Have you ever been curious about how exactly cheese is made? It is, my friends, a true art form, as we learned Wednesday night at Edible Brooklyn‘s “How To Eat Cheese.”
About 150 cheese lovers gathered at the Brooklyn Brewery, eager to learn about everything cheese-related from some of NYC’s expert cheese makers. We got our hands on all sorts of tasty treats from the cheesemongers themselves, some of which had never been out of the vault! All about the cheese talks after the jump.
First to speak was Andrew Torrens, Senior Cheesemaker at Beecher’s Wine & Cheese. Torrens is a “biologist by trade” who was actually introduced to cheesemaking six years ago at a class at Murray’s Cheese.
From Torrens, we learned that cheese is made up of four things: milk, cultures or bacteria, rennet (an enzyme), and salt. Cheese can be made from any milk that contains enough protein, even pigs or human milk (ew!). Cow, goat or sheep cheese is the most common because their milk is the easiest to harvest and highest in protein. (And did you know, pasteurization was originally invented for wine, not milk?! Fresh milk from properly cared-for animals should never make you sick.)
We got to taste two different Vermont Cheddars, one was sweet and nutty (paired with a fruity Riesling wine), the other acidic and fresh-tasting, reminiscent of a cheese curd’s flavor.
Next up was Connor Pelcher of Murray’s Cheese, a shop that prides itself on being an industry leader in technology and food safety. We learned that there are two types of cheesemakers, the homestead cheesemakers and the affineur (which comes from the french for “finisher.”)
Homestead (or farmstead) cheesemakers supply the dairy and make the fresh cheese. Affineurs specialize in aging the cheese. Pelcher is an affineur who helps run Murray’s $3.5 million cheese caves located in Long Island City. These are not literal caves — they’re made from a limestone concrete and the temperature, humidity and light are strictly controlled using UV lights. The workers even mist the walls with distilled water to make sure the moisture levels are just right.
We got to sample different cheeses, the most exciting of which was a Tomme called “Project X” (now available at Murray’s) that had never been tasted by the public. This cheese was an experiment gone delicious, where Murray’s put cheese in the “crazy cave” (the one where they don’t strictly control the mold spores and let them party it up). The cheese produced has a delicious nutty flavor.
Closing the event was Chung Park, Owner of Pair Wine and Cheese. In his first-ever public speaking appearance, Park filled us in on what makes a wine and cheese pairing work. The key here resides in one word: balance. Creamy cheeses generally go well with some bubbly, Pinot Noir is great to pair with cheese to bring out fruitiness, and if a wine and cheese both hail from the same region, they will usually work well together.
Park almost started a cheesemaker throw-down because though Torrens and Pelcher both love wine and cheese, both actually prefer beer and cheese because beer more fully captures the flavor aspect. Who knew?