It’s official! I’ve completed the Cheesemaker Certification program through the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese, at the University of Vermont, Burlington. I took the first section last year, and completed the program last week.
I had hoped to continue on with the Advanced Cheesemaker Certification (the facility construction and business planning classes were of particular interest), but sadly, we learned from our teachers that, due to federal funding cuts, a change in focus, and other issues, the educational component of VIAC — which was born in 2004 — will be ending for the time being. The program at UVM will continue but will be focused on consulting with Vermont cheesemakers and will not be offering classes to the public. If you had visited the registration pages and wondered why the calendar ended in April, this is why.
This seems like a real loss, as VIAC is the only program of its kind on the East Coast; even nationwide, there are only a couple programs, in Wisconsin and California, that offered a comparable course list and expertise to non-enrolled students.
So yes, I’m popping the champaign for my new certificate! and pouring out a little for the end of the program. We’ll always have the vats…
A fun day at VIAC: Sensory Evaluation. The white vials contain a ricotta paste used to “Calibrate” your taste buds to certain levels of the listed qualities (eg Bitter, Sweet etc); the green vials contain blind smell samples which we had to sniff and identify (everything from caramel to cauliflower to cloves to hardboiled egg).
We were then given lessons in the evaluation of a cheese according 9 parameters: External Appearance, External Aroma, Aroma (Paste Odor), Visual Evaluation, Hand Evaluation, Flavor, Texture, Taste, Trigeminal Stimulations (Pungent, Astringent) and Aftertaste.
Finally, the day ended with a sample judging of cheeses according to the American Cheese Society methodology, in which two judges pair up, one taking on the Technical Judge role and the other the Aesthetic Judge role. It’s kind of a good cop/bad cop relationship actually, with the Technical Judge given jurisdiction over evaluating the negative traits of the cheeses (Off Aromas, Flavors, Defects in Texture, Body and Rind), while the Aesthetic Judge is in charge of the positive evaluations (the same categories, but whereas a Technical Judge might find an “unpleasantly earthy aroma”, the Aesthetic would judge it “pleasantly fruity”. The scores are then added together (after the Technical Judge has subtracted points for defects), and then compared against the other cheeses within the category to determine the winner.
That’s the short version anyways! I’ll be posting more in detail in the coming week about my experiences at VIAC, once I get home!
VIAC Chemistry Class, day 1, including samples of Jasper Hill cheeses courtesy of Matteo Kehler and the rest of the JH team who are attending the sessions.
Via the Scientific American podcast, news of proof for cheesemaking as early as 7,500 years ago:
What prehistoric genius first discovered how to transform milk into delicious cheese? We may never find out, but we now know that humans were purposefully making cheese as early as 7,500 years ago. The finding is in the journal Nature. [Mélanie Salque et al, Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe]
To make cheese, you first force milk to coagulate into curds. Then you strain off the liquid, called whey.
Modern cheese strainers bear a strong resemblance to the remains of 34 clay vessels recovered from Polish archaeological sites. But researchers did not know if the vessels might have also have served other purposes. The new study analyzed the residues on these unglazed pottery shards and found the remains of milk fat. Which proves that these containers were part of the cheese-making process more than 7,000 years ago.
“This is the smoking gun,” said Paul Kindstedt, a professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont and author of “Cheese and Culture.” He was not involved in the study.
“It’s almost inconceivable that the milk fat residues in the sieves were from anything else but cheese,” Kindstedt said, adding that many experts suspected cheese was being made in Turkey up to 2,000 years than this latest finding in Poland but that there was no definitive proof.
This looks to be a really interesting event. Dr. Paul Kindstedt was one of my instructors during my four-day class at VIAC and is an engaging and entertaining public speaker, as well as being someone who really knows his cheese history. Needless to say, if you haven’t bought his book yet, get to it!
9000 Years of Cheese: Fermenting Religion, Climate Change, and the Environment
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, New York, NY (Map)
“9000 Years of Cheese: Fermenting Religion, Climate Change, and the Environment”
with Paul Kindstedt
Thursday, May 31, 2012 | Tickets
6:30 pm Check-in and reception | 7:00 pm Lecture
$25 CHNY and MVMH Members | $22 CHNY and MVMH Senior & Student Members | $40 Non-Members and Guests
Weaving together archeology, anthropology, linguistics, and geography, Paul Kindstedt’s new book, Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Culture, shows how this extraordinary cultural comestible has influenced and enriched humankind. Paul’s lecture will focus on three factors that profoundly shaped the history of cheese: human spirituality, global climate change, and environmental degradation.
Cheese was part of the religious history of western civilization, starting in the Mesopotamian “cradle of civilization.” Yet climate changes and environmental degradation, already occurring in the 4th millennium BCE, pushed cheese making into new directions and set Europe on a track to become the cheese making powerhouse of the world. Cheese making’s rich and luscious history, from Neolithic cultures through ancient Rome, medieval Holland, and modern America, will be showcased in a reception featuring artisanal cheeses and cheese recipes.
Paul Kindstedt is a Professor of Food Science at the University of Vermont, and Co-Director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. Author, with the Vermont Cheese Council, of American Farmstead Cheese (2005), he is a nationally recognized expert on dairy chemistry, cheese science, and cheese making.
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden (Map)
417 East 61st Street (between 1st Avenue and York)
New York, New York 10065
Purchase tickets here.
Via the Tampa Bay Times, a story about the burgeoning artisan cheese movement in Florida — a state not often mentioned in the same breath as the dairy industry. Also, a mention of VIAC, at which the owner of Winter Park Dairy took classes before starting his creamery:
Winter Park Dairy may have been a pioneer in producing natural, raw milk artisan cheeses in Florida, but it is not the state’s only cheese producer. The artisan cheese movement that started in this country in the early 1980s with big names like Maytag Dairy Farms and goat-cheese pioneer Laura Chenel has hit the Sunshine State with a vengeance in the past few years. We recently visited three cheese producers that represent different styles, different animals’ milk and very different agendas.
Amarelo da Beira Baixa (translation: “Yellow cheese from the lower Beira”) is a Portuguese sheep and goat’s mixed milk semi-firm cheese. Unlike many Iberian cheeses, it is made using animal rennet rather than vegetable coagulants like those derived from thistle, and yet it still has a subtle bitterness in the flavor that one associates with those cheeses, which I found interesting.
With a semi-soft, creamy paste, mild in flavor and aroma, it has a slightly sour, yeasty flavor with a nice earthiness and nuttiness and only a hint of lanolin from the sheep’s milk. The sheep and goat seem to balance each other well, neither dominating the cheese and producing a mellow final result.
(By the way, if you’re wondering why I called it “thistle coagulant” when it’s often called “thistle rennet”: during my class at VIAC I was corrected on this, as apparently only Animal Rennet is labeled as such, the rest are coagulants of one kind or another which have just been short-handed to “rennet”.)
Purchased at Fairway Red Hook.
VIAC, Day 4, the last day of the four-day Essential’s class. Today’s focus was on Technical Analysis and lab practices, as well as lectures on Ripening and some cheese tasting! Plus, I received my certificate for the course. I’ll be coming back over the summer and fall to take the required classes to complete the full Cheesemaker Certification.
VIAC, Day 3. Yesterday was all about Gouda, Day 2 of Camembert, and some seriously fascinating lectures from Steven Funk, expert on Cultures and Rennet.
VIAC Day 2. Just a quickie post, once this is all over I’ll do more of an informative post with real descriptions…