The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice: An Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Homemade Artisan Cheese is a new book that represents a meeting of three great minds: Sasha Davies, author of The Guide to West Coast Cheese; David Bleckmann, avid (he would say “obsessed”) home cheesemaker and keeper of the blog The Joy of Home Cheesemaking; and Portland, Oregon based photographer Leela Cyd. Together, they have created an informative, gorgeously photographed book that will inspire you to take your home cheesemaking to the next level…or make a great gift for someone who enjoys experimenting in the kitchen.
At the heart of the book are recipes for a range of cheeses ranging from fresh ricotta to more challenging cheeses such as gouda and cheddar. The recipes are interspersed with inspiring interviews by a range of cheese professionals including Allison Hooper of Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Farm and French affineur Herve Mons. David Bleckmann, who created the cheese recipes featured in the book, was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk the ins and outs of home cheese making and the process of writing the recipes for the book. Warning: his enthusiasm is infectious!
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First, tell us how you got into making cheese in the first place?
I have always been fascinated by how food is made and love to take on the challenge of making something from scratch that one would normally buy at the grocery store Some of my past endeavors include making marshmallows, bacon, and birthday candles shaped a roman numeral ‘X’ for my wife’s thirtieth birthday. Over the years I worked my way through numerous culinary crafts such as brewing beer, preserving fruit, curing bacon, and roasting coffee. In 2009 my wife Caroline surprised me with a cheesemaking class, and I was hooked. Turning milk into cheese seems a magic process when you see it take place, and behind that magic is a lot of really interesting food science. I was compelled to learn all about the process. My goal was to write about home cheesemaking to try to explain what is going on in the milk and cheese when cheesemakers practice their art.
What was it like writing the recipes for this book? You must have been making cheese for months!
Creating and writing the recipes were a big challenge. In the span of four months I had to develop 16 recipes and make the cheeses enough times that we could photograph all of the stages of the make process, including aging which in most cases took nearly three months. It involved weekends preparing cheese at home followed by full days of photography. I am proud to say that nearly all of the photographs that accompany recipes were of cheese that I made for the project (we did have to use commercial cheese a few times). It would not have been possible without the support of my wife, Caroline, who put up with our kitchen being taken over weekend after weekend with vats of coagulating milk and curds draining in the sink.