A: When it’s too Gouda to be true.
Cheesy jokes aside, fresh homemade cheese seemed too good to be true, at least to me. I’d bought and tried a kit with no success and after two inedible disasters I decided it was time to get some help from the pros.
Edmonton offers, quite literally, hundreds of interest and hobby courses all over the city throughout the year. Everything from dance to cooking to astronomy. One such interest course happens to be introductory cheesemaking. After a morning of successful ricotta making and mozzarella stretching, I sat down with the instructor and local cheese fanatic, Ian Treuer, to talk a bit more about this increasingly popular past-time.
LG: So Ian, what got you started on this cheese making hobby?
IT: A few years ago I was looking for a new hobby and was tossing around the idea of trying to make beer, or make cheese. I don’t really drink beer though, so that seemed a little pointless. Cheese it was!
LG: Where have you gotten your cheese making experience?
IT: I have had the opportunity to work at Smoky Valley Goat/Artisan Cheese as a cheesemaker, during which time I helped at farmers’ markets and assisted with leading their cheesemaking workshops. It was an amazing experience. Beside that, it’s been a lot of reading and experimenting on my own.
LG: What advice would you give to people interested in giving cheesemaking a try?
IT: Kits are great to try as long as the instructions are clear but I would definitely recommend a course if you can take one. There are a lot of steps that go into making cheese and making sure you get a good grasp of the basics really helps in the long run. Instructors can help you understand the processes, why certain milks work best for certain cheeses, and what all those ingredients like rennet and calcium chloride actually do.
LG: Do you have any recommendations for folks who just want to eat cheese, and not make it?
IT: The cheese plates at Cavern are great — you are in good hands when you ask for suggestions, plus if you like what you try, you can buy more of it to bring home. The farmers markets and Paddy’s Cheese are also great places, but don’t rule out any of the local supermarkets. Places like Sobey’s and Save-on-Foods have started to invest in their cheese selections.
LG: And finally, any parting words of advice?
IT: Don’t be discouraged if your first (or second!) attempt doesn’t work out. There’s many things that can affect whether you have a successful batch of cheese, and some of those things you just can’t control. I’ve had my share of failures, so don’t give up if the first time doesn’t work perfectly. I always say, if it’s edible, it’s a success (even if it doesn’t look perfect).
Ian now teaches private cheesemaking classes, as well as classes for Metro Continuing Education. For more information on classes available visit Metro Continuing Education or Much To Do About Cheese.