Creamery In A Box, Cheese, And You
Among my many Attention Surplus Disorder activities like making wine [of course], curing my own meats, making pickles, brewing beer, making bread, gardening, making cider, roasting my own coffee, making soap, and whatever catches my eye this week, I like to make my own cheese.
I can't claim to be an expert: I've only been making it for a few years. but I really love the concept, and there are few foods I like more than cheese, whether it's my own mozzarella to melt onto a crispy pizza, tangy goat cheese to schmear onto good baguette, or sharp cheddar to slab on top of apple pie, cheese is one of the most civilized foods I can think of.
Like many food preparation techniques, cheese making is a food preservation technology. Before Pasteurization and refrigeration, milk only kept for a single day before it spoiled by concentrating the fats and proteins and treating it with salt, milk could be turned into a nutritionally dense food that not only could be stored and eaten later, but was also great tasting.
And that's the secret to many of the things we eat because they're delicious, like wine, beer, pickles and bacon: they're all the product of people working to preserve the fruits of their gardens and farms.
It's actually a lot easier than you might think to make your own cheese. You need high-quality milk, a work area, some sanitizers to keep things clean, a double boiler and a few specialized items, like a cheese press and curd knife. The good news is that all of those special tools come in the Creamery in a Box kit. Shop Now
The kit also includes complete instructions for the type of cheese you're making. They're simple and easy to follow--for a Mozzarella the process goes like this:
- Clean and sanitize your equipment and work area
- Warm milk in a pot
- Add citric acid and lipase (to help curd formation)
- Heat the milk and add rennet (this will form the curds)
- Cut the set milk (it's like slicing loose jello)
- Warm the milk up and stir the curds gently
- Strain (now you've got curds and whey!)
- Heat the whey to the correct temperature and dunk the curds in it to warm them
- Salt the curds
- Stretch the curd mass like pulling taffy
- When it's rubbery, chill it in an ice bath.
- Eat your delicious Mozzarella!
Pure, creamy bliss, right there.
It's amazing how fast an easy it is. When I made my first batch of Mozzarella, I did it while my pizza dough was rising and had it ready when the pie was ready to go into the oven. I've never had better, fresher cheese on a pizza in my life. It was one of those times when you realize that you've never really had 'fresh', only what's been made somewhere else, packaged, transported, stored and finally sold to you days and weeks later. It's that amazing.
Mo' bettah Feta
Creamery in a Box has six different recipe kits
Terrible natural enemies in the wild, cheese and wine can learn to love on another in . . . no, wait that's not right: cheese and wine have always been a natural pairing, at least in places that can grow grapes and raise dairy animals. At every office party or art-gallery soirée you'll see trays of cheddar cubes piled high as people circulate with their glasses of wine.
Cubed cheddar and a choice of generic red or white is pretty safe for most situations, if a little dull. The synergy between cheese and wine can go a lot further than that, especially if you consider the origins of each--the wines of any region grew up alongside their cheeses. People drank what they had with the cheese that they made and for the most part it worked.
Fresh and light: cheeses that have not been aged, or are only lightly cured. These mild and creamy, and have a high moisture content and soft texture. Think chèvre, mascarpone, feta.
Aged/Firm: ranging from mild to sharp/pungent with a body that ranges from firm at room temperature, to hard grating cheeses. Think sharp cheddar, aged gouda, Parmigiano-Reggiano, anything described as 'nutty.'
Creamy and/or funky: cheeses with a rind that covers a creamy interior that ranges from mellow to eye wateringly ripe, and usually runny at room temperature. Think Brie, Camembert, Epoisses.
Blue: these cheeses that have blue/green veins, from penicillium mold, added during the cheese making process, giving them a distinct flavour ranging from mild to assertive. Think Danish blue, Stilton, Gorgonzola.
Sweet and Salty are natural counterpoints: perceptibly salty cheeses like Feta, Blue, or Asiago will highlight the sweetness in your beverage. An off-dry white or a wine with a sweet finish will show very well with these.
Consider texture: a lusciously creamy Camembert folds straight into a softly buttery Chardonnay, but pairing it with a crisp dry Riesling will counterpoint and highlight that creaminess.
Match intensity of flavor: just as you wouldn't pair Pinot Grigio with aged Stilton, you'd want to avoid Mascarpone and Old Vine Cabernet. Keeping each side of the match within the same level enhances them both.
Pairing: Fresh and Light
Fresh cheeses are typically delicate, but many have a subtle tartness. Remember, match the intensity of the beer or wine to the cheese.
The zesty acidity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a great foil for chèvre. Pinot Grigio has a roundness that belies its delicacy, taming soft but mellow cheeses like Mozzarella or Burrata.
It's important to distinguish between aged-style and aged: cheddar is technically an aged cheese, but one that is only 3 months old and won't have the intensity of a 3-year old farmhouse Cheddar. For semi-hard or medium-aged cheese like Emmenthal, Gruyère, Jarlsberg, young Cheddar, or Manchego, medium-bodied whites and fruity reds will balance these cheeses with even-handed acidity and moderate tannin. Pinot Grigio, Viognier, off-dry Riesling, Gewürztraminer, along with Pinot Noir or Sangiovese are excellent choices.
Well-aged cheeses like Cheshire, aged Gruyère, Gouda, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano need very full-bodied whites, tannic reds or sweet wines to tame them. Red Zinfandel, sweet Riesling, Port, Syrah and Cabernet will each show off different cheese characters.
Whether mellow or ripe, runny cheeses show better with more subdued aromas and flavours to complement rather than compete with them. Brie, Camembert, Époisses, or Taleggio all work with off-dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer as will a cool-climate Pinot Noir.
Blue cheese can be light and creamy, or terrifyingly pungent, like this Dorset Blue. Be afraid.
Traditionally paired with Port, these cheeses need muscularity, alcohol, and intense flavours to match their salty/savoury body and sometimes impressive funk. They have an added bonus that they go well with nuts, the other traditional accompaniment to this pairing, which work nicely with the big wines they show best against.
Only blockbuster wines really work here: Port, Nebbiolo, Amarone, and dessert wines will balance intensity for intensity and wow your palate.
The Best Choice
At the end of the day, any wine you want to drink, with any cheese you want to eat is the right choice, and when you make your own wine, and your own cheese, you're already on your way to the best pairing of all, the things you made with your own hands.