Keeping a Cheese Log

Confession: I am not good at keeping records and I hate paperwork. Amazing since I worked in various offices for many years and was responsible for various types of paperwork including filing and payroll. I even helped to run a successful plumbing and heating business out of my home at one time. Amazing since I am most definitely borderline ADD. (Attention Deficit Disorder) Although never diagnosed and labeled, I had to find my own way to handle classes in school growing up. I could not concentrate on what the teacher's were saying, so I would write notes, read a book or work ahead on something rather than listening to the teacher. I then would take my books home and figure it out for myself in my own time and in my own way. I made it through elementary school, junior high, high school and two years of college this way. I learn best with books to guide me and through trial and error. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and had a 4.0 average through the University of Alaska, so I guess I was doing something right.

I "confessed" all of the above simply to explain that keeping elaborate records is just not easy for me to do. Frankly, it's just not a priority either. I would rather be doing something "hands on" like making cheese for instance!

Which brings me to the point of this post. I made hard cheese for the last couple of years but did not keep records which is very important if one wants to be able to determine what circumstances create the very best cheese. I will be honest and tell you that I had some cheese that just did not turn out and got fed to the chickens. (The chickens loved it, but it just was not fit for human taste buds!) Hard cheese is one of those things where the conditions have to be duplicated exactly in order to get the same results every time. I like to say that it's art combined with science but the truth is, cheese making is mostly a science.

With this in mind, I needed a way that was simple to keep track of my cheese and the different variables that go into making each wheel. I try to do each one according to the recipe but sometimes things just happen and I don't get the temp just right or I heat the curds too quickly or too slowly, etc. Most of the wheels of hard cheese take an average of four hours to make. This does not mean that I have to stand there for four hours but the stages to complete the cooking of the curds takes that long. If I let the curds sit too long in the ripening state, I need to make a note of that. Or perhaps I cook the curds for a few minutes to long and I need to make a note of it, etc. Sometimes the results are good or even better than the original recipe and other times the results are fit for nothing more than to be fed to the chickens! In order to know what works and what does not work, records need to be kept. Included in these records can be additional information such as aging time. Some cheese is edible at two months but taste better at five months and develops a sharp flavor at nine or ten months. Notes on the aging process, the temps when aging, the humidity are all important pieces of information for future batches of cheese!

Since I need something simple and to the point, I came up with a little notebook and each page is designated for a wheel of cheese and given a number that corresponds with a sticker on each wheel. I can then make notes in my little notebook. Simple, too the point and works for me.


Jo said…
Those cheeses look delectable, even with the wax on! I made a hard cheese once, the farmhouse cheddar from Ricki Carroll's book. It looked like cheese and it felt like cheese. But I think I aged it too long, because when we tasted it, the bitter tang was just too strong. As you say, chicken food!
WeldrBrat said…
I'm so glad you put tags on this post!! I just may need to come back here for your advice, later on! Like you - I have trouble paying attention to the lectures, as well. And tend to fall asleep with certain books, too. The relaxing state can do such a number on me! But then - there are technical books that I have incredible trouble with absorbing - unless I'm in a totally quiet room. A reading comprehension disability is what they diagnosed after testing me in high school. It always helps if the passion is there. Comes much easier! That cheese looks gorgeous! And so does that effort you make with jumping off that cliff - the same one I fear!! LOL
Jo, sorry your hard cheese did not turn out. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to making hard cheese. I am addicted to it and just try to learn from the mistakes and keep on keeping on! Of course, when one has as much extra milk as I do at times, there's room for a few mistakes now and then! ;-)

WB.........I am so glad you posted and hope that you see this response. Thank you for your kind words. I enjoy reading your blog but have not been able to leave comments the last several days. I don't know what I am doing wrong, but I don't want you to think that I am not visiting! I just can't leave a message. I tried to find an email address for you so that I could tell you and couldn't find one listed.