A Cheese Making Workshop

This past weekend two of my colleagues and I got to travel to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts to take a Cheese Making Workshop conducted by cheese master Jim Wallace.

Master Cheese Maker, Jim Wallace

Master Cheese Maker, Jim Wallace

We learned about the processes of making Cheddar, Camembert and Vacha Toscana, about a lot of the science, theory and instinct involved in cheese making as well as an evaluation of the cheese each of us brought for him to trouble shoot.

We had a great group: Seth from Vermont/New York, Martin from St. Augustine, Michael and Belinda from Pennsylvania who want to buy a boat soon and sail the eternal summer; two of my colleagues and myself.

Our Group

Our Group

Each of us have tinkered with cheese for a few years and this workshop allowed us to take our skills to another level. I hope we can stay in touch somehow, I want to hear about the cheese making adventures at sea!

Jim’s cheeses are not only beautiful but very tasty.

Cheese in the cave

Cheese in the cave

His “Cave” and drying rooms are places I could spend hours.

Cave door

Cave door

The drying room

The drying room

In addition to making cheese, Mr. Wallace also makes some lovely wine and impressive beer.

Wine making

Wine making

The workshop began at 9AM with the introduction of milk, cultures, rennet, stirring, curd cutting,

PH lab

PH lab

draining, molding and finally pressing.

I was amazed how easy it seems to be to make Camembert. Can’t wait to try it!

Jim’s lovely wife Robin made lunch for us both days. The table was full of lively conversations, great food, cheese, wine and beer. (Jim told us we must have been a special group as he doesn’t usually share his beer and wine with classes. So if you go, don’t expect it!)

Sunday morning, Robin and Jim were making fresh butter from the butterfat that floated to the top of the whey from Saturdays cheese making.

Really fresh butter! Boy did that butter taste good!

Really fresh butter and you know how much I love butter!

Really fresh butter and you know how much I love butter!

Both Jim and Robin were professional photographers who traveled and sold their work at shows. This resulted in an amazing collection of original art work from photographs of their own and others, sculpted art pottery, bead work, and dinner/serve ware style pottery. It was great to be in the presence of so much creative energy.

Jim works with Ricki Carroll of The New England Cheese Making Supply on development, workshops, recipes and website.

If you have any interest in cheese making, I highly suggest you get in contact with Jim to see what he has coming up. He has limited space so make you plans early.

You can contact him at jim@cheesemaking.com.

He can give you the cost, dates and availability of up coming workshops. I would say these aren’t for someone who has never made cheese before because he gets quite technical. If you never made cheese before, find a local class that teaches mozzarella, marscapone, lemon cheese, cream cheese and other quick, easy fresh cheese.

If you like the process, play with making a couple aged cheese, THEN go take a workshop from Jim.

These are the cheeses that everyone brought for the evaluation session

These are the cheeses that everyone brought for the evaluation session

Bring your cheese with you and he will tell you what you did right, what went wrong and give great advice about your cheese. Everyone got a lot out of this session.

I will create posts on the cheese we made and the cheese we make now that we are back from the workshop.

It will be quite fun and interesting to get to make these. The challenge will be in allowing them to ripen and age enough before cutting into them.

Some age for a couple of weeks, and others several months, We think once we get the process started, we can have a perpetual flow of amazing artisan and farmstead cheese.

Watch for these posts over the summer!

If you take a workshop from Jim, let me know what you get to make as his workshops are all different. We guess it depends upon what his cave needs and his social schedule as he always brings cheese.

You’ve got to pace yourself though, it is easy to get cheesed out if you don’t normally have a lot of cheese in your diet.

Let’s make some cheese!

Aged Cheddar

Aged Cheddar

Almost ripe Camembert

Almost ripe Camembert

Aging Vacha Toscana

Aging Vacha Toscana

Jim's cheese we tasted at lunch. The Bavarian Feta (rectangle cheese top left) is my favorite!

Jim’s cheese we tasted at lunch. The Bavarian Feta (rectangle cheese top left) is my favorite!


Hoop Cheese

Red Wax Hoop Cheese

Hoop Cheese deep south favorite!

This cheese is a fresh farmers cheese. The curds are pressed into a mold (the hoop) to release moisture. Because the cheese has a high moisture content, it spoils quickly. Since the cheese was easy to make, in days gone by, the local grocer typically made the cheese in the back and cut wedges to sell to eagerly awaiting customers.

When the cheese is aged to develop some of its mild flavor, it is coated in either red or black wax.

The black wax is aged longer and is somewhat sharper than the red wax hoop cheese.

Once the waxed wheel had been cut, the cheese needed to be sold and consumed in a couple of weeks.

Here is an easy recipe for using hoop cheese with a classic American combination of apples and cheddar.

Apple Cheese Gratin

1 cup AP flour

1 cup sugar

1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers (33 crackers), crushed

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup shredded hoop cheese, black or red rind

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup melted butter

6-9 granny smith apples, peeled and sliced

1 deep 2-quart casserole dish, buttered

(To butter a casserole dish, smear soft butter all over the inside, paying close attention to corners.)

Combine all the ingredients except the apples in a bowl. Add melted butter to bring the mixture to a streusel topping consistency. You may need more or less than 1/2 cup. Adjust accordingly.

Peel and slice the apples. Begin by layering the sliced apples in the buttered casserole dish. Alternating  layers with apples, then cheese mixture all the way to the top with the final topping being the cheese mixture.

Pat it all down into the pan.

Place the casserole on a baking sheet and place into a 350° F oven for 30-40 minutes. The apple cheese gratin is done when the topping is golden and the casserole is bubbling.

Remove from oven and cool before serving.

Just in case you are in the mood for a savory hoop cheese dish, here is one for a classic southern yellow squash casserole.

Classic Southern Yellow Squash Casserole

4 cups thickly sliced yellow squash

1 medium onion, sliced thin

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove minced garlic

2/3 cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

33 Ritz crackers, crushed, not crumbled

1 pound shredded hoop cheese

6 ounces melted butter

Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Slice the squash and onions. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil. Add the onions and squash and saute 3-4 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften and the onions become translucent. Add the garlic and remove the pan from the heat.

In a separate bowl, mix the milk with the beaten eggs.

In another separate bowl, crush the crackers

In another separate bowl, have the cheese

Melt the butter in the microwave, set aside.

To assemble the casserole:

Butter the casserole dish, place a layer of squash and onion mixture on the bottom.

Cover the squash and onion layer with a layer of cheese and then crackers. Repeat layering to the top of the dish.

Before adding the top layers of cheese then crackers, pour the milk and egg mixture over the casserole, shaking gently to allow the mixture to penetrate the casserole.

Add the final cheese layer, top with the final cracker layer.

Pour melted butter over the top.

Place the casserole on a sheet pan and put it into an oven pre-heated to 350°F. Bake for 40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the dish is bubbly. Remove and cool slightly before serving.

This squash casserole is very popular at holiday time and for pot luck dinners. Best of all, it can be made a day ahead of time.

Hoop cheese makes it all so creamy.

Making hoop cheese at home is actually simple as long as you have the right tools:

  • a cheese press
  • muslin cheese cloth
  • cheese wax
  • something to melt the cheese wax in like a stainless bowl or pot. (Please realize this container will only be able to be used for melting wax in the future so choose something you won’t miss using).

NOTE: Using cheese wax requires you to understand and practice safety procedures. No kids or pets or distractions around please. Wax fires are very dangerous. Read all precautions!

About the cheese press: Go to New England Cheese Making Supply and take a look at all they have to offer. You will find everything, including videos, for learning all about making lots of different kind of cheese.

If you know someone who is clever or resourceful, they may be able to make a cheese press for you. If not, have no fear, you can still make cheese. Just buy your press and supplies from New England Cheese Making Supply.

To make hoop cheese:

  • First make a fresh batch of homemade cottage cheese. Do not add cream or salt
  • Separate the curds from the whey and leave the curds plain
  • Dampen a piece of muslin cheesecloth and line the press
  • Then place the curds into the press and add pressure
  • Allow the curds to press for 4-6 hours or for a dryer cheese, overnight

Now you have hoop cheese. It can be eaten right away but it will not have a lot of flavor right away. Aging requires the cheese to be coated in wax and aged in the refrigerator. The color added comes from using annatto.

To make hoop cheese at home, consult New England Cheese Making Supply for instructions and supplies.

If you have a farmers market nearby, someone would have hoop cheese for sale. If you don’t see any, ask for it. If they don’t have any, I’m sure they can point you to someone who does.

Local grocers in the south often carry hoop cheese too. Just ask your grocer. Being located in the south, I am not sure of the availability on other areas.

Can you find Hoop Cheese in your area? Please share your recipes!

Right now I’m heading to the kitchen to fix a snack of Trisket Crackers, a slice of hoop cheese topped with a bread and butter pickle. . . one of my favorite snacks!