Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Werner Troeder in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Werner Troeder
It's always interesting when folks move from one country to another with a totally different culture.  They find themselves missing certain aspects of the life they left behind and so they re-create those things for themselves.

This happened when the Troeders moved from Germany to Jamaica.  Cheese is nowhere near as important to Jamaicans, in general, as it is to Germans.  However, the Troeders managed to find good milk on the island and to learn cheese making in a very short time.  Now, they have the best of both worlds.

Werner Troeder entered the essay contest we held a few months ago.  His original essay included many pictures which we could not publish, because, for the competition, we had a limit of one.  Here is his original essay followed by a few questions he answered for us:

Cheesemaking in Jamaica
By Werner Troeder

My wife, Annemarie and I, with our adopted kids Amy and Marcus, have been living for a long time in Ocho Rios on the north coast of Jamaica. After almost 20 years of healthy bread baking, we have started this year with making cheese.

Werner, wife Annemarie and their kids, Amy and Marcus

Here in Jamaica you will find a lot of imported cheese in the hotels, restaurants and supermarkets.  So, it is no wonder that the cheeses are processed industrially, mostly from pasteurized milk.  Even Brie and Camembert have preservatives and taste the same.  I found, in a supermarket, a Three Cheeses Pizza full of chemicals and, amazingly, with artificial cheese (below).

On the internet, I ordered from New England Cheesemaking Supply the ingredients for making cheese.  In Germany I didn't eat cheese except something coming from the oven, baked with cheese on top or Anni's cheesecake.

As the milk in the supermarket is expensive, we looked for a milk farm.

Cows are going to milking

Not far from Ocho Rios, there are milk farms with cows where we asked to buy milk.

We got the head office phone number of UC Rusal, where I talked to the responsible Manager - Mrs. Holness.  She agreed and at the farm we got payment bank slips.  We started with 30 litres of milk (8 gallons).  We are now able to pick up warm milk, freshly milked.  The milk from Moneague has a nice flavor because of the good grass.

Back home, we started with Camembert, Anni's favorite and  Feta. We used culture and rennet and molds and recipes from New England Cheesemaking.

Camembert 5 weeks old

Two weeks later, we bought some milk and after a year of cheese making, we now buy 70 litres (18.5 gallons).

We tried two Mozzarella recipes, and the one with the microwave was easier to stretch and knead. We will try more later. Sorry about the mess behind, but I worked on the clean table beside.

The Feta came out nicely and we used it in the middle of burgers (Greek beefteki) and in lasagna and Greek salad with tomatoes & olives. We learned how to make brine. Then we did Brie and Gouda.

Gouda and Colby for breakfast

I even started and like eating cheese. As a diabetic, I should be careful about fat, but mild hard cheeses are delicious.

For bigger, hard cheeses, we use a gallon paint bucket sanitized, and cotton diapers for cheesecloth.

Provolone, oil rubbed, from heart molds and some leftover milk


For my office, I bought three square baskets with bottom holes for molding Taleggio and Feta.


Anni had the idea to put the Feta in red wine (below). The salty taste went after a week and the flavor and taste are delicious.

Feta in Rotwein

We also did some Baby Swiss, Asiago, Havarti and Romano (above), which will mature later.


The Agriculture Minister has called November the "Eat Jamaican Month." We are having success with cheese making, eating Jamaican cheese, and enjoying the help and quick support of New England Cheesemaking Supply.

More from Werner...

Colby at 5 weeks

How did you end up living in Jamaica?

My wife Annemarie and I lived in Essen, a city close to the Dutch border in Germany.   After the first holiday to Jamaica, (my wife, Anni had listened to a report on the radio about Jamaica), we bought a piece of land in 1989, and moved to Jamaica in 1994.  We adopted two Jamaican kids, had a bakery until 2011, and then started wine and cheese making.

Anni's cheesecake

Where are you getting your milk?

First, we started with 30 liters (8 gallons) of raw milk and we are now at 130 liters (34 gallons) per trip.  We get the milk from a farm in Moneague in Jamaica.

What kind of equipment are you using?

For Camembert and Brie, we use your Camembert and two of your Gouda molds and also two cut plastic containers (these are not too stable).  For the semi-soft and hard cheeses, we have gallon paint containers, square office paper holders and flower buckets.

To press the curds, we use filled paint containers and full gallon bottles, and for more weight, I use my exercise bike.  We try to make it easy because of the shipping cost of the presses.  Maybe later on I will build a proper press.

All the cheese is made in our kitchen, and we will change that to extra rooms later.  Our kids, Marcus and Amy will take that over soon, so we can enjoy our pension.

Mountain Cheese

How are you aging your cheese?

I have the cheeses in plastic containers, partly with a (hole/switch), and partly open with a cloth in two fridges.  I control the humidity by measuring in the fridge and I take the cheeses out to check and wash.  Today we will pick up 140 litres (37 gallons) of milk and process some Camembert, Brie, Feta, Tomme and Robiola.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Glass House Blue Cheese by Andy Cumberland

Glass House Blue at 4 weeks
Andy Cumberland has so many fingers in the "back to basics" pie that we can't keep track of them all- aquaponics, composting, sausage making, bread baking and cheese making, of course.  Check out his wide assortment of YouTube videos -

Of course, we're most interested in his cheese making skills, as he seems to be an endless source of new, creative recipes.  (Six months ago, we posted his recipe for Purple Onion Feta.)  He shares all kinds of information and recipes at his own "Group" for cheese makers which he created on the website, Brisbane Local Food.

Recently, Andy posted a video about making a blue cheese recipe he has perfected.*  He named his cheese after the Glass House Mountains in Queensland, Australia, north of Brisbane, where he lives.  He then sent us the written recipe below. 

(All the pictures in this article were taken by Andy who, in addition to everything else, sells his photography and teaches photography classes (click here)).

Glass House Mountains in the distance

Mount Coonowrin

Glass House Blue
By Andy Cumberland

Glass House Blue is “picante” due to the short aging period.  It’s quite mild and I’d say, “smooth or gentle” rather than sweet.  It will not over-whelm the palate which, unfortunately, a lot of blues tend to do to those not inducted into the stronger cheeses.   The texture is softer towards the centre, which I adore.

I know the photos show a huge amount of blue/green P. Roqueforti, but all that surface mould dies off in a few days when I wrap it in aluminium foil.  A mature cheese lover would age it for another month or three.  Maybe I’ll do that some time in the future, but right now my wife and I love the gentle taste too much.

The closest commercial cheese I can think of that is similar is called Blue Costello (which is, I think, a world wide one).  The taste is very similar but it's texture is even softer, which, unfortunately, tends toward the “gooey” when left to sit.

Glass House Blue at 2 weeks


·  4 litres of milk (or 2 gallons-ish)

·  1/4 tsp mesophilic culture

·  1/16 tsp penicillium roqueforti culture

·  1/4 tsp calcium chloride + 1/4 tsp liquid rennet diluted in 1 /4 cup non-chlorinated water

·  1 tsp or so of Kosher salt or cheese salt

Close-up at 4 weeks


·  Slowly warm the milk to 30C (86F)

·  Add both cultures.  Let sit for a few minutes and then stir in well.

·  Let sit for 1 hour (stir every so often).

·  Add the diluted calcium chloride and rennet. Stir well.

·  Let sit for 1 hour (or longer to get a clean break).

·  Cut the curd to about 1 cm (1/2 inch).

·  Stir well and let settle.

·  Take out excess whey until the curd is slightly exposed and then stir again.

·  Drain curd in a lined colander for 5 minutes.

·  Place curd into moulds.

·  Flip every 3 or 4 hours for 12 hours.  (Depending on your day/night timing, make sure you flip it once – 4 is the ideal.)

·  Rub with salt – make sure you cover every surface – top, bottom and sides.

·  Stab it all the way through with a metal skewer – 4 times vertically and 4 horizontally.

·  Let dry for a day at room temperature.

·  Place into a refrigerator at around 15C (60F).

·  I age to appearance.  It takes a few weeks (3 – 4) before the blue mould shows for me.  It tends to develop quickly after that.  Once I have a really good mould coverage, I wrap it in aluminum foil (to retard the surface mould) and leave it for another week or two.

·  To serve, remove from fridge 30 minutes prior.  When you cut it, the cheese should be soft-ish in the centre.  If not, try to get the chance to age the rest of the block for another week or so. (Good luck with that, the tasters tend to be very impatient!)

*Andy posted this You Tube video about his cheese: 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Controlling Humidity in Your Cheese "Cave"

Steve (Bear) Murtaugh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A couple of months ago, I mentioned in an e-mail to Steve Murtaugh that I think controlling humidity is the biggest challenge for home cheese makers.  Steve has been retired from managing government labs since 2010, so he decided to tackle that problem.  He had just read an article about how salt retains humidity and he thought that might be useful.

Within a very short amount of time, Steve conducted experiments which demonstrate that salt does, indeed, retain humidity in a cheese "cave."  I believe this is very important information for all of us and I'm sure you will join me in thanking Steve for this contribution to our body of cheese making knowledge.  It is an outstanding achievement.

An easy "no frills" low-tech solution for temperature and humidity control while aging cheeses.

By Steve Murtaugh

Making a saturated salt solution in a ratio of 1 tablespoon of table salt and approximately one teaspoon of water, and mixing until a "slushy snow" consistency; yields a stable humidity controller when used in conjunction with an equal amount of water. 
One acts as a humidity source while one acts to regulate the humidity.  The salt solution takes an initial 12 hours to stabilize.  This solution, alone, in a closed sandwich bag along with a hygrometer may be used in calibrating the hygrometer. The solution will yield a stable 75% RH in such a small environment.

After 5 days of extensive testing, and 1 month of periodic "real world" observation the following was determined:

Placing this salt solution and a water source inside a small cheese cave that fits in a crisper will yield a stable 78% RH at 55 degrees. The range will vary somewhat based on temperature.


Typical Measured Values were:
TEMP        RH
38 F         67%
42F          73%
50F          78%
71F          80%       

An 11 gallon cooler was also used, the salt solution was scaled up to ¼ cup salt with about a tablespoon of water and a corresponding sized cup of water. A stable 80% RH was maintained for 5 days at 71F.

Adding a 1 gallon jug of ice to this arrangement, lowered the temp from 71F ambient to 50F in less that an hour, after 24 hours the temp was 54F.  Throughout this period, the RH was stable at 65%, likely due to condensation along the surfaces of the ice supply.

Using a small tupperware cheese cave, with the salt solution, and water source; sealed and placed inside the empty cooler, then adding the 1 gallon ice jug to the cooler; results in a stable 78%RH in the cheese cave, the ice keeping the cave at approximately 50-55F for about 48 hours.

For those thinking "Oh heck, I just use a crumpled up, damp paper towel, and I do fine." I would point out that due to the variability of exactly how you crumple your paper towel and lay it in your cheese cave; you may end up with RH anywhere between 40 and 90+ %. The above, however, gives a fairly precise method, with minimal fuss or monitoring.

This is further info Steve sent me before his final conclusions:

Salt Generated Humidity

By Steve Murtaugh (from various sources)

When placed in an enclosed volume, salt solutions will (given enough time) generate a certain, predictable humidity. The undissolved salt will absorb water, while water will evaporate from the solution. At a constant temperature, these rates will be constant, and thus a constant humidity can be generated. There must be both saturated solution and undissolved salt present for this to work.

A saturated solution at a stable temperature and pressure has a fixed composition and a fixed vapor pressure. Thus, at constant temperature, no matter how much salt and how much water are present, the (RH) relative humidity that is produced is fixed, just as long as both the water and the solid phase are present. So, unless the water dries up, or the salt is made so wet that it liquefies, a predetermined humidity can be produced.

It is convenient for us that a solution of ordinary salt mixed with water (preferably distilled water) produces a predictable humidity over a wide range of temperatures. The humidity created, with ordinary salt (Sodium Chloride) and water, is 75.29% at an ideal temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the room is not critical for our purposes. For example, the RH is quite stable even with large variations: Salt solution at 59 degrees Fahrenheit will produce 75.61% RH and at 86 degrees Fahrenheit the RH is 75.09%.

Other salts can produce many different RH levels.

SALT BATH                   PUBLISHED RH AT 25°C
LITHIUM BROMIDE                  6.37%
LITHIUM CHLORIDE                11.30%
POTASSIUM ACETATE             22.51%
MAGNESIUM NITRATE           52.89%
SODIUM BROMIDE                  57.57%
POTASSIUM IODIDE                68.86%
SODIUM CHLORIDE                75.30%
POTASSIUM SULFATE             97.30%


The hygrometer must not get wet or be in contact with the salt solution, this will contaminate the reading and possibly damage the hygrometer.

It may take up to 12 hours for the humidity to stabilize.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kiara Sabiston (11) in Spencerville, Ontario, Canada

Our first Junior Spotlight!

Kiara Sabiston was the youngest entrant in our 35th Anniversary Essay Contest.  We were very surprised that an eleven year old could be as mature (and talented) as she is.  In case you missed her essay, here it is:

I'm being homeschooled so it's only natural that I learn some practical skills such as making cheese.

I love making cheese with my mom, but I enjoy other things as well such as feeding the goats, milking the goats, being with my goats, pretty much anything to do with goats ! I have made chevre, mozzarella, yogurt.

I have to say that my favorite cheese to eat is chevre with homemade bread and garden tomatoes, but my favorite cheese to make is mozzarella.  

It starts out as milk in a pot and in 30 minutes it turns into something you can stretch and play with, this is the only time that your mom can't tell you to not play with your food!

Before we started making homemade cheese I was never a big fan of cheese but now I love cheese!!

Bella and Nova
Chevre was the first cheese we ever made I'll admit that it wasn't perfect, but after a few more batches I have say it's near perfect:)

Cheese is one of the best thing's that ever happened to me, we are definitely going to make more next year I'll make sure of that ;)

Me and my mom want to try making hard cheeses next year.  Anybody who want's something fun to do should try cheese making.  Cheese making has not only changed my life but inspired my future.

I asked Kiara a few questions:

Do you live on a farm?

We live on 2 acres.  We have 8 goats, ducks, Jersey giant chickens, golden retrievers, cats.
What other interests do you have besides making cheese?

I like reading, sewing, skating, snow.
I love spring because that's when the baby goats arrive around here.
Also love bottle-feeding our baby goats.

What recipe are you using to make Mozzarella?

Ricki Carroll's 30 Minute Mozzarella out of the Homemade Cheese book by Janet Hurst. 

I'm making 30 minute mozzarella in the pictures. We like stretching it and folding it to form cheese strings.  Then we can pull the strings apart and put on pizza.  No shredding required:)

What kind of milk are you using?

Yes we are using our goats milk.

Do you have any advice for other young cheese makers?

I guess I would say... Cheese making is fun but if at first you don't succeed try try again...

Feeding Nova

Kiara had a series of pictures taken while she was making Mozzarella:

Rachel Chamberlain in Turlock, California

Rachel Chamberlain with her 6.5 lb gouda

We're fortunate that we have the opportunity to talk with many of you when you call to place your orders.  After Rachel Chamberlain called, she followed it up with a picture of her gouda.  She appeared to be so young, it seemed astonishing that she was making such fabulous cheese.

As it turned out, she was 20 years old and recently married.  I asked her a few questions and she sent a few more pictures:

How did you get started making your own cheese?

I grew up in southern California and wasn't around the farms, so I didn't know that cheese could be made at home!

We moved up to central California when I was 11, and being around all the agriculture slowly started getting us into the "from scratch" mindset.

About 3-4 years ago, my older sister found Ricki's website and decided that it would be fun to make our own mozzarella. We bought the kit, and after watching her make it, and eating it myself, I immediately wanted to make cheese too. But not just soft cheeses...the hard ones. The kind we would slice up at night and eat with apples and chocolate as a snack.

With this new passion, I began researching to see what I would need. Not too long later, with Ricki's book "Home Cheese Making" and her Basic Cheese Making Kit, I made my first hard cheese; Farmhouse Cheddar! (which actually didn't taste that good, but I had confidence that with time I would get the technique down better...)

Grandma's cow, Buttercup

What kind of milk are you using?

I got married this past summer, and my husband's grandparents have a bunch of cows. (some for meat, some for milk) We go up there often and help them on their land, butchering, etc. When we leave, grandma sends us home with lots of milk! :)

Rachel's gnocchi in brown butter sauce
(recipe for gnocchi - click here)

What are your other interests?

Cleaning, babysitting my adorable niece, and cooking/baking keep me quite busy. :P

Hobbies that I enjoy are typically linked to art. I LOVE drawing, making cards, baking desserts (and making them look pretty), playing the piano, and making cheese I look at as "art" too. Pretty much, I just like making things!! Other hobbies are things that get me out in the outdoors. I LOVE hiking, playing competitive sports with friends, harvesting from my parents garden, going on evening walks in the summer, biking with my husband....and I could go on and on. :)

Buttercup with her calf

Making ricotta with leftover whey

Rachel's pepperjack

Rachel's feta

Pictures of Rachel Making Colby
Rachel uses our recipe from "Home Cheese Making."