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Step-by-step directions & photos for Making Nearly Every Type of Cheese"

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Posted 4/17/2016 7:56am by Merryl Winstein.

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME since my last blog. I've traveled to Denmark 3 times, living there for months at a time, and learned a lot more about cheesemaking there. I was in London and in France too, and saw, or should say, experienced cheese in an especially wonderful way.

Photos and adventures have been intertwined around the writing of my book on "how to make cheese" - which is in the editing stages at last. My advice to anyone writing a book - don't do it! It's always a much longer and more involved project than you could possibly anticipate, and I've gone through many stages of discouragement at the long job ahead.

However, now that I can finally just sit and read it I have to say - this book is good. I am getting excited about it. it's amazing to see the whole thing finally coming together. I am proud that there will be so much good information available to so many people.

As far as traveling, Denmark is an easy country to live in, for an American. For one thing, if you don't know Danish, you can get by on English, which most people there will speak. However, after awhile, it is a lot better to be able to make my way on my limited but always improving Danish, which I've been studying for over 2-1/2 years now.

The whole place is small and very systematic and organized, and for transportation, a bicycle suffices, along with trains and buses - you can bring your bike on those too. The basic food there - rugbrød (heavy rye bread), cheese, pickled herring, vegetables, is sturdy and easy to pack on a bicycle for a day of touring, studying or writing.

Summers are about 70F (20C) every day, and on those rare days that hit a broiling hot 78F, it makes the news because people can't even work due to heat. Coming from St. Louis in the Midwest, anything less than 100F (38C) in  summer is delightful! Except for swimming. Here we stay in the water all afternoon to cool off. But Danish swimming is someone jumping into the sea, swimming directly back to the shore, and saying "It's not that cold!" 

You could live on the beauty of the deep sapphire blue sky and towering clouds, the emerald green fields of growing grain, and the scent of harvested golden oats and wheat cooking on a hot day as you ride a bicycle on the endless flat roads, where motorists carefully watch for cyclists, and where the cyclist can get (and I have gotten) a $175 ticket for running a red light (on a small empty side street).

But those are all other stories. I have to go back to editing....

 

Posted 4/18/2015 11:09am by Merryl Winstein.

Hi Everyone,

I have been busy working on finishing my book on Cheesemaking. It's been a long 4 or 5 years working on it and the end is in sight. What a relief! Completing a book takes a lot longer than anyone would ever think.

Life also delays a book project. We have hosted 3 exchange students at our house (from Denmark, Rome, and Norway), seen our kids through a few graduations plus boyfriend and girlfriend upheavals, my mom's alzheimers taking a nosedive, emptying out her house, and also emptying out my house in preparation for finding a better location for teaching my Cheesemaking Classes. And that could be anywhere.

When I can come up for air, I again hit the computer and plug away a few more pages.

This summer when I return to Denmark again, my ability to communicate in Danish will be about 4000% better. That is, going from nearly nothing, it takes little improvement to be thousands of times better. I have at least memorized a large number of the verbs this year. So I can say a lot of sentences, as long as they aren't much longer than 2 or 3 words. Hopefully my enthusiasm will take the place of my boring conversational level.

Cheesemaking in Denmark is interesting. Danbo and other smeared rind cheeses such as traditional Havarti are king,. Smeared rind cheeses have a rich, unique flavor entirely absent from the kinds of cheeses we can buy in St. Louis, MO. The Havarti in our supermarkets is not smeared at all, but is completely plain, like butter, so it bears no resemblance to the firm, deeply flavored Havarti from its native land.

It's no wonder that I remembered tasting these kinds of cheese when I was a teenager. I'm still amazed to think of what my penpal told me this summer: "Did you know, Merryl, that my dad, being in the cheesemaking and creamery business all his life, would only allow us to serve the best cheeses at home, and he and my mom drove long distances to get them?" 

No wonder they made such a big impact on me. Those were the best of the artisan-type cheeses of the early 1970's, just before most of the Danish cheesemaking became consolidated and industrialized.

I feel lucky to have tasted those cheeses back then. The man who taught me last summer was very very pleased when I swore that some of the Danish artisan cheese, which is still made, was just the same, just as delectable, as what was made back then.

 

 

Posted 1/15/2015 4:10pm by Merryl Winstein.

MY CHEESEMAKING TRAINING

Some of the cheesemaking notions people have are truly absurd, but of course, who would know? Even now the information can be scarce and hard to find for most people. Misinformation printed in books and then repeated over and over on the internet adds to the confusion. I took a years to find out what to do, but you don't have to waste all that time searching, because I will teach you all I can.  I have made just about all the mistakes that can be made already, in the 22 years I have owned dairy goats, so I know what you are up against.

Of course you will be able to make good, tasty cheese once you see and get your hands into the correct cheesemaking methods and get your questions answered at my cheese making classes.

Here I’ve listed my formal cheesemaking training. I have learned so much from my generous cheesemaking teachers.

2009 Fall Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese
3 weeks of all-day classes including
Italian and Mediterranean Cheesemaking
Scamorza, Mozzarella, Kefalotyri, Manouri, etc.
and
Essential Principles & Practices

Quality and Chemistry of Milk
Cheese Chemistry Short Course
Starter Cultures Hygiene & Food Safety
Affinage Behind the Scenes
Basic Sensory Evaluation

June 2009 with Jim Wallace
Traditional Cheddar, Camembert, & Vacho Toscano

March 2010
Washed Rind Cheeses

with Gianna Ferguson & Tim Cogan from Ireland

Fall 2010 with Jim Wallace
Alpine Cheeses, Beaufort, Fontina

Fall 2010 Vermont Institute
French Alpine Cheeses, Comte, Abondance, and washed rind cheeses

April 2011 Vermont Institute
French Blue Cheeses

September 2011
Spanish Cheese, Manchego,
with Ric Canut

April 2012 Vermont Institute
Blue Cheeses, Affinage, Cheese Plant Construction

Summer 2012 with Peter Dixon
Affinage (Ripening), and touring Vermont cheese plants

July 2014 Danish Cheeses with Arne Fokdal
Danbo, Havarti, Maribo
Touring Danish artisan cheesemaking plants

Posted 3/19/2014 8:22am by Merryl Winstein.

My trip to Denmark is nearing, and just like counting the days until a baby is born, I'm checking off each day from the calendar.  I can hardly believe I am going back again after all these years.

I have many different people to visit, and I feel welcomed already.  I will have an apartment as my home base, and the country is small enough that anywhere is within a 3 hour bus or train ride of anywhere else, I've been told.  Bike paths line every street and highway and I intend to ride throughout the whole flat country.

The cheesemaker I'm going to learn from knows all the old traditional methods, and that's what I'm going to learn.  He is also expert on the current industrial methods - his job is in that field.  So we can discuss the changes too, that have happened over the years since about 1975.  I feel like I got in under the wire both on eating those cheeses made the old-time artisan way when I was there before, and on having the lucky opportunity to learn from this generous expert.

The Danish cheeses aren't sold here much, not in St. Louis, MO at least: danbo, samsøe, maribo (kneaded curds, whatever that means), Danish style havarti with the real smear coating (not the mild kind you buy plastic wrapped, even though that's from Arle, the Danish cheese conglomerate), and about 10 others. We are going to see all five of the newer artisan plants, and some industrial ones too.

I realized after talking to him last time, that in Denmark people don't need to learn cheesemaking to eat excellent cheese, because they can just buy it all the time, anywhere. 

Here in the USA you have to make cheese yourself if you want the very best flavors, unless you are lucky enough to live near a cheesemaker, or a market where it's sold.  There is more delicious high quality cheese being made and sold here all the time in the USA, but it's not everywhere.

AS they say in Danish, "Vi tales ved" (We will talk more by and by)

Posted 3/5/2014 10:36am by Merryl Winstein.

(March 5, 2014) Well, it's been a long time since I last blogged!  I have been writing my book on Cheese Making.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Describing every step of cheesemaking in a way that you the cheesemaker can easily understand - that's a huge project!  It's much more complex than the directions in my other book (Your Fertility Signals, Using them to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy Naturally - Smooth Stone Press).  Wow, I thought that one was hard to finish, but it took only 2 years.  My cheese making book?  Four years.
The other big news is I am going back to Denmark in summer 2014.  After all this time away!  I'm going on a long bike trip with my penpal, visiting friends, and working with a well-known Danish cheesemaker who is going to show me how to make all those great cheeses I ate there when I was a teenager. Using the old methods in the cheese vat.

Should I say I'm excited?  I eat, breathe, think and dream about my upcoming trip!  I have been learning Danish since autumn, and I hope to buy old cheesemaking books, which I will be able to read.
When I met with my penpal in the USA last October, she told me something amazing.  She said, "Were you aware that, since my father was in the cheesemaking industry since a child, he insisted that we have only the very best cheeses in our house, and my parents drove long distances to get them?"  Wow!  So, i was eating the very best Danish artisan cheeses of 1970 (before large-scale industrialization).  No wonder I was astounded by the flavors then, and can still remember them!

Well, back to the drawing board.  I mean, the computer screen.  It's a writing day.

 

Posted 10/5/2012 12:18pm by Merryl Winstein.

It's been 3 years since I wrote the last blog.  I have been writing so many things during that time, including constant revisions on the direction packet which you receive at my classes. 

During this time I have taken 12 different cheesmaking classes in Vermont, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, each class from 9am-5pm for 3 to 5 days apiece.  That's a lot of weeks of study (I also study all night), numerous plane fares, motel stays, and beautiful walks through new scenery, while my husband takes a turn at the home-front. 

I have had the pleasure and privilege of studying under 30 different expert cheesemakers from many states in the USA, also Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Quebec, and lately I have been studying Danish cheesemaking through contacts there.  Reading Danish is like listening to my great-grandmother speaking Yiddish long ago; I can "almost" understand it, but not quite all the way.  I am learning the value of Google Translate!

After all those years of struggling with incorrect cheesemaking information in popular magazines and books, supermarket pasteurized milk which cannot work, and the mistaken pitfalls of using needlepoint craft mats which won't drain, waxing the cheese (makes it sour) and just about all other types of mistakes that can be made, it is so peaceful and rewarding to be able to go into the kitchen, take a recipe I have just received, and successfully make delicious cheese that comes very close to the marvelous sample cheeses we are served at the classes at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese in Burlington Vermont (where I have taken so many classes). 

But I am constantly reminded that most of you have not had the opportunity to see expert after expert demonstrate things over and over until they become a simple beautiful pattern, one that is the same across the globe.  This is why I pay so much attention during classes, so that I can be sure to pick up the details that will be most important for your success, since you may only be attending one or two classes with me.

For example, the texture of the yogurt-like curd when it is right for cutting, is different for different cheeses.  This is one of the most crucial aspects of making a good tasting cheese, but it's important for someone to show you.  That's what I do -  I want you to feel it over and over and memorize the feeling in your hand so you can repeat that when you get home.   It is simply never a matter of "add the rennet and wait 45 minutes for a clean break."   Some cheeses are cut while the curd is as soft as soft pudding, and the "clean break" will be very soft too.  Others must be hard with whey covering the curd.  And there all are stages in between - each one correct for a particular type of cheese.

Another important texture I want you to learn and memorize is the texture of the curds when they are ready to drain from the whey.  To you, they may look like cottage cheese and separate into individual bits an hour or two before they are actually ready!  And the most common flavor problems in sour, homemade-tasting cheese stem from not understanding exactly what to feel, see, smell and taste when the curds are at the correct stage.  But just like all of cheesemaking, it's easy to do if someone shows you carefully the first time, so that you really understand it. 

In closing today, I don't agree that cheesemaking is a matter of trial and error, though many of you tell me that on the phone before the class.  In my experience, if the directions you have are wrong, and if you use supermarket pasteurized milk, you can try with all your might and nothing successful will come of it.  It's really easier to make cheese correctly, right from the start or after only a couple of tries, by watching someone carefully show you how.  Then when you do it your efforts will taste fantastic and store and ripen successfully.  You will feel proud and enjoy eating it, and will  impress yourself and your friends. 

However, don't count on your children being impressed.  Depends on the family - some kids will be excited about your cheese.  But my kids have explained that even though they know many other people like artisan cheese, they just aren't going to eat it, no hard feelings Mom, they just aren't.

Posted 11/9/2009 12:29pm by Merryl Winstein.

As a kid, I liked cheese a lot.  Those Kraft American Singles made the greatest crackling noise as the clear shiny cellophane peeled off, and the chewy rubbery feeling of teeth biting neatly through the slice was so satisfying.  I loved viewing the exact size and arrangement of my teeth in the bite shaped scallop.  And the completely uniform orangey yellowy color, it was intrigueing and captivating.

I felt very adventurous when Mom started bringing home white American cheese.  So we had four kinds of cheese at our house - both the golden and the white, then the circular brilliant orange Colby (and were you supposed to eat the red wax or not?), plus Velveeta.

Then I traveled to Denmark alone when I was 14, to join in an International Girl Scout Jamboree, and to be the house-guest of my Danish penpal (who knew pretty much English).  Although everyone there spoke an unintelligible language, and the signs and architecture were baffling, I somehow at least had enough sense and courtesy to eat exactly what my hosts ate, whether or not I knew what it was.

There were open faced sandwiches on thin flavorful dark rye bread, eaten with the knife in the right hand.  And toppings for these "smorrebrod" included anything new, or leftover from the last meal.  Including cheese.

Tilsit, Havarti, Esrom, Samsoe.  Fynbo, Elbo, Tybo, Moribo.  Every one of them strong and odorous - and, to my teenage surprise - utterly delicious!  I knew that I would NEVER have eaten such substances at home - but in a new setting, I found the wonder of real cheese.  None of it bore the slightest resemblance to the creamy insipid versions sold in local stores nowadays - the Havarti was strong, chunky and dark colored, the Tilsit almost sour.  I was shocked that I actually loved the strong smelly cheeses and craved them intensely. Once home again, I did find a shop which sold these Danish selections, but my family never shared my enthusiasm.

In a Canadian food co-op in the late 70's I found English style cheeses - stacks of them.  Cheshire, Wensleydale, Leicester, and every one of them different and delicious.

During that time I made some cheese, cobbling together barely existing descriptions into a guesswork method.  It tasted interesting and strange.  The first person I gave some to judged darkly, "You should not be giving that to anyone to eat!"

I haven't thought much about any of this till recently.  When I did get some goats in 1993, of course I wanted to make some of those wonderful cheeses I had loved in the past.  Turns out the one-day class I did find, omitted a lot of crucial information.  Like, how firm is the curd supposed to look and feel when it is ready to remove from the whey?  How could I know that the mush we viewed in the class was completely wrong, but was all that could be accomplished with the store bought milk used in the class?

Really, the first 12 years of cheesemaking were simply stumbling in the dark, in complete isolation, although somehow some amazing blue cheese came about, and the ricotta worked most of the time.  My sporadic attempts at cheesemaking were interspersed with dairying, raising my human babies, lack of time to concentrate, and not being able to understand the few recipes I could find.  And suddenly, a few years ago, the cheese started working, for no perceptible reason.  I think it's probably because my kids grew older and I could concentrate.

Meanwhile, I have become a competent herd manager for my goats, their milk tastes extra delicious, and I read all night (my "free time") about goat raising, cheesemaking, and historical references on both which tell how people do it pre-gizmo, pre-electricity, pre-refrigeration.......but for cheesemaking I was running into new roadblocks.  And the cheese problems I found were not addressed in any books I could find.

So I took a super two-day workshop from Jim Wallace in Massachusetts.  As everything he did made  more and more sense, I suddenly realized - I have been making cheese all these years without anyone ever showing me how.  Did I only manage to succeed because cheesemaking is so inherently easy and natural anyway?  Really, I wonder why I even kept trying all that time.   I have no answer.

Once at home I put into practice all he had taught.

And, on a roll, within a few more weeks, I landed in Vermont for three intensive weeks at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheesemaking (VIAC) (featured in Nov. 2009 Martha Stewart's Living magazine, page 12 and 160-169)  With a population of 500,000, Vermont leads the nation per capita in licensed cheesemakers (at least that's the claim I heard) - 45 of them so far, and quite a few new ones attending the classes I took were about to start up.  (So far there are about 10 such cheesemakers in Missouri, with a few more opening soon). The Vermont Department of Agriculture works cooperatively with VIAC to actively encourage people to open cheesemaking operations, to provide jobs, preserve the working rural landscape, while increasing revenue from product sales, and increased tourism.

VIAC fed us plates and plates of Vermont and other cheeses, all the best types that could be found, and fresh as could be since much of it was locally produced.  It was simply out of this world in quality and flavor, barely resembling the pallid versions shipped to St. Louis.  Then there were the wonderful classes.  The multi-day classes in cheese and milk chemistry, starter cultures, aging, sanitation and pathogens, demonstrations in the cheesemaking room by experts from other countries, unbiased scientific discussion and documentation of raw milk properties, myths exploded, questions answered.  My idea of heaven.

And here we are together, you the reader and me, an ordinary person who can, however, probably answer a few questions you have about cheesemaking.  So I hope you will take a class and find out how cheese is created.  It all starts with the same few ingredients - milk, some bacteria, rennet and salt, and usually that's all - and how does it turn into myriads of evocative satisfying flavors and textures?  You can find out.  You can make cheese yourself.  I will help show you how.

Meryl Winstein, Fall 2009