by Kathy Biss
pub. Crowood Press, 2002
Paperback, 144 pages, £9.99
Cheese, glorious cheese! The title pretty much sums up what Biss' book is all about. From the would-be amateur cheese-maker to those with slightly more ambitious designs 'Practical Cheesemaking' provides an essential overview of everything the cheese-maker needs to know and understand about their craft... and a craft it certainly is.
After a brief Introduction, which includes a snippet on the history of cheese, Biss unravels the mystery of cheesemaking in some twelve chapters copiously illuminated with B&W photographs, line drawings and tables. The style is very factual, rather than chatty or fun, but is neatly laid out and well sign-posted in terms of identifying production stages and the science/craft of making cheese. It is a layout that should minimise reading several pages of text just to find that one point you remembered seeing somewhere in Chapter X.
The author discusses the sources of milk - Ayshire cows produce good cheesemaking milk while Channel Islands breeds are rather given the thumbs down; goat's milk, like ewes milk, gives a high cheese yield. You will also discover the secrets of adding rennet and other agents which can solidify the curd, the many record-keeping processes which the cheese-maker should keep, and the 'art' of pressing, storing, and grading your cheese as it matures. If you are seriously thinking about producing cheese on a commercial basis then the author covers off the various food, hygiene and waste disposal matters that are important. For example, whey is not allowed to be tipped into the normal sewage network - it can cause more oxygen deficiency than silage. Chapter 12 deals with some recipes for basic cheesemaking - Cheddar, Cheshire, Gouda, Caerphilly, White Wensleydale, Double Gloucester, Leicester and a Smallholder's basic cheese recipe.