Cheese – A Near Perfect Food

Max

Interview with Max McCalman, Dean of Curriculum and Maitre Fromager of Artisanal Cheese

What cheeses are best during the summer months?
We are coming into a pretty good time of year for cheese. It’s unfortunate that people don’t eat as much cheese in the summer, because that is when a broader type of cheeses are really starting to show. The goat’s milk cheeses in particular are at their best in summertime because the animals have more to choose from to eat. They’re also cheeses that aren’t meant to age and keep for many months.

How are goats’ milk cheeses made?
Milk is saved from four milkings—an evening milking from day one, a morning and evening milking from day two and a morning milking from day three. Goats’ milk contains coagulants, which are then sped up with the addition of cultures and rennets. When the milk has coagulated, it turns into a spongy mass—the curds. These are then cut into little pieces, which allow the whey, or liquid part, to drain off easily. The curds are then put into perforated molds, so the whey continues to drain off. The young cheese is then gently removed from the mold and set out on shelves to dry. After a couple of weeks, the cheese is dusted with vegetable ash, which makes it a little less acidic and allows for even more beneficial mold to flourish. It also takes excess moisture out and puts flavor in.

What’s a good wine/cheese pairing for summer?
Pairing principles come down to a couple of things. A salty cheese will probably pair better with a sweeter or fruitier wine. That’s why dessert wines pair so well with cheese. They give them a balancing partner. Texture comes into play, too. The harder cheeses are more successful with a broader range of wine types.

Any tips on packing cheeses for outdoor dining?
Cheese should be kept out of sunlight, but kept cool. If you are having a picnic, put it in the cooler, but don’t put it down in the ice.  Then bring it up to room temperature before eating—it will taste better. Firmer cheeses are easier to transport. A brie-type of cheese in 90-degree weather is not going to be very pretty. That should be enjoyed indoors.