Freelance writer, mum of two who loves living in sunny Perth.
Published October 2nd 2012
Cheese, Not Just for Clever Mice
I love cheese. Any type of cheese. Even the often unpopular blue cheese. I have yet to find a cheese that I don't enjoy. When I asked my cheese loving friend what her favourite cheese was recently, she looked at me with a horrified expression on her face, and explained that choosing her favourite cheese would be like a choosing a favourite child from her bunch of kids. I think I tend to agree. So many lovely cheeses, all suited to different occasions, different moods and of course different wines. Imagine my joy when I found out about a cheese making course in Perth's beautiful Swan Valley. I couldn't imagine a more wonderous course or a better way to spend a happy Friday.
Nestled within a winery in the beautiful Swan Valley
The Cheese Maker started over 4 years ago following a simple dinner party between (now) co-owners Tanya Barretto and Pamela Sutton. As a hostess gift, Pamela had brought a home made camembert for dinner party host Tanya. Their love affair of cheese was cemented, and after discussing the lack of cheesemaking supplies and courses in Western Australia, together they decided to bridge the gap and the Cheese Maker was launched. Since then, Tanya and Pamela have been running courses and sharing their love of this amazing food to the good (and lucky) people of Western Australia.
Our teacher for the day, Tanya; one of the company's founders
The Cheese Maker currently run five different courses:
Mozzarella Madness: A half day course where you get your hands dirty making and stretching your own mozarella. For fans of this beautifully milky cheese, you'll be pleased to hear that you take home your own tub of boccocini. The course concludes with a pizza cook off using the cheese you've made.
Classic Delights: This full day course teaches you how to make the popular cheeses of fetta, ricotta, yoghurt and yoghurt cheese. Including morning and afternoon tea, together with a cheese inspired lunch, this course will give you all the knowledge and confidence needed to go away and make your own cheese.
Haloumi: Learn how to make your very own squeaky cheese. Not only do you get to take home your own block of this fabulous cheese, you also learn how to make a variety of canapes to accompany your haloumi over this half day course. This course finishes with champagne and canape tasting.
Farmhouse Cheese: This course serves those interested in making their first foray into hard cheese making. You'll learn all the skills needed to make this semi hard cheese that many course partcipants enjoy making time and time again for their families. This course includes a cheese-based lunch, a glass of wine and tastings throughout the day.
Gourmet Delights: I indulged myself with my long love affair with camembert and enrolled on the Gourmet Delights course which in addition to camembert, included direction on how to make cream cheese, quark and mascapone. I'll provide more details on this course in this review, as an insight into how all of the courses are run and the highlights you can expect to encounter.
It's a serious business making seriously yummy cheese
I didn't quite know what to expect from this course. My reservations were that I'd be with a large bunch of strangers and that I'd be a failure at making cheese or wouldn't be able to follow the instructions. I really needn't have worried. Yes, I was in a group of strangers, such is the nature of these courses (unless you book in a group). However, with my glass tipped at the half full angle, I can easily agree that a stanger can easily be described as a friend you have not yet met. This was certainly true by morning tea, when the group all got to know each other informally and by our glass of wine at lunch, we were giggling away, happily getting to know about each other's love of cheese. It was lovely to be in a group of such keen cheese enthusiasts.
With regards to not being able to follow instructions, again my worries were needless. My course was taught by co-founder, Tanya and another instructor Rosalie. Tanya (the main instructor for the day) was not only excellent at transferring her knowedge of cheesemaking but did so in a way that couldn't help but bolster the enthusiasm of the group to get stuck in with trying the techniques and this certainly helped to commit the day's tuition to memory.
Lots of precise measuring to make the perfect camembert
Classes are taught in a hands-on way, with Tanya providing clear instruction and then asking the small groups of 2-3 to then follow the directions in a step by step approach. At no stage are you given too much information, or have too many actions to follow. Additionally, you are provided with a great information booklet (to also take home) which provides you with great reference material throughout the day for further clarity as well as the recipes for your at-home cheesemaking.
Making the camembert itself is a full day (and then some) process. I never realised so much effort went into making this delectable cheese. I truly enjoyed the hands-on approach and the fact that the course really gets you to make your own cheese, rather than just watching demonstrations. You (and your team members) are doing all the hard work.
So this means: heating up your ingredients; cutting the curds; lifing the curds' taking out the whey, hooping the curds; and everything then involved in finishing off the camembert once you get it safely home.
All lunches on the different courses are centered around cheese, and ours was no exception. We got to experience the hot cheese fondue and words can't describe how amazing this cheesy goo was. Just delicious. Served on a platter with huge garlic baguettes; I'll be recreating this cheese feast at home. The wine for the day was from the neighbouring Olive Farm Wines and the verdelho was an amazing accompliment.
A further nod, needs to go to the wonderful barista-made coffee that was supplied for morning and afternoon tea, care of The Cheese Barrel. I'll definitely be stopping by this up and coming gourmet spot in the future.
Be inspired by the selection of cheeses at The Cheese Barrel
A benefit to attending a course run by the fabulous Cheese Maker is that they are also a supplier of everything you might need to make a course. As some of these cheesemaking supplies are extremely hard to find, this is a real blessing. It would be so disappointing to go on this course, get all educated in the process, and then not be able to make the cheese from home at the end of the day. Instead, the course, in addition to demonstrating cheesemaking techniques, also educates you on the different ingredients and equipment that you will find useful (or necessary) once at home. You can purchase your supplies on the day, or take home a 'wish list' that you can pass to your partner for possible Christmas or birthday presents.
For some of the equipment the money you spend will be a bit of an investment (e.g. the yogurt maker), but when you work out how much money you'll be saving from home made mascapone and the like, the investment will be worth it. Furthermore, the coolness factor of being able to make our own cheese certainly offsets the initial outlay; I am so looking forward to saying, "try some of my cheese, it's home-made".
Items can be posted out to you or collected (by arrangement). Just email or phone The Cheese Maker for more details.
Look out for these cheese loving founders at some of Perth's foodie events. Image courtesy of The Cheese Maker