Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cheesemaking with Graham Redhead

Have you ever wondered how they make cheese? It is something that I have been curious about for quite a while, so I was very pleased to have some of my questions about cheesemaking answered by Graham Redhead at a cheesemaking course that he taught this weekend at the Holmesglen TAFE at Moorabbin. Graham's company is aptly called Cheesemaking, and he teaches cheesemaking short courses in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Graham's home base is Brisbane, and about 7 years ago, when he still taught the course for the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, a work colleague asked me if I would be interested in attending the course with her. Back then, I was not that interested in food other than as a form of sustenance, and having just signed a contract to buy an apartment and counting my pennies, I declined. This chapter has come full circle now that I have done the course, even if in a different state.

The course is run over two days, and if you don't want to give up your weekend sleep-in, this is not the course for you. Both days were a 7.45 for 8am start, and went until roughly 4pm each day. Lunch is provided on day 1, wine and cheese tasting is provided on day 2, and morning tea is provided on both days, so you don't go hungry.

Day 1 is the most full-on, because that is the day when you learn the majority of the techniques and theory, and make most of the cheeses. There is a lot of standing up, and you feel quite tired at the end of each day, but it is very well worth it. I learned a lot from this course - it is 100% hands on, and Graham teaches it with the aim of you being able to make your own cheeses at home after completing the course, and knowing enough about the science behind cheesemaking that you can both troubleshoot and design your cheeses to suit yourself.

At the end of the course, you can proudly take home a selection of cheeses that you made yourself, together with a certificate of attainment. We made a fromage blanc (Chabichou style), quark, camembert, cheddar, whey ricotta, whole milk ricotta, mozarella and fetta. Some of the cheeses can (and should) be used immediately, while the camembert and cheddar need to be ripened, and the fetta drained and brined.

To give you a flavour of the various techniques and equipment, I have included a selection of my photos from the course below.

Here is my bench partner, Jacqui, scooping thin layers of curd into cheese hoops to make the fromage blanc:

These are camembert curds being scooped up by hand to go into the cheese hoops:

The fromage blanc and camembert then have to be drained of whey and turned as the curds knit together:

Fetta is produced in a similar fashion. The camembert and fetta are brined once they are unmoulded, and the camembert is left to ripen in an improvised cheese cave at home over a couple of weeks so that it develops its characteristic mould.

For cheddar, after stirring and cooking the curds for 2 hours, the wheying off process is carried out in a heated water jacket to keep the curds warm:

The drained cheddar curds are cut into strips and placed in a cheesecloth lined hoop:

The cheddar curds are then pressed to "knit" the curds together:

The pressed cheddar is slathered in lard at home before being placed in a ziplock bag in the fridge to ripen. The lard and the plastic bag are crucial to prevent the cheddar drying out. I am informed that the lard rind goes black and mouldy as the cheese ripens - mmm, mmm, can't wait. Graham recommended that our cheddar be left to ripen for 9 months - so if you are hanging out to taste my cheddar, you will be starving by the time it is ready.

Quark is a very simple cheese to make, with the curdled milk simply being stirred then drained of whey by hanging overnight in a cotton bag:

Quark is a soft cheese, not unlike cream cheese, that should be used within a week.

The stretchy quality of mozarella is developed by cooking the curds to a high temperature then kneading them together after wheying off (which is done in the same way as for cheddar). Kneading is done in 65 degrees Celsius water, so gloves are necessary:

The kneaded cheese is then pinched off into balls of mozarella.

Finally, here is a glimpse of some of the finished cheeses:

Fromage blanc (the yellow staining is simply butterfat):

Whole milk ricotta (which is much firmer than whey ricotta):




To finish off the course, Graham provided a selection cheeses and talked about what they were and how they were made, while we happily munched away on the cheeses and crusty bread and sipped wine:

Graham's next Melbourne cheesemaking course is in January 2011, if you are interested in attending, and as at the time of writing, there are still some places available.

Thanks to Graham for a fun, informative course, and to Robyn and Tim at Holmesglen Moorabbin for being the perfect hosts.


Ivy said...

I am jealous!! I wish I could attend one of these courses. What kind of milk was used for each kind of cheese? What kind of rennet did you use? How long does it take to make each kind of cheese? Are you planning to post any recipes?

Kayte said...

I think the one food I would have the most trouble giving up would be cheese. I just love cheese, any kind of cheese is great with me! This was all very interesting to read and hear about. I have been to cheese making places before and enjoyed them so much. Thanks for sharing. Cheese, yahoo!! Living in the Kitchen with Puppies Natashya has been making cheese this year...I am so tempted to put that on my list of things to try next year. She says it is easier than one thinks. Hmmmm...very interested in that!

Cakelaw said...

Hi Ivy, we used pasteurised, non-homogenised organic milk for all of the cheeses, as it is prohibited to use raw milk to make cheese in Australia. We used vegetarian rennet. The time for the cheeses varies - quark is very quick to prepare once you have your milk ready, say 15 minutes, but then must hang overnight to drain, while cheddar took 5 hours to prepare on and off, and takes 9-12 months to mature (for a mature cheddar). If you are interested in any particular recipes, let me know.

Unknown said...

That looks like so much fun. How i love to take foodie classes. I've tried making labneh (a middle eastern yogurt cheese) before, but that's as far as my cheese making took me.
Hope you are having a great weekend.
*kisses* HH

Amanda said...

Looks like a good day was had.
I did a cheesemaking day-course about 6 years ago - I had forgotten all about it until I saw this!

cocoa and coconut said...

How exciting for you. Looks like some great knowledge was gained :)

The Caked Crusader said...

How fascinating - like most foodies I've always hankered after learning how to make cheese. YOur photos and write up really brought it alive for me!

Conor @ Hold the Beef said...

How fabulous, I love the idea of doing such a hands on course! I also would like to try my hand at cheese making but am not sure there is such a great course on offer round these parts - will have to get investigating.

The Blonde Duck said...

If I hadn't had a piece of cheddar cheese for lunch, I would have been seriously craving it after this!

Nutmeg Nanny said...

How fun! There is a local dairy farm that gives cheese making lessons. I really want to attend. I think it looks like tons of food.

Maria @ Scandi Foodie said...

I love this! :-D I used to want to become a cheese maker but then someone told me I should have my own farm with cows or goats and all that and it got a bit complicated... Still find the process so fascinating though! :-D

Cakelaw said...

Hi Maria, Graham runs courses in Sydney and other parts of NSW, so if you are interested, you can look up course dates on the Cheesemaking website (link at the top of the post). You can make cheeses just for you and your friends (which I think is pretty cool) - or it may trigger you into following that dream!

Steph said...

How fun! I actually bought a book and cheese making kit from a group in Vermont and made a few of my own cheeses...but I would love to take a class. You are so lucky...and it only took you 7 years!!! thanks for sharing. I loved your farmer's tart too.