My friend Jim is a man who enthusiastically embraces his hobbies. I don’t like to count, but we’ve known each other twenty-odd years now. In that time, he’s been a talented home-brewer, bread-baker, woodworker, bowl-turner, canoe-builder, photographer and arborist. To name just a few of his interests (or, as his long suffering wife Rita — also an old friend of mine — says, his obsessions). Lately there’s been some rumor about building a forge, but I haven’t dared inquire too closely.
As a result, he’s a handy friend to have. He’s become my go-to guy for advice on no-knead bread, wood finishing, and plumbing (again, to name just a few). So, imagine my glee when I got an email report from Rita that Jim’s wandering eye had turned toward — wait for it — cheese-making!
I immediately wrote for details and permission to report on Jim’s new adventure on the blog. Permission granted, and even a promise of photos to come. Here’s the background, straight from Jim:
Not sure exactly what the catalyst was on this but it came out of a short exchange with my friend Rob in Pittsburgh. He’s kind of getting into home brewing and asked a question about whether I’d ever get back into it. I mentioned that it was just too involved and time consuming for me to consider in the foreseeable future. Then I threw out “Now cheese making, maybe, but not home brewing.” Rob mistakenly thought I was making cheese and shot back asking what kinds and when could he have some. Then I got to thinking, as I’m wont to do about these things, “Cheese making…huh.”
So I got some books out of the library and pored over them. It seemed doable and not too time consuming. The only major equipment items (most of the smaller bits of hardware I already own from beer brewing) are a cheese press and an aging cave. A dorm fridge can substitute for the cave if one must substitute. The press I can build myself. The process seems pretty straightforward coming from a brewing background.
I made a simple lemon cheese over the weekend which turned a 1/2 gallon of whole milk into maybe a pint of paneer. It was good if bland but proved the concept.
I bought some starter cultures and rennet locally from a homebrew shop but will have to go online to get the rest of the stuff I need.
Will keep you posted on my progress. I think I’ll try a chevre next as I can get goat’s milk at the food coop, apparently. It’s more like a real cheese than this milk+lemon business.
Note to Jim and readers: The smart cheese guy down at Morgan and York (forever in my mind The Big Ten Party Store) says that spring chevres are the most interesting both because of the spring wildflowers and greens the goats might be eating and because the mama goats are producing richly for the kids. He says the pastures are “lively” right now and you can tell it in the cheese.