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