Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cheese Expectations

Bonjour monsieur, bonjour mademoiselle. Ca va? Making your own cheese. Who would have thought that was possible? Surely not I, until some extremely thoughtful friends presented me with a camembert making kit! Country Brewers is a small little shop next to Thornleigh station that supplies brewing equipment as well as sausage, jerky, and cheese kits.

Steps to make cheese. Create a starter. Add the starter to 7 litres of milk warmed to 32 degrees. Add rennet and allow to turn into curds and whey. Divide the curds into molds and turn repeatedly to drain out excess whey. Then you put them in a container and leave them at 9 to 15 degrees and wait for the mould to appear. C'est Tout!

It's a surprisingly simple process. All it takes is some common sense and a heck of a lot of patience. I created the mother of all double boilers to hold the 7 litres of milk and keep it at a constant 32degrees, for approx. 4 hours. Once the milk reached temperature I could turn off the stove and the double boiler did the rest so there's no messing around trying to keep the temperature consistent, even though I did compulsively check the temp every 10 minutes (hey it's my first batch of cheese, excuse me for being paranoid!).

So 4 hours later enter stage right, curds and whey. Before dicing it up into cubes as you can see here, it looked a lot like pannacotta (but didn't smell like it!). Scooping the curds into draining moulds which are just pvc pipes with holes drilled into the sides, then comes the hours of turning and turning which compacts the curds into a solid cottage cheese type consistency and drains out the excess whey.

The path of life has many twists and turns. Well on the journey of making your own cheese there are certainly more turns than anything else. Into the ripening container they go and daily turning is required until the cheese is
completely covered in the mould spores. If you
have ever sprouted alfalfa from seeds and cotton wool, ever grown your own mushrooms or owned a chia pet, you will understand the pride and pleasure that comes with cultivating your own little living wonders. Each tiny little white fluffy mould spore is becoming a soon to be tasty wonder of nature. Once they have completely developed, then you wrap them up and let the mould eat their way into the cheese to create that smooth creamy texture that we all know and love.

The aging process complete, I find myself sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch reflecting on the life of my cheese. Like most things, upon reflection, there are things that should have been done differently. There was a moisture problem from the start, using baking paper rather than the provided cellophane would probably have worked better. Take utter care when turning the cheese. If pieces start to fall away from the main body, they will turn into crusty brown pieces. Don't wait too long, you can see from the picture that it was over developed, which produced an intense, salty, mushroom flavour. Eat it fast and eat it early! Next time I will try it after 3 to 4 weeks. It doesn't have to be perfect, just shared with friends and enjoyed. Because that is what it's about. (Actually what it's all about for the first batch is surviving the experience which I can safely say I did).

Merci Beaucoup mon pote SMS for the french lessons. Much love.


  1. votre camembert est magnifique, plus s'il vous plaît!

  2. you made your own cheese?! that is freaking awesome!

  3. Amazing! I love that you made your own cheese! It's something I've vaguely wondered about but I'm so far away from making my own lol

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone. I would highly recommend giving it a go. I'll definitely be doing another batch soon. Each kit has enough ingredients for about 40 batches I think so there's plenty more coming in the future..