I have been looking forward to this weekend for months now. Not because I turned 30 years old over the weekend but because I was able to attend an advanced cheese making class at the Iron Gate Inn with Heather Carter, from Nature Hills Farm. The class was two days long for 8 hours each day, but it seemed more like 2 hours per day, as the time flew by so quickly. Day one involved making a French Brie, which is a soft cheese with a beautiful white rind. On this day we also made an English, 2 lb Cheddar. The second day took us to Italy as we worked up a Parmesan and an Asiago. I was thrilled to learn the many different types of cheese and WHY they are different from one another when their ingredients are all the same.
We used 2 gallons of milk for each type of cheese, yielding approximately 2 lbs of finish product. This picture was taken moments after the curds were placed in the mold; you will notice how full the mold is as it still has a great deal of whey in the curds.
Brie does not use a cheese press; the molds are simply flipped regularly and the expulsion of whey is created by the weight of the curds upon themselves. This is what causes this cheese to be soft and moist.
Flipping the Brie
After the molds have been flipped a few times there is a very noticeable amount of shrinking in the size of the Brie. With the first picture the curds are about 3 inches below the top of the mold, whereas in the following picture the curds are closer to 6 inches below the top of the mold. This takes place as the whey drains out of the curds.
Heather was thoughtful enough to bring us a 2 - 3 week Brie so we could see the "finished" product. After the molds have been flipped regularly for 24 hours the Brie is salted, dried, and aged. During the aging process a white mold grows on the outer layer creating a beautiful, flavorful rind.(Notice how small the finished product is, only about 1-1 1/2 inchs tall.)
To further demonstrate the aging process, Heather also brought in a 2-3 month Brie with a rind that was, perhaps, too "well done". This Brie was still very delicious but we choose not to eat the rind as the flavor was a bit too strong.
I do not pretend to be a successful 'cheese maker' yet, but I hope to be able to practice some of the techniques shown to me during this class. My next project is to create a cheese cave of sorts and begin filling it up with a variety of flavorful cheeses.