We'll take you on a tour of the cheesemaking process at the renowned
in Point Reyes Station, California, (
), home of some of the most amazing hand-made cheeses in America.
How can anything that smells that bad taste that good? Turns out cheese is one of the oldest foodstuffs, dating back 12,000 years, from when humans first started domesticating animals. From tangy Cheddar to creamy Vacherin, cheese is created by fermenting milk from cows, goats, sheep, or even more exotic animals, including camels.
is an "artisanal" cheesemaker: the milk they use comes only from cows at the famous Strauss Family Organic Creamery. Founder
will join us in the Exploratorium's Webcast studito tell us how fine cheese is crafted, bring us some cheese to taste and show us the process by actually make some cheese during the Webcast presentation. In addition, Exploratorium biologist and teacher Karen Kalumuck will conduct live experiments in the studio to help us understand the mysterious molds that make cheese the flavorful substance we love.
The complex flavors of cheese will be the focus as we visit the
in Half Moon Bay (
), where the "cheese room" a special area where cheeses are cared for and aged for the enjoyment of diners-has been introduced. Cheese-room creator and executive chef
, a man with extensive knowledge and a passion for cheese, will take us through the intricacies of cheese, revealing the mysteries of cheese flavor and texture, what geography has to do with good cheese, and how to successfully pair cheese with wine and other foods. He'll bring along some of his favorite cheese recipes, and samples to share.
So hold your nose, sharpen your appetite (along with your curiosity), and come along as we delve into the ancient art and the fascinating science of cheese! You'll never look at that humble grilled-cheese sandwich the same way again.
It takes about ten pounds of cow's or goat's milk to make one pound of cheese. If you use richer sheep's milk, it only takes six pounds.
It takes twelve pounds of milk to make a two-pound wheel of Roquefort cheese but it must come from a special breed of sheep called the Lacaune.
The most important ingredient in cheese is milk, and good cheese does indeed require happy cows. Animals that are relaxed and well-fed produce more milk, and milk that is more flavorful.
Cows milked in the evening give milk that's generally higher in fat content (best for cheesemaking) than cows milked in the morning.
"Aftermath cheeses," a designation given to English farmhouse cheeses like Cheddar and Wiltshire, are made from milk that comes late in the breeding and lactating cycle of the cow, with a higher concentration of fat and protein and less water. By contrast, "very early milk," milk from the first week after a calf's birth, contains a high ratio of colostrum (also found in human milk during the first days of lactation) and doesn't work well for cheese.
There are eleven steps to making cheese: milking, souring (or acidification), renneting, stirring and cutting of the curds, preparing the curds (either by cooking or inoculating with mold or bacteria), draining (separating the curds from the whey), molding, pressing, salting, formation of rinds, and ripening or aging.
Remnants of cheese have been found in Egyptian tombs dating from the First Dynasty (c. 3000-2800 B.C.E.). Homer mentions cheese in the Iliad; it was an important trade commodity for both Greeks and Romans.
The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman and David Gibbons. New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2002.
Have a question for our guests? e-mail it to us at
and we'll do our best to get it answered on the air.