Friday, April 27, 2012

Cheese-making Class

About a month ago, Antoine spotted this deal on Groupon for half off a cheese-making class in OTR at the Cheesy Gourmet.  We immediately forwarded the deal to my sister, another lover of cheese, and within a half hour we had all purchased the Groupon and had tentative plans to go together. Fast forward to last weekend, when Antoine and I met up with my sister and brother-in-law (and two of their friends, Holly and Chris) to embark on our first cheese-making class.

Cheesy Gourmet is set up behind a little store front in OTR.  Our class, which started at 3:30pm, was stationed in a little alcove filled with tables and chairs just outside of the kitchen.  There was a sushi-making class going on in the kitchen, so it made sense that we be in the alcove since we didn't need knives and sushi rice, just a hot plate and some milk.  As you will see, most of the class consisted of instruction and snacking on cheese.  Oh, and drinking wine!  It had been advertised in the Groupon that the class was BYOB, and I think everyone in the class took advantage of that!  (Sidenote:  If you BYOB, it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a corkscrew [if you need it] and some disposable glasses)

Our instructor, Joshua, was energetic and encouraged all 12 of us in the class to be animated and ask questions as he went along; actually, he demanded it.  He described that the process he would be showing us was an attainable way to make three different types of cheese: spreads, crumbles, and blocks.  And, through this relatively simple process, we could have cheese spread in under a hour, crumbles in just a couple hours and a block of cheese in about a day. 

Holly and our instructor discussing cheese-making and products.

Chris taking notes.

At the beginning of class, Joshua set up a pot on a hot plate filled with vitamin D milk.  As we waited for the milk to reach a low boil, Joshua directed us to a collection of plastic containers filled with cheese spread he had made, but not seasoned.  It was our job to season them, with a variety of herbs and spices provided, and then feast on them...a tough job, I know!  

Christian seasoning up some cheese spread.

I may or may not have drank over a half bottle of wine on an empty stomach and left the cheese-making class completely wasted.  Okay, I did!  And it was awesome!

A variety of seasoned cheese spreads that Michelle and Christian whipped up:  an Italian-y spread (top), chili powder and garlic (middle), lavender and salt (bottom).

Michelle enjoying some cheese spread.

She's so cute!

Once the milk had reached a slow, soft boil it was time to add the lemon juice.  The introduction of acid causes the milk to curdle, thus separating the curds and whey.
Straining out the whey.

Ta-da!  Cheese.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the class.  Initially, I thought we might learn to make mozzarella...I mean, it looks so easy when people make it on cooking shows.  We didn't make mozzarella or feta or cheddar, because in reality, those cheeses take more ingredients and time (we're talking years of aging people!)  But, the nice thing about this class was that Antoine and I walked out feeling like we could go home and make cheese immediately, and all we'd need is some milk, acid (lemon juice) and a flour sack/cheese-cloth.  And within no time at all, we'd have something we could eat!  The class was accessible and we got to see the whole process from start to finish (without any mysterious swap-outs where the chef tells you, "And this is what it looks like after a 6 months of again at precisely 76 degrees...").  We left inspired to make cheese and try out different flavor combinations.  We left thinking, "We can totally do that!  And we can use our basil or rosemary we have growing to season the cheese!!  And we can put it on PIZZA!!!"  

I'd definitely recommend the class.  It was a fun and instructive way to spend the afternoon.  Take a bottle of wine, eat some cheese, and get inspired.  Cheesy Gourmet also offers a variety of other classes, including sushi-making and Indian cuisine. 

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