, I’ve held the idea of cheese making and those who do it in high regard.
Rising early, checking temperatures, cutting and stirring curd, flipping cheese. While it is repetitive and routine, the art is learned over years of practice and is never really a finished process. The maker is always learning.
The cheese maker does not necessarily have to know the science behind cheese making — although it helps. Through trial, error and folksy knowledge they learn the tricks of the trade. You might hear a cheese maker say any of the following.
“If a handful of curds nit together when lightly squeezed in my hand I know its ready to go into the mold.”
“If the fat floating on the top of the mass of curd sticks to the palm of my hand when I lightly push down on it, then the curd is ready to be cut.”
“If I don’t cut the curds to a relatively uniform shape the larger curds can hold pockets of moisture and the cheese will not drain properly.”
“Hand-ladling the curds into the mold gives it the texture I want in the finished cheese.”
“This time of year the milk is better for making this cheese so I only do it seasonally.”
And so on and so forth. I find this very intriguing. For me, knowing the scientific explanations is important, but the intimate knowledge of touching, smelling, seeing and tasting really interest me. This is how makers made cheese before we were enlightened by science.
The monger of course sells cheese that the maker made. There is one question that is always in the back of my mind when I get cheese from the maker.
“How do I get this to the customer in the best condition possible?”
Some secondary questions are important: “How will my customers like it best and would the cheese maker sell their cheese in its present condition?”
The monger should consider him or herself a representative for cheese but also representative for the maker as well. I don’t want to sell a cheese that is detrimental to the maker’s reputation.
That’s not to say that we don’t make mistakes. There have been times when I’ve had to apologize and make amends for the sake of both our reputations.
What it does mean is this: Show me a monger who cares what the maker thinks and I will show you a pretty good cheese shop.
If you’re looking for a good cheese shop, talk to the monger about the makers. You will begin to glean the mongers attitude toward and relationship with the maker pretty quickly. And in many cases this is as close to the maker as you will get.
Here are a few inside baseball (and stereotypical) comparisons of the maker and the monger.
• The maker made a small fortune in their previous job. The monger made enough to move out of their parent’s house.
• The monger writes descriptions. The cheese maker makes notes.
• The monger cuts the cheese. The maker washes it.
• The maker forms the rind. The monger tells people it’s okay to eat.
• The monger doesn’t have a favorite cheese. The maker makes their favorite cheese.
There’s a great relationship between maker and monger. If you like cheese and want to know more about this process from maker to monger, please joinSara Hoffmann, The Maker, and me, The Monger at Green Dirt Farm
at 3 p.m. on June 21 and 22 for everything you ever wanted to know about cheese.
The cost is $57.92, which includes a service fee.
From making to selling, find out what makes it so good from two people who really know. We will taste five great cheeses including several from Green Dirt Farm along with several great beverage pairings.
Get your ticketshere
Lincoln Broadbooks loves cheese. He is one of the first cheesemongers in the United States and Canada to become an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional. He is the manager and buyer for The Better Cheddar in Prairie Village. You can find him on Twitter @LincolnBbook and on Instagram @lincycheese.