Hob­by­ist cheese-mak­ing a brie-eeze

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By SARAH MOORE

The New Zealand Cham­pi­ons of Cheese Awards are a sta­ple on the Kiwi culi­nary cal­en­dar.

They cel­e­brate the very best of the cheese-mak­ing tal­ent and, along­side their public sampling event, Cheese­fest, have main­streamed bou­tique brands like Kerik­eri’s Ma­hoe Cheese, Pu­taruru’s Over the Moon, and Oa­maru’s White­stone in fridges across the coun­try.

En­tries are grow­ing year on year – par­tic­u­larly in the home­crafted (or hob­by­ist) cheese cat­e­gory.

The only rules: Cheese must not be made for re­tail dis­tri­bu­tion, and the an­nual vol­ume must not be more than 100kg.

The pop­u­lar­ity of hob­by­ist cheese-mak­ing has seen a num­ber of small fac­to­ries come out of the whey.

Cart­wheel Cream­ery founders Adrian and Jill Wal­croft are proof that hob­by­ist cheese-mak­ing can turn into a prof­itable busi­ness. They won the Cham­pion Home Crafted cat­e­gory in 2012 for a cheese they made in their kitchen. The Wal­crofts now hand-make fresh camem­bert, feta, hal­loumi and washed-rind cheeses in their small Palmer­ston North ar­ti­san fac­tory. They sell their cheesy wares at the Feild­ing Farmer’s Mar­ket along with a few lo­cal spe­cial­ity stores.

So how do you go about pro­duc­ing de­lec­ta­ble dairy de­lights in the com­fort of your own home? Cheese­mak­ing can be as sim­ple as adding lemon juice to warm milk. More ad­vanced cheeses take a lit­tle more time and ef­fort but can pro­duce de­lec­ta­ble and sat­is­fy­ing re­sults for the bud­ding cheese­maker.

Cheese Awards Home Crafted Cheese cat­e­gory tech­ni­cal judge and MakeCheese founder Jean Mans­field has a few sim­ple tips for any­one want­ing to try their hand at home cheese-mak­ing.

1. Sani­tise ev­ery­thing that comes in to con­tact with milk, curd or cheese. That in­cludes ev­ery sur­face and uten­sil – and of course, your hands! This en­sures your end prod- uct is free from bad bac­te­ria which can af­fect the qual­ity and safety of the cheese.

2. Use qual­ity raw milk that you pas­teurise your­self or grey top farm­house su­per­mar­ket milk. If you’re won­der­ing where to get your hands on raw milk, ask your Neigh­bourly.co.nz com­mu­nity. Cot­tage­crafts.co.nz also has a milk map so you can find out where to pur­chase milk di­rectly from lo­cal farm­ers.

3. Use an ac­cu­rate dig­i­tal ther­mome­ter.

4. Know the strength of your ren­net. Calf or veg­e­tar­ian ren­net are mid­strength and the eas­i­est to work with. Search for sim­ple recipes on­line or buy a cheese-mak­ing recipe book once you’re cooking.

Makecheese.co.nz, Curds and­whey.co.nz and Cheese mak­ing.co.nz are great web­sites for be­gin­ner cheese­mak­ers. Your lo­cal book­seller or li­brary is a good source of in­for­ma­tion too.

Above all else, have pa­tience. When you’ve mas­tered the eas­ier cheeses

ready

to

get like ri­cotta, mascarpone, cream cheese and moz­zarella you’re ready to ad­vance to gouda and parme­san. Af­ter a year or so you might even be ready to en­ter the craft sec­tion of the Cheese Awards.

You might also look at en­rolling in a cheese-mak­ing course to see how the ex­perts do it. Jean and the New Zealand Cheese School both run short cour­ses to give first­time cheese-mak­ers a taste of ex­actly what to ex­pect fur­ther down the track.

Home grown: Pro­duc­ing de­lec­ta­ble dairy de­lights in the com­fort of your own home is get­ting eas­ier, and more popular, by the day.

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