December 20, 2009

What's the environmental impact of cheese?

My friend Michelle just sent me this article from Slate about the environmental impact of cheese.  Interesting topic.  Two quick take-aways:  Sheep are gassier than cows or goats.  Soft cheeses are better for the environment than hard cheeses (due to higher yields and lower energy needs for processing and aging).

One blatant omission, though: The article doesn't say anything about how far the cheese needs to travel to reach your plate.  Buying local makes a big difference... and making your own cheese at home is as local as you can get!  (Gotta use locally-produced milk, of course).

December 15, 2009

Hippychick’s Smokedy Chipotle

This is a cross-post from my friend Michelle, aka Shelly aka Hippychick -- she's been blogging about her incredible experiences towards sustainable hapiness, and was kind enough to allow me to re-post this.  She's been raising chickens and bees and growing her own fruits and vegetables... and making cheese.  Thanks, Michelle!



/ rich, smokey flavor /
/ russet in color /
/ a homestead recipe of my own /

  •  1 1/2 gallons of raw milk (if available)
  •  ta61 thermophilic starter – 1/8 teaspoon
  •  organic vegetable rennet - just short of a 1/4 teaspoon (diluted in 1/8 cup chlorine free water)
  •  lipase - just short of 1/4 teaspoon (diluted in 1/8 cup chlorine free water)
  •  home grown, smoked and dried chipotle peppers - ground to a fine powder
  •  smoked sea salt
  • in a clean cup mix 1/4 cup of chlorine free water with 1/4 teaspoon of lipase - mix and set aside. lipase takes a good 15-20 minutes to dissolve in water
  • in a clean cup mix 1/4 cup of chlorine free water with 4 drops liquid rennet or 1/2 tablet of rennet - mix and set aside
  • in a container larger enough to hold your pressed cheese, add 1 cup of smoked sea salt to 2 cups of water. stir until salt is fully dissolved and set aside. this is your finishing salt bath.
  • line a colander with high quality cheese cloth (note store bought cheese cloth is too loose a weave).
  • place the colander over a larger sized pot or a large sized bowl. the bowl will catch the whey when straining the curds. a good note is to use a bowl or container that can catch as much liquid as you use milk - 1 gallon, 2 gallon, etc.
  • prepare a hot water bath set up – set a smaller pot (*1 gallon sized) in a larger pot (*2 gallon sized) – place water in the large pot – place milk in the small pot.
* use pots sized to those that you have on hand
  • heat milk to 90˚f - use a cheese or candy thermometer to measure
  • turn heat off and remove pot from heat
  • add 1/8 teaspoon of ta61 thermophilic starter
  • stir in starter for 2 minutes using a non-reactive spoon
  • cover and let set for 30 minutes
  • stir in lipase/water solution for 1 minute
  • cover and let set for 5 minutes
  • stir in rennet for 3 minutes (If using store bought milk you need stir only 2 minutes)
  • stir in 1 tablespoon of fine ground *chipotle pepper - modify amount for your own taste. 

* i grow, smoke and dry my own. you can purchase dried chipotle peppers at a local market and grind them down in a coffee grinder. Remove the stem and seeds from the dried peppers. Break the peppers up into penny sized pieces. Set your coffee grinder to the espresso/fine setting, then grind them up.

ps. i am saving my seeds for next year's peppers

  • cover and let set for 35 - 45 minutes or until the curd gives a clean break
  • with a clean knife, cut the curd to 1/4 inch sized cubes.
  • heat the curds to 100˚f slowly increasing the temperature by 2˚ every 5 minutes. slowly stir your curds
  • throughout this process. this is a good time to think or to relax quietly or ponder something deep.
  • when the curds reach 100˚f, remove from heat but keep stirring for another 30 minutes to maintain
  • temperature and to keep curds from matting.
  • set the curds aside for 15 minutes to rest.
  • drain curds from whey
  • once the curds are fully drained gently mix in the pepper bits to the curds - gently gently
  • line a cheese press with fresh cloth and load curds into press
  • press curds at 10lbs pressure for 10 minutes
  • remove cheese from press, flip it over, reload cloth and cheese into press
  • press curds at 10lbs pressure for 10 minutes
  • remove cheese from press, flip it over, reload cloth and cheese into press
  • press curds at 40lbs pressure for 12 hours
  • remove cheese from the mold
  • remove cheese cloth
  • place cheese into smoke sea salt bath and set aside for 24 hours - flip the cheese every 4 hours or flip the sealed container every four hours - whichever works for your set up
  • remove cheese from sea salt bath and set aside to air dry for 3-5 days flipping the cheese each day.*
*wrap loosely in a cloth if you have kiddos, pets or counter investigating creatures about. best to place cheese on a wood cutting board. the wood absorbs moisture.
  • once the cheese has formed a rind, wax cheese
  • allow the cheese to age for 3-6 months
  • enjoy

waterbath set up - note the large post hosting the smaller pot - the larger pot is filled with enough water so as to surround the smaller pot but not so much as to over flow. the smaller post hosts the milk.

cut curds now floating in whey - notice the pepper bits mixed into the curds - i am a fan of the golden whey

drained curds now ready for the press

the humble cheese press

the big finish
cotswald on the left and the smokedly chipotle cheese on the right

December 9, 2009

Beehive Cheese Co.

I've been ashamedly behind in my cheese making recently, so I'm doing penance by supporting other small-batch artisanal cheese makers instead.

Woot's "Wine Woot-Off" just offered two of Beehive Cheese Company's cheeses, "Barely Buzzed" and "Seahive."  Never heard of 'em before, but that's one of the reasons why I love woot.

I ordered up a pound of each and am looking forward to sharing with friends over the Holidays!

From Beehive's Website:

Barely Buzzed:
This is a full bodied cheese with a nutty flavor and smooth texture. The cheese is hand rubbed with a Turkish grind of Colorado Legacy Coffee Company's (The Cheesemakers brother) "Beehive Blend". The blend consists of a mix of South American, Central American, and Indonesian beans roasted to different styles. French Superior Lavendar buds are ground with the coffee and the mixture is diluted with oil to suspend the dry ingredients in the rub. The rub imparts notes of butterscotch and caramel which are prevalent near the rind, but find their way to the center of the cheese. The cheese is aged on Utah Blue Spruce aging racks in our humidity controlled caves, and moved to different temperature during the aging process to develop texture and flavor. The name "Barely Buzzed" comes from Andrea at Deluxe Foods in California. She was the winner of the name this cheese contest.
From the land of Salt and Honey. We couldn’t resist this one. Our SeaHive is hand rubbed with Beehive wildflower honey and local Redmond RealSalt. The honey is harvested from a local farm where the bee’s visit wildflowers and fruit orchards. The salt is from an ancient sea bed near Redmond, Utah and contains unique flecks of color that are the result of more than 50 natural trace minerals. This cheese is shaping up to be one of our best experiments yet and is a true expression of our local flavors

December 6, 2009

15-Year Cheddar, now available

Every so often I like to run a Google News search for Cheese News and see what comes up. Usually, I'm pleasantly surprised. This morning I learned that Hook's 15-year cheddar is now available. Yes, that's FIFTEEN YEARS. Said another way, they've been aging this cheese since 1994. I know aging like that is pretty typical for a fine spirit, but cheese? That's a completely different story.

I had the privilege of trying their 10-year cheddar last year as part of a swanky Scotch & Cheese Tasting at the Beverly Hills Hotel (see pic below) and it was absolutely divine. Sharp and flavorful, of course, with bonus little crystals that seemed to burst in your month. A bit like Pop rocks meets cheddar. Okay, I exaggerate, but you get the idea (they're actually just crystallized Calcium Lactate).  Oh, and in case you're wondering, it paired exquisitely with the Glenfiddich 30.

At $50/pound, it might be the priciest cheese I've encountered yet. I bet it's well worth it.

That's the 10-year cheddar at 9 o'clock.