Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book review: American Farmstead Cheese

I have been reading lots in the past few months, and also bought quite a few books. New books. This hasn't happened in a while, us being on a tight budget and all. For the past couple of years, I've just been keeping a list of "most wanted" books for when such a time came that I could afford to buy them. If I hadn't found them second hand first.
This has been all very exciting and I have to say so far I have very satisfied with my purchases. Maybe it was worth waiting just to make sure I really needed them, not just wanted them.
Anyway, I thought I'd write a review of the books I have found the most "enlightening", share my excitement and maybe inspire a few...!

I have recently been bitten by the cheese bug. No wait, that happened when I was young, I have always LOVED cheese, I guess being french and all I just couldn't avoid it. Recently though I have been exploring the joys and frustrations of making my own cheese, as illustrated by previous posts here and here.
And it's become an addiction. Every week I look forward to getting our raw milk and making cheese. I never seem to have enough milk for my projects. At the moment, I just want to try making them all, although I have decided to focus on "fresh" cheeses first, meaning those that do not need to be aged. Do I've been making feta, halloumi, ricotta, paneer, mozzarella. Our fridge has a whole shelf dedicated to dairy. So far I have been following recipes, but I didn't feel like I understood the whole process very well.

Until I read this book: "American Farmstead Cheese: The Complete Guide to Making and Selling Artisan Cheese". If you want to find out how milk turns into cheese, read this book. If you are toying with the idea of making and selling cheese, buy this book. It has all I wanted to know and more. At first I thought that being an american book mainly aimed at american farmstead cheese makers I might be disappointed or find most of the information didn't apply to my case. I was wrong.
It is well written, and the chapters each cover one specific topic. It is aimed to people who are in or want to get into the cheese business.
The first couple of chapters offer a brief history of cheese in Europe and the United States, where the authors are based (in Vermont more precisely). It was so fascinating I wish I could read more about it.
The next few chapters get quite technical and talk about the chemistry and the process through which milk is turned into cheese. Luckily I studied science at school, so I didn't feel completely lost. In saying that, the process is pretty basic and very well explained and easy to understand. I do feel like I'll be referring to these chapters again and again in my cheese making adventures. Now that I understand better what goes on and how things work, this gives me the confidence that if something goes wrong I can work out where it went wrong and how to remedy to it next time I make the same cheese. I am also hoping eventually I will be able to experiment and maybe come up with my own recipes.
I realized after I'd read these few chapters that cheese making is an art but also a very scientific process. To make good (and safe) cheese, you really need to know what you're doing and follow basic simple steps.
The next few chapters cover the issue of pasteurization and getting organized to sell cheese. I found the chapter on pasteurization very helpful, well written and researched, instead of telling people they should pasteurize without explaining why this section weighs the pros and cons and also looks at particular cheeses.

All in all, a great book. There are no recipes though, which I found a bit disappointing at first (I had to buy a book specifically for that), but it makes sense not to include any seeing the purpose of this book is to learn about the craft first.http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/american_farmstead_cheese:hardcover

1 comment:

  1. Which book do you recommend for cheese making? As you know I've been making yog, creme fraiche and butter for some time but now want to have a go at cheeses.