Viewed by most as an esoteric skill performed best by reclusive cave-dwelling French artisans, making a simple and delicious cheese such as Ricotta or Mascarpone can take little more than a 20 minutes and requires very basic ingredients and equipment.
Believe it or not, this is Camembert. It just needs to sit around for a while to mature
My introduction to the wonderful world of cheese making was a course run by the fabulous Susan Meagher of The Cheese Making Workshop, who runs the courses out of her own home at Northbridge on Sydney's Lower North Shore.
The course lasted from around 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, during which Susan taught us to make Camembert, Fetta, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Quark (cream cheese) and a Greek style yoghurt.
There is also a break for lunch during which you're fed some fantastic food, get a chance to chat to Sue and the other (very interesting) people doing the course, and taste some of your cheesy creations as well.
I was quite amazed at how simple it is to make some cheeses. Ricotta for instance simply involves heating up some milk, adding lemon juice or vinegar, draining off the whey (liquid), and putting it in the fridge for a while. That's it, finished. How easy is that?
Other cheeses require a little more work and know-how, but nothing too complicated. The basic recipe is heat up the milk, add in some cheesy bacteria, maybe some rennet as well, let it sit for a while ("cutting" it now and again), and then draining off the curds.
Of course success is in the detail, and that is where Susan comes in. At the end of the workshop you'll definitely think that making cheese is very simple, and will be confident enough to try it at home assisted by the cheese-making recipe book which you used during the course.
Susan can even provide the bacteria and other harder-to-find ingredients, or let you know where you can buy them.
It's been a couple of months now since I did the course and I can definitely say that making mascarpone is my favourite. It's simple and quick, you can flavour it any number of different ways, and there is nothing better on top of a bowl of fruit and Muesli in the morning.
You can find out more about the course, and cheese making in general, on Susan's website. Mention WeekendNotes for a 10% discount.
Looks fantastic. Id like to learn more. Make my own cheese, make my own wine or beer and my own bread and Ive a feast to be had. Add some organic vegetables and itd be a perfect meal.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer Sunday, 24th of April @ 07:07 am
All I can say is blessed are the cheese makers. What a great instructional article, I had no idea it was so easy. Ricotta is one of my favourites and I shall be making some this weekend to use in my special Spinach and Ricotta Triangle recipe.
By Dora Bona - senior reviewer Wednesday, 27th of April @ 10:46 pm
Oh, Yum. I'm very tempted to try this out next time I'm in Sydney. I'm a big fan of cheese, so I'd love to be able to try making my own.
I'm already drooling over the thought of some of that delicious marscapone. I wonder if making cheese this way actually makes it any cheeper that buying from the shops, or if these fancy bacteria make the price fairly similar.
Looks fun and I liked the image of cheeses made by "cave dwelling artisans."
By Anonymous Thursday, 11th of August @ 09:39 am
This looks like an extremely fun and useful activity. Are the ingredients easy to come by? With or without the discount, this appears to be something you learn for life. Never again will you have to buy cheese :) Yum!