Last month Jim and I spent a few days in
Wiegand Hall is named for Professor Ernest Wiegand. He is a professor that made a huge impact in the science of food preservation, specifically with cherries. Cherries grow really well here in
The cheesemaking class: The class was lead by Lisbeth Goddik, an Associate Professor at OSU. She's the dairy processing specialist for OSU's extension service. She's the person that fields all of the cheesemaking questions. There were about 25 students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some had dairies, one was a chef with a cooking school, there were families who had goats, there was a fellow cheese monger and blogger, and several of the dairy inspectors from the Oregon Department of Agriculture were attending the class, too. The format was split between classroom lecture and hands-on cheesemaking. The mornings were spent learning about the dairy industry, how cheesemaking works, how do we keep a clean environment, and what's going on in the regulatory world. The fun stuff happened in the pilot plant down the hall.
Photo: Students gather around the vat pasteurizer.
The pilot plant at OSU is a big working laboratory for food science. There are big tanks for brewing beer, a bottling line, incubators, kettles, vats, pasteurizers, lab tables and several sinks. Stainless steel pipes run throughout the building, carrying steam, milk, or water to where it is needed. There is another lab specifically for winemaking. They were working on some Pinot Noir while we were there.
Time for some cheesemaking. There were four cheese stations set up. We split up into groups to focus on one cheese, but we still could observe the other groups and see what was going on all around us. I worked on Havarti, Jim was on Team Camembert. My team's vat of milk took forever to set up. Don't know if it was the temperature of the room, if we added the wrong amount of rennet, or what the issue was, but we stood there waiting for our cheese to have a clean break for over an hour. It should have been around 30 minutes. But, the curd dictates when to cut, not the clock, so we waited and waited and waited. Finally we cut the curd, let the curd rest and began to stir. Havarti is a washed curd cheese, so we got to heat up water, drain some of the whey off, and added warm water back into the curds. Fun! Then we got to use a mult-form system to full the empty forms full of the knitting curds. Then came the flip with the fancy draining trays that OSU recently purchased from Servi Doryl.
Photo: C. van't Reit small pasteurizer at OSU
One of my favorite lectures was on Starter Cultures and their role in cheesemaking. This is a subject that I find fascinating and am beginning to get a better idea what they actually do in your cheese. Yes they acidify the milk, but they also affect flavor, texture, as well as control how it ripens down the road in the aging cave. The starter cultures develop enzymes that produce amino acids. The amino acids give us more flavor compounds and aromas. They can be buttery, nutty, toasty, fruity, etc. This is the stuff that makes me say "Yum!" when I eat a piece of cheese. Understanding bacterial cultures can help you predict what your final cheese will taste like and what texture it will have. The good cheesemaker is an artist coaxing the best flavor out of a cheese's potential. As many have told me, good cheese is made in the vat. If you start out with great potential, your final results will be that much better.
Photo: Tools for Queso Blanco.
We mixed things up the second day of cheesemaking. In the morning we all made Queso Blanco. This is a fresh, Mexican style cottage cheese made with whole milk. Quite easy to make, with quick results that we can eat in 90 minutes. It is acidified with buttermilk and set with junket, a tablet form of rennet also used in making pudding.
Photo: Fresh Queso Blanco.
We divided up into two groups. One group tried to make a drier cheese, the other wanted a moist cheese. It was good practice seeing how curd size, as well as the firmness of the curd mass at point of cutting will determine the amount of moisture left in the curd. The firmer the curd at the initial point of cutting, the softer the cheese, the smaller the size of the curd, the drier the cheese will be. These are all decisions made every time you make cheese.
Photo: Mary and Sasha work on Havarti.
We also got to switch cheeses in the Pilot Plant. Jim moved to Team Havarti and I went to Team Mozzarella. Jim became defacto team leader and got a lot of hands-on cheesemaking. Our Mozzarella didn't turn out. We used store bought milk and didn't add calcium chloride. The curd got over stirred and the curd never stretched. A waste! I was sad. I want to practice stretching mozzarella with someone who knows what they're doing.
Our evenings were spent socializing with fellow students. Jim and I went out to dinner at a brewpub with Sasha Davies of Cheese By Hand, and Professor Marc Bates formerly of Washington State University. Had a great time talking about living in
The second night we went to Evergreen, an Indian restaurant with Sasha and fellow students Pete and Cecil. More great conversations about what we all want to do, dairying, and what it takes to get going.
There are many reasons to continue to take cheesemaking classes. Not only do I continue to get new ideas and a better understanding of the process of cheesemaking, but I always meet some really nice people with similar interests. Now that I've been following this dream for a few years, I feel more comfortable asking questions and understanding the answers. I'll keep taking classes and working with others so long as there is someone to teach me. I am happy to show others what I've learned and maybe inspire them, too.
Photo: Goat cheese with green peppercorns from River's Edge Chevre.
We ate a lot of cheese. We had a sampling of cheddars from Tillamook. We also got a nice selection of goat cheeses from River's Edge Chevre. We also got to sample some cheeses from
Photo: Brian of Oregon Gourmet Cheeses in his cave.
The final afternoon was a field trip to Oregon Gourmet Cheeses in