Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cheddar's Problems Solved

You think you've got problems, what about Cheddar?

Cheese has so many potential problems that a whole book has been devoted to solving them, the straightforwardly titled, Cheese Problems Solved. Cheddar's own tricky issues take up just a chapter in this full-length book, but, as the world's most popular cheese type, it's mentioned throughout, in sections covering the typical composition of cows' milk, the various starter cultures used for cheesemaking, the processing variables that affect syneresis, etc. You know, typical problems.

Cheese Problems Solved
is no self-help book, and it certainly shouldn't be written off with a bewildered laugh as one of the oddest titles in 2007. What other book could you possibly consult to answer one of your 200 most pressing questions about cheese and the cheesemaking process? This is a serious and helpful reference manual for commercial cheese manufacturers who have their hands full, trying to make their young cheeses live up to their gustatory potential. This can be a daunting challenge. Just as no one can fully know how demanding childrearing can be until she has a little human of her own, few know all the work that goes into making a successful cheese for market.

Part of cheese's allure is its magic. Cheese mysteriously comes forth in a solid, tasty mass from a monochromatic liquid, and its list of ingredients are bafflingly short: milk, salt, rennet, and lactic acid bacteria. You can't help but marvel at how a cheese is born. Compare cheese with a Twinkie and its long list of unpronounceable and unfamiliar ingredients. It's no secret that scientists in labs produce unnatural foods like Twinkies. Cheese, on the other hand, seems elemental.

But there are scientists in labs working on cheese, too. As Woodhead Publishing points out in its description of Cheese Problems Solved, cheese "requires a significant amount of scientific knowledge to be produced successfully." So many things can go wrong with cheesemaking--low yields, worms & flies, bitter or soapy off-flavors, health hazards, sliminess and stickiness, slits and fissures--that dairy scientists have stepped in to figure out what cheesemakers can do to avoid these problems. It's not magic, then, but a grasp of science that increases a cheesemaker's chances of making a marketable cheese. The published and shared research of scientists guide cheesemakers when they are determining the ideal caesin to fat ratio in the milk, the temperature to heat and hold the milk, the time to add salt to the curds or the pressed cheese, etc. Cheesemaking is no simple thing.

And it seems like someone is having some urgent problems with his cheese. My copy of
Cheese Problems Solved was recalled by the library in South Dakota soon after I received it from Interlibrary Loan!


msdeemc said...

are there other books in the series? "Pasta Problems Solved"?

And I don't care what you say. Cheese IS magic.

Colin said...

Hi Diana,
I am a cousin of Stony. Just came to look at your blog to realize you are a cheese fanatic just like my cousin.