Jet-setter Jennie Hobbs is making me hungry with this post. Thanks for sharing!
There are nine children in my house right now. Eight of them are about the size of my fist and they are very high maintenance. To make things even weirder, I plan to eat them one by one over the next twelve months. My eight babies are various cheeses. (There is actually one living, breathing, toddler in my household.) A few weeks ago, I dedicated an entire weekend to a cheesemaking course in Sydney, Australia. I like to eat cheese and drink wine, and I also love to cook, so I thought, “Hey! How hard can it be?” After all, there aren’t many ingredients in cheese, you don’t really have to cook it, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to just about anything. Plus, Australia is known for great wine and gourmet food, so what better place to do it in? The Cheesemaking Course is held at various locations throughout Australia every month and it books up quickly. I registered for the class about two months in advance and then, out of sheer coincidence, discovered that my friend, Rachel, was doing the class the month before. I thought I’d get a huge leg up on my fellow classmates with Rachel’s inside knowledge on my side. Instead, I just got a huge warning. “The class is VERY intense”, said Rachel with a serious look in her eyes. But then, she opened the fridge and revealed eight delicious looking cheeses all made over two days. I was scared, excited, intrigued, and hungry all at once.
At 8am a few Saturdays later, I walked into my first cheesemaking class. My fellow students ranged in age from 30s to 60s and were a combination of friends, couples, foodies, and everyday cheese lovers like me. Thankfully, we all seemed to have about the same level of experience, which wasn’t much. After a quick cup of tea, we were greeted by Graham Redhead, the Master Cheesemaker. Graham grew up milking cows on a dairy farm in Queensland, studied food technology, and worked as a dairy advisor for many different companies including the Queensland government. Ten years ago, he started running the course simply because he gets a buzz from teaching people his trade. I equate him to the Albert Einstein of Cheesemaking. Imagine a mad scientist with a huge heart. He is serious and passionate about the business of making cheese, and you can tell he knows his stuff. (his fun side is revealed with a wine and cheese degustation at the end of the course) To my surprise, cheesemaking is incredibly scientific. There is much more chemistry and physics involved than I ever imagined. It is both simple and complicated at the same time. The success of your cheese depends entirely on the exact temperature, measurements, and methods. Sanitation is also a key element; any contamination at all will ruin your cheese. It’s a great hobby for Type-A personalities. Over the course of two days, we made camembert, quark, two kinds of ricotta, mozzarella, feta, and cheddar. While I was prepared for the intensity of the course, I was not prepared to look after my babies when I got home. At first, I felt like I needed some sort of help hotline to get me through the ripening and caring phase. There was a cooler full of cheese in my bedroom (the coldest room in the house) and I was busy turning and caring for them over the next few weeks. Thankfully, I was able to taste the ricotta, mozzarella, and quark right away, which only motivated me more to look after my other masterpieces.
The ones that I consumed and cooked with were absolutely delicious and I instantly felt proud and encouraged to keep going. The cheddar will age in my fridge for at least a year, and I’m a few weeks away from eating the camembert and feta, but all of my hard work was worth every minute. For anyone who loves a new challenge, whether they are into cooking or not, the cheese course is a great way to test your skills and your patience. It’s also a cheap hobby that will impress your friends and family.
Graham encourages his students to make at least one cheese at home right away. I haven’t done it yet, and I feel like I’ve let down my dad, but I hope to find a weekend to whip up some ricotta soon. Now, I just have to find a good wine-making course to really complete the circle. For more info: http://www.cheesemaking.com.au/ Phone: +61 7 3352 3022? Mobile: +61 408 198 952?Fax E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org