if you have a mentor standing over your shoulder.
Regardless, no amount of detail will ensure perfect results. Cheesemaking is an adventure in the kitchen; only through practice and experimentation will you be able to feel confident in your projects. And more importantly, since the goal of this book seems centered on giving you a feel for cheesemaking—not just ensuring specific outcomes—any details that the author omitted from this book or any question you still have will end up helping you. When you question yourself and your results, you cannot help but research further, and thereby refine your feel for cheesemaking.
You can always find individual recipes and videos online if you simply want specific results from your cheese. However, if you want to get exposure to the expansive spectrum of cheese families, how to make them, and develop a feel for cheesemaking, pick up a copy of Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking.
Milk: 1 gal (4L/8.6 lbs) whole or partly skimmed
Acid: About ¾ cup (177ml) lemon juice or vinegar (white or cider)
Salt: ¼ tsp. (1.5g), or to taste, pure salt
Prepare Equipment: Make sure all equipment is cleaned and sanitized and that your cheesemaking space is free from possible contaminants. Refer to chapter 6 for tips on proper equipment preparation.
Prepare Milk: Place milk in pot, and using direct heat, and stirring constantly, bring milk to 195 to 200 F (91 – 93 C). Remove the[ot from the heat source, and allow to cool to 190F (88C). Stir to help the milk to cool a bit more quickly.
TIPS: When using direct heat, it is very easy to scorch the milk. Use a heavy bottomed pot, and stir constantly but gently. The milk may foam and look as if it is ready to boil. As the temperature nears the goal, the rate of increase will slow.
Curdle: Add acid, 1 tablespoon (15ml) at a time, stirring gently after each addition, until curd separates, leaving clearish whey. Let set uncovered for 5 to20 minutes.
TIPS: Curd should float to the top and consolidate into a large mass.
Drain: Ladle curds into cheesecloth-lined colander. You can briefly rinse the curd with cool water to assist with cooling, but this is not mandatory. Allow the curd to drain in the colander for 20 minutes if you are proceeding to pressing. If not, drain for 60 minutes more until you like the texture.
TIPS: If a lot of curd remains in the pot after you ladled the floating portion, carefully pour the remaining hot whey through a sieve and place the collected curd in the lined colander. I do not recommend pouring the entre mass through the cloth, as the curd mass can block the flow of the hot whey and splash back and burn you. Also, you want the curd to be cooling and the hot whey will simply slow this process.
Salt: using a spoon, gently stir and word curd until it is smooth and even in texture. Then stir in ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste. If cheese is to be used soft, it is done at this stage. Simply use or transfer to a sealable container and store in the fridge for up to about a week. If it is being used as a slicing or grilling cheese, proceed to the [pressed variation step in the book.]