Hobbyist cheese-making a brie-eeze
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
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.