All About the Cheese

Yesterday was a big day for me: I had friends over to taste my first batch of cheeses.

Cheese tasting

I was so excited being able to share my new passion with these people from all different aspects of my life.

We started with the first pressed cheese I ever made (top left in the picture), the one I started as soon as I got home from my cheese class. That ricotta salata had been aging in the fridge for four weeks. We then compared 2% versus whole milk of the same type of cheese at 3 weeks of age (middle and bottom left). Then the same side-by-side comparison for two-week-old cheese, the youngest recommended for the type (middle and bottom right).

We then took a nice palate cleansing break before we finished with my newest cheese type – Coulommier. It is a non-mold ripened Camembert. This version of the cheese is made in England and eaten either fresh or aged one week in a regular fridge. Since it’s not commercially available, I had never tried it before setting out on a 1-2 day long adventure.

Coulommier is a very different technique than ricotta salata. The fact that they are both made of milk is their only similarity.

Unlike the 185-200 degree F that the milk needs to get to for making ricotta, coulommier is a low temperature cheese. The milk is gradually brought to 90 degrees F, then the culture is added. Twenty minutes later, rennet is added. Then it sits (at a constant 90 degrees) for 45 minutes more.

I think I need another cheese Bible. My current version lacks some very important information. It could have warned me that the curds would be a yogurt type consistency. I was expecting a firm set like ricotta, and I stirred my pot the first time I made it. That destroyed about half my fragile curds. Live and learn.

The curds are gently transferred to either a coulommier mold or to a Camembert mold. Since the former are impossible to find even on the internet, into the Camembert mold it went.

Camembert mold

Unlike ricotta salata, the curds are pressed under their own weight – no additional pressure is added. After 1-2 days and several flips of the cheese, it comes out of the mold. After a light salting on all sides, it’s ready to go!

So I asked my guests their favorites. Among the ricotta salata, whole milk at three weeks of age won. The one-week-old coulommier was the winner of both the coulommier round and the overall top choice.

I love that my friends are willing to be guinea pigs. I will be using their valuable feedback to improve my process. I have a special end result for this recipe in mind. I’ll share it soon.

Have you ever used your friends as guinea pigs? or Are you willing to start a time-consuming recipe not knowing in advance if you will like it?

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