Cheesemonger, music journalist, and sportswriter: I hold a roving series of cheese tastings in NYC called The Joy of Cheese, and I work weekends at Bedford Cheese Shop.
My citing isn't from data, but an assumption.
Traditional rennet comes from the stomach of dairy animals (usually cows); veggie rennet typically comes from the root of thistle plants. I assume that most dairy farms have more dairy animals than they do acres of thistle plants. I could be wrong but this seems like a safe assumption.
That's good to know about VBC. I too prefer it to LC. I don't see VBC at the Trader Joe's in my 'hood. I really like the VBC Bonne Bouche
@WIAmada, as I discover more, I won't keep them a secret!
@pgym. Interesting. I didn't know that about Land O' Lakes et al. I wonder what gives? I'm certain that veggie rennet is a lot more expensive than traditional rennet and it usually imparts a distinctive roasted green vegetable flavor to the cheese. Perhaps there is a new type of Veggie rennet on the market.
Back to your question, usually a smaller production results in a higher caliber of cheese.
That might be a fluke. The optimal temperature for aging cheese is somewhere between 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit, which I imagine is quite a bit warmer than your home refrigerator.
I'm not quibbling with your results but they may be difficult to duplicate on a widespread basis.
Well the computer was dead, so greetings from my new machine! Fortunately the repair shop had a spiffy new model on sale and equally fortuitous a writing client who has owed me a ton of $$$$ dropped from the sky with a partial payment. OTOH, it's a pain introducing a new machine to my cyberlife. I never knew I had so many passwords in my life.
Anyway, thanks for the background information.
I don't know about Costco's cheeses, but since there is one in Manhattan I'll try to visit it before writing the next dispatch.
Very good advice!
Note to all, my computer went belly up this morning, and it's at the shop. Thus I won't be as quick as I'd like in responding to your comments for the next 24-48 hours, but keep 'em coming. I regard this as an important dialogue.
It's a tricky balance. As a journalist, I'm always eager to write about the newest latest stuff. The edge is always newsworthy and getting to these things to the public excites me and its what many of my editors at other outlets want. OTOH, writing for SE involves a more service oriented approach. I'm new to it, I've been doing Serious Cheese only since October, so my grasp of the style and tone isn't as secure. Like in most other matters, progress is a process of a few steps forward and a couple back. Appearances notwithstanding, I really do care about everyone getting as much out of their cheese as possible. As soon as we can SE will get a post up about more affordable cheese.
Hilarious perhaps, but that's my own approach. I don't make enough money to routinely purchase large quantities of the cheeses I write about, but when I do buy them to share with friends I buy small quantities: .18 of the Berkswell and .23 of the Monte Nebro in this instance. These cheeses have so much flavor that you don't need to gobble them to be satisfied.
The analogy to wine was intended in the information gathering process, but it does have value beyond that. I was curious about Bonny Doon, a California winemaker, whose bottles were a bit out of my price range, when I was shopping. Instead I bought a half bottle and enjoyed it immensely.
OTOH, I will put together a cheese on a budget article sometime soon. Part of what had daunted me in doing that was that in the last few years, I've been in supermarkets in NYC, Seattle, Suburban D.C., Dallas, Chicago, the quality of cheese in varied dramatically. I don't want to generalize too much and again leave people feeling left out in the cold.
My apologies again on the tone of the article. I am genuinely sorry it came off the way it did. I do this in the hopes of informing people about the wonderful world of cheese, not inflaming them about it. The back pages of Culture, the quarterly cheese magazine, has a index of recommended retailers around the country. In Alabama, they recommend Western Supermarkets (Mountain Brook) 2717 Culver Road.
@agtebo It's counterintuitive but true. I've read it in some books on cheese and am seeing it in stories about dairy.
The article that you're interested is forthcoming.
Not really. Cheesemakers aren't running to the supermarket and buying milk from the carton, they are taking it from animals on their farms. Factor in scale , and a whole slew of other factors and it becomes MUCH more expensive. But here's a sneak preview. The next column 01.25 will profile a leading cheesemaker, so rather than listen to me, a cheesemonger in NYC, let's hold off on the pricing discussion until we can hear from someone who actually makes cheese about expense and other vagaries of cheese.
Thanks everyone for the commentary! It’s always a delight to communicate with a passionate readership. I’ll try to address these as individually as possible.
@ George G. Thanks! And I agree the things done in the name of Fontina are a crime.
@Lorenzo. That’s a tricky question. It takes so much milk to make cheese--I’ve heard estimates of anywhere from six to twelve pounds of milk per pound of cheese--that there isn’t much small producer farmstead cheese that checks in at a bargain, especially if you’re looking to stay under $18/lb. There are some decent aged goudas like Marieke that check in around that price, but what I suggest is going into higher price bracket and buying less cheese. You might eat less, but enjoy it more.
@Docjowles. I agree. I wrote this in a hurry, and didn’t polish it as much as I should. With a little conscientious self-editing, the anecdote at the top could have been related with a lot more grace.
@Suburbanfoodie. True, there is a lot to learn but that shouldn’t discourage you, just take it a little at a time. When I was learning about wine, I first discovered that I liked Rioja, so I went to the wine shop and bought different Rioja each week for a month or two and then moved on to other Spanish reds. After a while I tried a Cotes du Rhone, and enjoyed it and spent a few months buying one Rhone Valley red after another once a week. And so on. You could do a parallel thing with cheese starting with cheddars or blues, or styles of Manchego or something like that.
@Seriousb. You belong. This is a community, not a clique. All input is appreciated.
@Bartonkt. Good Advice!! There is cheese sold at many farmer’s markets throughout the country and most of it is for less than it would cost at a specialty retailer.
@cb1414. Great! And it may please you to learn that cheese contains an enzyme that helps you metabolize fat faster.
@thatgrrl. Agree 100%.
@rbave. You might be surprised; these purveyors are increasingly prevalent, and many farmer’s markets have tables run by nearby dairy farmers.
@ex_snob. It’s an excellent idea and under consideration.
@JC46202. I’m not paid by the word either. I do it because I think that the more people are excited by what they eat the happier their lives will be. Hand crafted cheese can be a daunting and intimidating culinary subject. I’m trying to make it more accessible.
@AnthonyC. Indeed, investigating food should be fun.
Savvy retailers (and those are the kind that carry Vt. Shepherd) have been known to keep a few wheels in the cave so that they have some for after the season ends.
Thanks for all the wonderful feedback!
I just wanted to add that Culture Magazine, a quarterly publication dedicated to hand crafted cheeses both here and abroad, has a directory in the back of each issue detailing where to buy great cheese. There are literally hundreds of outlets all over the country. The magazine is on the web at www.culturecheesemag.com.
I'm big on steaming them for a coupla minutes, cutting them in half, then sauteing them in olive oil with shallots, a little maple syrup and a bit of lemon zest. It's a dumbing down on something Sara Jenkins does.
Thanks everyone! This response is nearly overwhelming!
@Jacob Estes: wax paper is always better. plastic wrap is okay only if changed frequently
@furlined, my bad it is the Ferry Cowgirl
@konar, the back of Culture magazine has a directory of great shops across the nation. They are proliferating at a delightfully rapid pace.
@lab2000 I have a column on how cheese is made up my sleeve but it won't be for a while. Just for the hey of it, I'll address the differences at thejoyofcheese.wordpress.com this weekend
@sternlight. I disagree on Reggianito, but I think the Grana Padana people have more at stake in discouraging its distribution. I think great Reggiano is in a class by itself. Parrano is an aged gouda that will be sweet and salty but in different proportions to the great Italian cheeses.
Again, thanks to everyone for the warm welcome, it's fantastic motivation for the next column.