Archive for April, 2009

The Different Flavors of Mascarpone

I haven’t had much experience with mascarpone.  In fact, besides a few dessert recipes – think tiramisu – I didn’t know much about it when we decided to attempt it.  It is in fact not a true curd cheese.  It is often lumped in with the soft cheeses, but it is in the yogurt family.  Like yogurt you make mascarpone by heating milk and then adding a culture.  While there is some draining involved to get your desired consistency you don’t end up with curds like you do when making a true curd cheese.  It is originally an Italian cheese from the Southern Lombardy region of Italy and while most famous for its role in tiramisu, it is delicious when used as a cream cheese substitute, both as a spread and in cheesecake.

mascarpone-making

We decided to give mascarpone a go along with another batch of yogurt – who knew they were so closely related?  We did two batches of mascarpone, both from Ricki Carroll’s book.  One used a packet of direct-set creme fraiche starter and the other with tartaric acid.  Each of these recipes was very easy and something that could be tackled in your home kitchen in a few hours.  The mascarpone made with culture required you to heat the milk to 86 degrees and then let sit for 12 hours.  It can be drained in the refrigerator for a few more hours if a thicker consistency is wanted.  The mascarpone with tartaric acid required a 185 degree initial temperature before adding a 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of tartaric acid (I added a little over 1/8 of a teaspoon).  Once the tartaric acid has been mixed in thoroughly it is set to drain in a colander for 1 hour.  I actually let it drain for about 4 hours.

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Making Yogurt Again

Gallon of Whole Milk for Yogurt

I probably won’t post every time I make another batch of yogurt as it’s so easy and I have a feeling that I have a lot of yogurt making in my future. But, for this batch, we took the yogurt making another step further by using a starter from our last batch.

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Cottage Fire

It’s taken me awhile to get around to this post, but a wee bit back in time – January 2009 – those of us at fucheese got together and had our first 2009 cheese event.  Our purpose was to get back into cheese making after the hiatus brought on by the holidays, plan for the upcoming year, and show off holiday cheese swag.

There were a number of minor setbacks, even prior to the actual cheese making, mostly due to my ill planning and failure to read the recipe all the way through.  (All things I made resolutions to correct this year.)  Since we didn’t have the starter needed for Ricki Carroll’s recipe, we used one from The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrel-Kingsley.  While a good time was had by all, the cottage cheese could have benefited from closer attention.  Cheese making, I’m coming to realize, is really all about attention to detail and attentive monitoring.  Not necessarily skills that I’ve honed in the kitchen as I’m more of a throw it all in a pot and see what happens kind of cook.

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Swiss Alps Cheesemaking

A couple years ago, my husband and I did a hut-to-hut hike in the Graubünden canton of Switzerland in the Alps. It was beautiful and soaring and very, very humbling.

Hiking toward this mountain

Today, I came across a wonderful set of photos on Flickr by the very talented photographer François-Xavier. He travels and photographs and writes about food. His photos are so rich and varied and do that thing that amazing photographers do of capturing the moment and the feeling of that moment just perfectly. They have a painterly feel almost like a still life which somehow seems so appropriate for showing people working with food using methods they love.

He did a story about cheesemaking in the Swiss Alps and his photographs are just lovely.

Curds Block Draining Off

He writes short little captions to go along with the photographs, things like:

I took my cheese with me and walked on until the pasture turned into a cliff. From there in one glance you can see Lake Geneva and the Lake of Neuchâtel with the entire canton of Vaud in the middle. No sound other than the wind across the grass. I lay on the grass and slept in the sun with half Switzerland unfolding below my feet. That was the best thing I did that week.

Pulling the Swiss Cheese out of the Whey

If you can hold back your envy, check out the rest on his website at FXCuisine.com — makes me want to put on some hiking boots, jump on a plane and go get some of that cheese.

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Boerenkaas

Cheese Plate

The last of the Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Boerenkaas from cheese festival weekend. Heaven on a plate!

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Hard Cheese Class at Kookoolan Farms

Sometime last year, Sarah had scoped out that there was a place called Kookoolan Farms doing cheesemaking classes. They are $50 which isn’t a bad price at all but not so low that you wouldn’t think twice about it. We all agreed that we were interested and have been keeping an eye on the schedule. I saw that they had a Hard Cheese class for March and decided to go. Due to schedules, I was the only one of our group that could make it but I’m so glad I did.

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Pholia Farms

Passion is a word that gets bandied about a lot in artisanal food circles. While it is easy to taste the passion that these craftspeople put into their foods, farms, and lifestyles, it is a rare opportunity for those of us living the more urban lifestyle to get out and see it in action.  That is why after a delicious day at the Oregon Cheese Guild Cheese Festival and another dry, warm night in our yurt we were off for what, to me, was a major highlight of our southern oregon cheese weekend, Pholia Farm’s Open House.

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The Cheese Nun

The last time I was at my local library (give it up for the Multnomah County system, what what!) I saw a copy of “The Cheese Nun” DVD. Of course, like a complete cheese nerd, I snatched it up! It’s a PBS documentary about a Benedictine nun, Sister Noella Marcellino, who goes in search of a deeper understanding of just what is happening to cheeses as they go through the ripening process. She ends up returning to college to conduct scientific research into the microbiology of cheese fermentation. She continues on in her studies to the cheese caves of France and the artisanal cheesemakers there who have been practicing their craft for hundreds of years.

The nuns of her Abbey are absolutely charming, working their land, milking their cows and making cheeses. The science behind the cheese fermentation process was fascinating and not something which I think I had even slightly grasped before. And the visuals of the cheesemaking process were really informative. If you’re at all interested in the history of cheesemaking and seeing how it’s done (in a variety of ways) then totally check out this DVD.

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