BY MAX MCCALMAN AND DAVID GIBBONS
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
Mastering Cheese - Lessons for connoisseurship from a maître fromager
(Clarkson Potter) ISBN 978-0307406484 0307406482
If you buy gourmet cheese, make specialty cheese, eat fine cheeses, serve artisanal cheese, give gourmet cheese baskets or host gourmet cheese and wine parties, then Mastering Cheese is for you.
Max McCalman answers questions about cheesemaking, cheese nutrition, how to buy cheese and how to enjoy artisanal cheese in a cheese course, cheese plate or wine and cheese tasting.
Mastering Cheese helps you become a cheese connoisseur with 22 lessons. You will learn how to recognize a great cheese, how to buy it and how to coordinate the order and types of cheese in tastings. Max McCalman introduces you to dairy farmers, goat farmers, artisanal cheese makers and cheese shop owners.
You learn what is artisanal cheese (making local cheese from raw organic milk by hand using traditional recipes that reflect the terroir, or diet, of the animals).
Types of cheese
The 384-page cheese book is an educational, comprehensive and easy to understand cheese course in a reference book.
Chapters progress logically from cheese nutrition and history to cheesemaking, cheese flavors, cheese types and how to buy, store and taste cheese. Separate chapters focus on American cheese, Swiss cheeses, Spanish cheese, Italian cheese, French cheese, smelly cheese, aged cheddar cheese, blue cheese, goat's milk cheese and sheep's milk cheese.
Wine and cheese pairings
Each chapter of Mastering Cheese ends with a review of key points. Tasting Plate sections suggest wine and cheese tasting combinations and sequence recommendations, with tasting notes and score sheets.
Technical information is in sidebars, such as types of plant rennets (e.g., ficin, papain, bromelin and galium rerum). One Cheese Chemistry sidebar describes types of cultures. One Cheese Science sidebar provides evidence in favor of raw milk cheese.
Other sidebars identify different cheeses from different breeds of sheep, best beers that pair well with cheese and rules for matching wine and cheese. (Goat's milk cheeses, for example, are better with white wines.)
Color photos depict gourmet cheese, cheese makers, cheese ripening on shelves, cow, goat and sheep farmers, and mouth-watering cheese plates for gourmet cheese and wine pairings.
Appendix 1 of Mastering Cheese describes the French AOC appellation, the DOP in Italy and DO in Spain, which are coordinated with the European Union PDO. Examples include Brie de Melun, Grana Padano, Cabrales and Raclette du Valais.
In Appendix 2, Max McCalman lists top artisan and farmstead cheese producers in the United States, like Fraga Farm, in Sweet Home OR, which makes organic goat milk cheddar and Rogue Creamery, in Central Point OR, which makes Crater Lake Blue, Oregon Blue and other blue cheeses.
Appendix 3 lists festivals, such as the Seattle Cheese Festival, American cheese organizations, like the Vermont Cheese Council, U.S. Cheese Guilds, including the California Artisan Cheese Guild and cheese courses, like the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheeses. It also includes a list of cheese websites, cheese magazines, newsletters and films.
In Appendix 4, Max McCalman describes his recommendations for more than 300 fine cheeses around the world. They range from Aracena, a Spanish semisoft raw goat's milk cheese, with a washed rind, to Zamorano, a hard pressed sheep's milk cheese, similar to Manchego.
The chapter on how to buy cheese includes foods that pair well with cheeses for gourmet cheese and wine tastings. It includes breads (e.g., raisin walnut bread with blue cheese), jams and chutneys (e.g., tomato preserves with chevre cheese), fruit, vegetables, nuts and meats.
In the Champion Cheddars chapter of Mastering Cheese, Max McCalman discusses English Farmhouse Cheddar, noting that Montgomery's and Keen's are the two greatest farmhouse cheddars. He describes how the English Farmhouse cheddars are made, including starting cultures, how the cheese curds are milled and how long the cheddar is aged.
Max McCalman also describes other great British cheddars, including Westcombe and Isle of Mull cheese, as well as great American cheddar cheeses, such as Beecher's and Cabot Clothbound.
Understanding Real Cheese
- Chapter 1: Cheese is good—and good for you
- Chapter 2: A taste of cheese history
- Chapter 3: All about cheesemaking—the eight basic steps and beyond
- Chapter 4: Cheese flavor—what it is and where it comes from
- Chapter 5: Recognizing great cheese—how to taste, describe, assess and judge it
- Chapter 6: Around the barnyard—species and breeds
- Chapter 7: Raw milk and real cheese
Becoming a Connoisseur
- Chapter 8: A cheese farm visit—Connecticut's Cato Corner on the rise
- Chapter 9: Cheese for sale—everything you need to know about buying and taking it home
- Chapter 10: Cheese in restaurants—white linen, silver service and three stars
- Chapter 11: Foolproof logic and perfect progression—putting together cheese tastings
- Chapter 12: Wine and cheese—in search of those marriages made in heaven
- Chapter 13: Beer and cheese (beyond the plowman's lunch)
Great Artisan Cheeses of the World
- Chapter 14: Taking the world stage—America's artisans
- Chapter 15: "There is no Swiss cheese"—Switzerland's best
- Chapter 16: The cheeses of Iberia—rustic, real and ready
- Chapter 17: Italy—a bootful of great cheeses
- Chapter 18: Remembrance of things past—we'll always have France
- Chapter 19: Stunning stinkers
- Chapter 20: Champion cheddars
- Chapter 21: Miraculous moldies—singing (in praise of) the blues
- Chapter 22: Chevre by any other name (would taste as tart and fresh and creamy and ...)
- Appendix 1: Cheese appellations
- Appendix 2: U.S. artisan and farmstead cheese producers
- Appendix 3: Courses, conferences, conventions and organizations
- Appendix 4: An index to the fine cheeses of the world
Max McCalman is the maître fromager and dean of curriculum at the Artisanal Premium Cheese Center in New York City. He is also the author of The Cheese Plate and Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best.