A Tale of Two Cheeses: Part 1

Reader Contribution by Mishelle Shepard

Cheese-making doesn’t really lend itself well to multi-tasking, but since I’m a modern American woman, I invariably try anyway, sometimes despite my best efforts.

I’m trying to become more conscious of this tendency, and with that awareness comes a true piece of perennial wisdom, expressed efficaciously in a Zen proverb: “A life lived in haste is lacking in value.”

Indeed! Even in Texas the pace isn’t slow anymore, and somehow the expectation is we should be proud of this. 

Cheese-making is teaching me a lot about life, and I’ll try to sum it up with two not-yet-proverbs: You can make it extremely complicated if you want, but it’s still pretty darn good when you keep it super simple. And the other: Mistakes can be magically delicious!

So, following are the two cheeses that brought me to these grandiose conclusions, and I’ve named them: The Faux Coulommiers and The Stinky Old Corse.

The improvised Coulommier mold.

According to the fascinating but out-of-print book The Cheeses and Wines of England and France (with notes on Irish Whiskey) by John Ehle, the Coulommiers is: “about the size of a Camembert and has the taste of a fresh Brie; it is, in fact, a small, fresh Brie, but less carefully made as a rule.”

Less carefully made, great, it sounded right up my alley! Except, I was unable to find the classic Coulommiers molds anywhere. Handy Hubby, being the great problem-solver that he is, again came to my rescue and crafted two molds according the general idea I read about, out of PVC pipe. The uniqueness of this mold is that you are able to have the typical reduction in mass as you would with a Brie or Camembert, but without having to flip the cheese as much for draining, which considerably reduces the risk of shattering the curds, which affects the consistency of the final product. 

I know I’m not the only one who has had messy and disappointing flipping issues with the mold-ripened cheeses, because in our advanced cheese workshop at the Homestead Heritage Ploughshare Institute in Waco, our teacher tried to demonstrate flipping a Munster with the same messy result, and another student had a quite a time getting his large fingers to maneuver the tiny Crottin molds.

So, while this recipe is for the more advanced cheese-maker, it has been tested by my clumsy self, and is absolutely delicious, even after being shattered!

Take 2 gallons whole raw milk, very fresh; heat slowly to 86 F, add 1/4 teaspoon mesophillic culture aroma B (or any meso culture) and 1/4 teaspoon Penicillium Camemberti, stir well and allow to ripen 30 minutes.

Add 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool unchlorinated water.

Once you get clean break, cut 1/2-inch columns, allow to rest 15 to 30 minutes.

Then gently scope the columns into two faux-Coulommiers molds, keep adding curds until the molds begin to overtop, then wait and wait until all the whey slowly drains out through your very thin grating or sushi mats. Leave them about 8 hours to drain, take off the extension and gently flip onto another grating or sushi mat and allow other side to drain several hours.

Depending on the temperature and humidity, it will take about a day before you can completely remove the mold, gently flip again, and sprinkle all sides with salt. Let age about six weeks at 50 F, 80-percent humidity. After white mold begins to grow on outside, flip daily until mold engulfs entire cheese, then wrap in cheese wrap to create the natural rind and continue to age, flipping regularly.

For the first draining, use sushi mats so the curds don’t smush through and flip using boards or something else solid and flat.

Ready to eat!

Coming next time, the stinky Old Corse!

  • Published on Mar 19, 2015
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