33 Pieces of Cheese Tasting Notebook

    Hi Cheese Lovers!

Welcome to my new cheesy obsession: The 33 Pieces of Cheese Tasting Notebook! I was browsing around on other cheese blogs and I came across someone who had blogged about these notebooks and given my occasional tendency to be a design nerd, I was immediately drawn to them! If you’re the type who loves good cheese and good design, these tasting books are for you!

33 Pieces of Cheese was developed by Dave Selden, who first created a Beer
Tasting notebook and has since expanded into cheese, whiskey, coffee and
more! Now, great design is nice, but a cheese tasting notebook would never get 2 thumbs up from me if it wasn’t useful, practical and highly functional!

Take another second to admire the exterior (printed on recycled heavy-weight kraft paper)… done? Ok, now on to the inside

Flip open the cover and find a well-designed, minimalistic and clear page, perfect for jotting down your notes on all of the cheeses you taste! There are various ways on each small page to record what you think about the cheesy-goodness you’re munching on! You are given spots to record the name, the dairy the cheese is made at, origin, rind type, price and the date you tasted on. There are also checkboxes for what type of milk the cheese is made from as well as stars to colour in based upon your rating, and a texture meter that lets you remember how soft or firm the cheese was. Jot down some quick notes on the few lines provided and then move on to my favourite part – the Flavour Wheel. The flavour wheel is what makes the 33 Pieces so amazing. The flavour wheel is a little circular graph with various flavour profiles encircling the border. To fill out the graph, look at each specific flavour profile and rate it on a scale of 1 through 5 (5 being the outer perimeter of the circle, where the flavour is most intense). Make a dot on where you think your cheese belongs for each flavour and then connect all the dots together – and there you have it, a unique graph for each cheese you taste!! Eventually you will get to recognize certain shapes and how they are associates with certain types of cheeses and flavours.

Now all that there is left to do is try 33 different cheeses to fill up my book – and then maybe buy the 33 Beers book and go for that, too!

If you’re interested in these great booklets, check out 33beers.com or keep your eyes on tasteofcheese.ca because as soon as we receive our shipment of books, they’ll be up for sale! Hoorah!

Good night and happy eating!

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Life on a Farm: Milking Sheep, Making Cheese. Part 2

My trip to the farm continued…

Thanks for coming back to read the second part of my blog post about my trip to La Moutonniere. Lets continue with day #3!!

Lucille, Straining fresh Ricotta!

Day 3:
I awoke again, super-early to head over to the Fromagerie to make cheese with Lucille. Today we were going to be finishing off the Ricotta started the night before and making the Fromagerie staple, Bleu de la Moutonniere! When I arrived at the plant, Lucille was busy preparing the milk for cheese making and the vat of ricotta was being rapidly heated. Once the vat reached the desired temperature and bubbled about for a little while, it was time to scoop it out and strain it. It was amazing to see the snow-white curd floating atop the vat of excess whey and it came out smelling warm and salty. We scooped away until the whole vat was emptied and the large cloth bags Lucille held open were full as could be!

Cutting Curd for Bleu de la Moutonniere!

Next up was making Bleu de la Moutonniere. This process started similarly to the day before. We waited for the milk to coagulate and once it was done so, the curd was cut. Then came the first change in cheese making. Today, the curd was cut into small cubes as opposed to tiny, uneven spheres. Making blue cheese requires a few changes from the firm cheese we had produced the day before. The curd is cut into larger cubes, then aerated on a large tray and finally packed loosely into moulds, in order to provide spaces where mould growth would be promoted. Once the whole vat had been dissected, I was privy to a new experiment. A new machine  was being test driven to pipe out the curd cubes, air them out along a conveyor belt and the plop them into waiting moulds. The experiment was mostly successful, however, a few required tweaks made us revert back to the hand-scooped method.

Scooping Curd into Moulds

We hauled out the huge amount of curd onto a cloth-covered table and then scooped the curd into moulds. Once we were done and cleaned I was given the task of turning and salting cheese that was residing in the aging cave. I took a tablespoon of salt and rubbed it all over each of the cheeses ready for a flip over! Once that was complete, all that was left was cleaning up!

Day 4:
On day 4 I worked on the farm with Al. There isn’t too much new information to report about the day other than that I got a bit more proficient at milking sheep! During my stay on the farm, I was waiting to see lambs birthed by any of the very pregnant sheep in the barn. Each morning and night we would check out the pen of ready-to-pop sheep and each time I was disappointed to find that no lambs had arrived. On day 4, I took to observing one sheep that seemed to be showing the signs of labour which Al told me to look out for, such as getting up to turn around, finding an isolated spot and not chewing on hay like the other sheep. Unfortunately the sheep didn’t appease me by popping out a lamb, and so I went to sleep knowing that I would be leaving the next morning and it would be my last chance to see a lamb being birthed.

Mama Sheep and Baby Lamb!

Day 5:
I awoke to the sun, bright and early and went down to the barn. To my excitement, Al let me know that the sheep I had been watching the day earlier really was about to give birth. He went over to the sheep to assist it along and before I knew it, a little lamb (which was admittedly kinda gross looking) had fallen out of the sheep – literally it fell out! Al took a look at the sheep and informed me another lamb was on the way. As Al went back to work, I stayed to watch and saw the sheep give birth to the second lamb all on its own!!! And so I felt my trip was complete.I had made 3 types of cheese, milked sheep, seen a sheep give birth.. what else could I ask for! And so, after saying Au Revoir I headed out on the road to drive the 7 hours home, ready to tell the story of my life on a farm to anyone who would listen!

Thanks to Al and Lucille for graciously hosting me and for really letting me get my hands dirty!

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Life on a Farm: Milking Sheep, Making Cheese. Part 1

La MoutonniereAs many of you may know, I love cheese. Recently, I went on a journey that marked a time of momentous learning and growth in my cheesy life. I spent the week at La Moutonniere, in Ste-Helene-de-Chester, Quebec, where I learned to make cheese, milk sheep and most importantly, survive without cell phone reception!! After a quick visit last fall, I knew this would be a great place for me to learn about making my favourite food!

Here is the story, in a few installments, of my adventure!!!

La Moutonniere is a fantastic Quebec Fromagerie that produces a number of sheep’s milk cheeses, all in their recently-built, state-of-the-art cheese-making plant! Owned and operated by Lucille Giroux and Alastair MacKenzie, this fromagerie is an intimate operation with lots of heart and great cheese. MacKenzie runs the farming operation while Giroux, oversees the cheesemaking. MacKenzie takes great care of their flock of sheep, ensuring production of milk of the highest quality. This rich, creamy white milk is then turned into award-winning cheese by Giroux and her cheese-making team! Check out their website: www.lamoutonniere.com

DAY 1:
I got in my car at about 10am on last Monday morning, drove to a near-by drugstore and stocked up on on-sale Easter chocolate, which would provide sustenance on my 7 hour drive to Victoriaville, QC. By dusk I had reached the town where Alastair Mackenzie, a co-owner of La Moutonniere, lives. Al had invited me to come spend time at the farm and fromagerie and would prove to be a fantastic host! We departed for the farm in Ste-Helene-de-Chester, and I followed behind Al’s car, the worry of losing him growing stronger as my cell phone signal grew weaker. Al, who hails from New Zealand, showed me into the cottage that sits on the farm property. I dropped my stuff and went to be introduced to the other residents of the farm: the sheep!The Barn

DAY 2:
My alarm went off at the unseemly time of 5:50am. I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag as fast as I could and dressed myself in my “farm clothes” and went out to meet Al in the barn. I started to size up my new sheepy acquaintances, and fed them some hay. Next up was feeding little baby lambs milk out of baby bottles. Though animals aren’t always my favourite, the small lambs were pretty cute!! Once the animals were fed, it was milking time. I was introduced to Al’s farm assistant, Joannie, and they showed me the ropes. This morning would be different than the rest. We were going to be testing the milk and grading their bodies and udders for quality. The sheep started to line up on the sides of the milking station and I touched my FIRST udders ever! It was very cool to watch the milking process and I started to help out in no time! The only uncool part? When one of my new friends peed on my hand – I was both grossed out and proud that I didn’t scream out loud! When all the sheep had been tested and milked, I went to take a shower. After lunch, we drove over to the cheese-making plant where I met Lucille, the jovial head cheesemaker at Moutonniere. Milking

That afternoon, I would get my first taste of cheese-making! I slipped into a white cotton uniform, big rubber boots, a hairnet and a plastic apron and joined Lucille and her assistant Martina in the cheese room. The room is clean and sterile, full of huge stainless steel vats, tables and contraptions. Lucille started to empty the pasteurized milk from the huge pasteurizing machine into the large, open vat in the middle of the room. I watched intently at she mixed up the rennet that would be added to the vat to help the milk to coagulate. I was shocked as to how little rennet was added to the large vat, which held dozens and dozens of litres of milk! We set a stopwatch and within an hour the liquid milk had become a gelatinous mass. The large vat of curd was cut into tiny pieces using mechanical and hand-held wires and then came the fun part. That afternoon we were making one of their famous cheeses, Fleur des Monts, and the curd needed to be transferred into the many waiting cylindrical moulds. The whey was strained out into other large vats, where it would later be turned into Ricotta, and we cut up the curds into big blocks and packed it into the moulds. It was hard work!! The moulds were then covered with a lid, tied up and put into a compression machine. I was fascinated by the squeaky little curds, and I couldn’t wait until they became whole cheeses! Next on the agenda was beginning the ricotta-making process. Lucille added salt and vinegar to the whey and left it to settle overnight. I was told that by the next morning, after the mixture was heated that ricotta would emerge out of the cloudy liquid. I couldn’t wait!Making Cheese

After all of the curds were used up, it was time to clean. The most important lesson that I learned that day was that cheesemaking seems to be about 35 percent making cheese, and 65 percent cleaning up!!! We cleaned, and scrubbed and sprayed stuff down for what seemed like hours. Finally, when all was spotless, we closed up shop for the night.

Phew!!! what a day! I headed back to the cottage on the farm and relaxed for the rest of the night so I would be ready to make Ricotta and Bleu de la Moutonniere the next day!


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A Trip to a Farm

Good Morning Cheese Lovers!

In less than an hour I depart on a week-long journey to learn how to make cheese! I will be driving to Ste-Helene de Chester, QC to spend a few days hanging out with Alastair MacKenzie and his team, working on the farm and learning to make cheese! Today I’ll travel about 8 hours to the small town where Alastair has graciously invited me to come and be put to work for the week.

I can’t wait to report back with pictures and stories all about it!

Have a fantastic Monday and check back for my tales of the farm!

– Stacey

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A Great Cheese Site!! curdnerds.com

I’ve been reading a great cheese blog that has links to everything you could imagine about cheese!! If you haven’t read www.curdnerds.com go and check it out. It has an excess of cheesiness and links to lots of other great places.

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