A black trash bag is tossed onto my desk. When I peer inside, four rounds of cheese stare up at me, one with a small wedge like a Pac-Man smile sliced out of it.
These raw cow’s milk cheeses are the result of the efforts of a group of students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences who, for one January day, were cheese mongers. After a year of visiting cheese producers, tasting cheese in class, and going a little crazy at the biennial Slow Food Cheese 2011 fair, the next logical step was a DIY cheese-making party (see how here). Five and half weeks later, and the two big and two small rounds are set on the picnic table outside in the approaching spring’s warmth.
The knife squeaked when I pushed it through the small cheese with both hands. It definitely had grate-able potential. Tiny flecks of dark blue mold gathered on the bottom of the rind, but it was mostly creamy white and clean-looking. I sniffed the small cheese, and it smelled like butter. Tentatively biting a small piece, I tasted the saltiness first, and then a slight acidity cut through. It was crumbly and reminded one girl of pecorino cheese, nevermind that it’s cow’s milk, not sheep’s. It had a faint animal-like taste (normal enough in a cheese), but a weird, pungent aftertaste. A little salty overall, but not bad. A few friends thought otherwise. The most exciting thing about it was that we had made it.
The standard student housing-equipped butter knife broke through the thin crust of the bigger cheese and sank through a softer middle. The inside was white and crumbly. Students rattled off different tasting notes, already inspired to greater heights of interesting flavors. “It smells like yogurt, and kind of animal-like.”
“There’s a definite hay scent.”
Biting into the crumbling, sandy texture, the flavor notes were varied: yogurt or buttermilk, more animal, barn essence, fruity, sweet, acidic. The aftertaste was strangely pungent. Preferences ranged from “quite good” to wrinkled expressions of uncertainty.
This impromptu cheese-tasting session was a lesson in how much an experience affects a person’s food preference. Had I bought this cheese at the artisanal Giolito Formaggi cheese store in town, I’ll be honest – I would be disappointed. Instead, I’m enthusiastic and proud of our first amateur adventure into cheese-making. As a bonus, 24 hours after eating the cheese and the rind (probably not recommended), I feel great.
- Cheesemaking: Just Cheese, An Adventure Story
- Say Cheese!
- Sealed With a Quiche: Brief History of Quiche in America with Recipe Ideas