Monday, April 30, 2012

Is cheese making a Geeky endeavor?

I am a geek. Not a nerd, although in my youth I wore heavy horn rimmed glasses, was a loner, enjoyed math and science, and didn't date much. In fact, in high school I only dated two different girls. A Geek is a Nerd with personality.  Over the years since then I have updated my eye wear, socialize more, still enjoy science, and have been married for almost 35 years, have two children and two grandchildren. And I changed from a nerd to a geek. Life is good.
Cheese making has been called a cross between an art and a science. A science because of the effects of time, temperature, enzymes, acids and PH, are fairly constant and replicable. And yet there is an art to small batch cheese making which depends on the quality of the milk being used. Early, Mid and Late lactation milks have different qualities and the amount of rennet needed will vary. The fat content also varies and produces different tastes and textures even when the recipe is followed exactly each time. Dare I say that the what the animal eats will determine the taste of the final product.Cow, goat or sheep milk can be made into cheese using the exact same technique and each will have it's own taste and texture.

Being a geek means that I'm a linear thinker and doer. Mufti-tasking doesn't work well at all for me. Making cheese requires linear thought and action, along with a touch of creativity thrown in to make cheese that is unique to me. When I got interested in making cheese, I went to the internet first and learned what I needed to know to begin making cheese. I spent close to a month reading websites and recipes and blogs until I knew enough to decide I REALLY wanted to do this.
Then I ordered a kit (Mozzarella and Ricotta kit from New England Cheese Making Supply Co.) and tried Mozzarella until I could duplicate my efforts most of the time. I branched out to other cheese and dairy products and practiced until I learned the techniques needed to make the cheeses. The process it what I enjoyed. Learning how it worked, learning what difference temperatures or time etc, The geek in me was pleased with each success and treated everything else as a learning experience. "There is no failure except the failure to learn."

With each success, my confidence grew and the artist part of my brain crept into the process asking "What if...". From yogurt making to rocky road yogurt cheese, to Key Lime Mascarpone filled filo cups, from heart shaped strawberry fromage blanc to goat milk feta wrapped in mozzarella, the experimentation has produced some interesting and surprising results.

Two years after making my first Mozzarella I have made 17 different cheese and dairy products. Some I won't make again. Others have become a regular part of each months weekend activities. Fresh Goat milk feta in basil infused olive oil is my favorite to make. I make a gallon or more of yogurt a month. Most has honey added and the ladies at work eagerly wait for the next batch to hitch a ride to work with me.

I've also held three classes to teach basic cheese making to some friends and family. I actually look forward to the next opportunity to share some of my knowledge with others.

Is Cheese Making a Geeky Endeavor? I don't know for sure but it does appeal to the geek in me. It holds my interest and gives me great satisfaction when someone says "This is great". This geek truly enjoys making cheese.

The Cheesy Geek

No comments:

Post a Comment