My family eats a lot of pressed cheeses – cheddar being their favorite, a washed rind tomme is mine. And while we can get Beecher’s cheddar (local but still somewhat dairy pool, not organic but they don’t use growth hormones, etc) I’ve tried several times to make tomme, monterey jack and cheddar.
In order to age cheese at a precise temperature you need a cheese cave and I’ve hijacked our mini wine fridge, bumping the temperature up or down as needed. At one point it was accidentally unplugged and the cheeses inside molded – now the wine bottles are also covered with mold.
Despite that, my first attempt at tomme came out fine but each successive batch has gotten more and more molded and I’ve ended up having to throw them out or split them open to feed to the chickens (minus the glass of pinot noir.)
It can take several gallons of milk to make just over a pound of pressed cheese depending on butterfat percentage, which can make it infinitely more expensive to make at home than to buy anything but the priciest artisan cheese (unless you have goats or cows.) I’ve been compromising by making soft cheese that doesn’t require aging. But while un-aged cheese is simple, inexpensive and nearly foolproof, it just lacks that character and ethereal eating experience that I crave.
I was bemoaning my cheese woes one day to a friend. Pav recently turned his closet cheese geek into The Washington Cheese Guild, a sorely needed online resource for fledgling home cheesemakers. Pav has used cheese as a means to embrace local dairy, cool science and amazing flavor.
To solve my dilemma, he set about creating a cheese that is simple to make but has a lot of flavor in a short amount of time. Pav’s post to follow…
In the meantime if you are looking for local cheese resources you can find some supplies both at Cellar Homebrew in Greenwood and Bob’s Homebrew Supply in the University District. If you are just starting out, I recommend making chevre or fromage blanc (chevre’s cow milk cousin), or feta. It’s definitely worth doing!