“We should learn to make cheese,” he said.
“Huh?” I responded.
“Cheese. We should learn how to make it at home,” he replied.
Poor guy had no idea what he’d just gotten himself into.
At first we tried our hand at a couple of simple cheeses made with rennet (the coagulant that’s used in almost all cheeses) from a local hardware store. Seriously? A hardware store? Go figure. They had all the supplies a new cheesemaker needed. But it was pretty much a disaster. One try, and we gave up.
Then about a year later we were walking along, headed to meet some friends, when we spied a little clapboard sign, “Cheesemaking Classes — This Way –>”
We were running a little late, but that cheese invitation was just too good to pass up. So we took a quick detour and about a block later we found the place. “Learn to make cheese at home” the signs said. The people were friendly, the cheese samples were excellent, so we grabbed the flyer with the details and ran off to meet our friends.
And that was the beginning of a love affair with cheesemaking. From disbelievers to “certified” artisan cheesemakers, in 6 months. But that’s just the beginning…
Now that we’re back in Spain, we’re exploring the world of “Quesos Caseros” — homemade cheeses. It turns out that, like with many Spanish products, the Spanish are amazingly UN-greedy. Mostly (there are always exceptions) they don’t really care about becoming gazillionaires and turning their products into mass-produced corporate cardboard products. They prize 2 things: 1. Creating something that is uniquely and consistently high quality, that they can be proud of, and 2. Having a lifestyle that allows them to enjoy plenty of time with friends and family.
That attitude means that Spanish cheeses aren’t as well known in the rest of the world as their counterparts from France or Italy — and no, I’m not saying that French and Italians are greedy. They’re just better marketers. But don’t let that fool you. There are literally hundreds of types of cheeses in Spain, and the quality is equal to (and often better than) their European neighbors.
The tricky part, for a home cheesemaker interested in Spanish cheeses, is that in the U.S. we have access to homemade cheese recipes from all over the world. Except Spanish cheese recipes. The selection is quite slim.
So… I’ve designated myself the detective of Spanish Artisan Cheesemaking, and I’m searching for YaYa’s (grandma’s) recipes for all kinds of wonderful goodies like Cabrales, or Arzúa, to the more common ones like Tetilla, Mahon, and Idiazabal, to name just a few.
Have I got your attention? Cheesemaking is not all that hard. Yes, there are a few tricks of the trade, but it’s pretty easy, and incredibly rewarding. So let me help you get started.
First, try your hand at soft cheeses, like goat cheese or the same type of recipe made with cow’s milk. You won’t believe how easy — and delicious — it is. I’ll let the experts show you the ropes, just click here: http://www.cheesemaking.com/Chevre.html And, by the way goat cheese is goat cheese, the world over. In the US it’s “Goat Cheese,” in France, it’s “Chevre,” and in Spain, it’s “Cabra.” Have fun! And check back here from time to time. As I uncover Spanish cheese recipes, I’ll share!