Cheese Making Book Reviews

    Cheese making books are plentiful and often very handy to have. Here I'll outline some of the ones I've read, the ideal audience/use, what I liked, what I didn't, and how to overcome some of those issues... perhaps with other books on the subject capable or "filling the gaps".

    A little side note from a non American cheese maker:


    If you have had similar experiences to me, then you'll find that many cheese making books are written from a distinctly American perspective. Don't get me wrong, America has many great cheese makers, and even some great artisinal cheese recipes. However, when you're learning, books written this way are often difficult for the amateur Aussie/international cheese maker when they're just starting out.

    There are a few complications that need to be addressed in this sort of situation:
    1. The most obvious problem with U.S. books is there's always the minor inconvenience of those pesky imperial units (some actually different to their european counterparts). C'mon people, metric is good. No fractions, metric is calculator and finger-counting-friendly... unless you've had an accident and are missing aforementioned fingers.
    2. Often the listed suppliers in U.S. centric books are (understandably, but often unhelpfully) all in the U.S. of A. Equipment may be fine to ship internationally (at some expense) but the cultures are an entirely different matter. Cultures are difficult to get in Australia intact because of the typically slow delivery times we experience from American shippers, and that summer/winter temperature shift of northern/southern hemisphere transit is terrible if the cultures are not being kept in refrigeration. It's for this reason I don't recommend that you import your cultures, and seek local alternatives.
    3. Using local cultures isn't always easy to do if you're running from an international recipe. Cultures often use different labelling conventions from one country to the next, which may not line up with what you get on yours. It's sometimes difficult to know for sure that your local cultures are both:
    • Actually the same/similar mix as the American (or other international) suppliers might offer, and...
    • Anything close to the strength/concentration/growth rates of the American counterparts, and are similar enough to use in the quoted amounts noted in the ingredients list. So some translation (and often calculations) are needed.

    Just keep that in mind when you're reading the reviews below.
    Home Cheese Making In Australia, 2nd Edition. Written By Valerie Pearson

    A nice diagram that explains the composition of milk very clearly.

    Image
    Valerie has really put in some thought into conveying a good deal of cheese making information in an effective manner. I really like this diagram (courtesy of Amazon's sample pages).

    However, there are places where the information could be made a lot more useful...

    Weighing the value of information, let's talk about scales...

    Kitchen scale quote part of the problem with this book.
    There's nothing incorrect about this quote, but specifying the type of scales needed would have been a big help. Most people won't have them. To help people getting one, I've included a picture of a suitable model in my "Cheese making FAQs" section. It also includes instructions on how to get around this lack of included quantities in cheese making recipes issue.

    Valerie, if you do read this, may I humbly ask that the 3rd edition includes a similar set of revisions? Also, some info on aging cheeses, (equipment, techniques, pros and cons) would be another worthwhile addition.

    Home Cheese Making In Australia, 2nd Edition. By Valerie Pearson

    There are many great books on cheese making. However,  I have started my cheese making book review page with this book because it suits Aussie cheese makers like myself. The simple reason is that those starting out will have a much easier time if they obtain both their recipes and cultures from the same source.... preferably local or at least, domestic to their country, wherever that may be.


    Back to this book...

    For those "Aussie (cheese making) battlers" out there who have been trying to find a good book on cheese making that actually lists Australian suppliers, resources, units of measurement, and references, then this is a good choice for you.

    Now firstly, I want to state that you can use this as an introductory book. However, absolute beginners are going to have to do a bit of work on their own to get started. None and I mean none of the recipes will tell you how much culture of any given type to add.

    <cue shock and disbelief here>

    Valerie the author, actually does this with your best interests in mind, because she understands that you might have a different culture strength to the ones she uses.

    However the cultures listed in her book are available from Green Living Australia since Valerie has some affiliation and runs their cheese making workshops. Before I delve into that rabbit hole, let's do a quick overview of the book at large....

    The book is well organized. It has 38 page, decent, but not overwhelming introductory section outlining the basics of cheese making. Then the book goes into 220 pages of cheese recipes. Starting from the simplest "fresh" cheeses, then moving into harder cheeses, "eye" cheeses like swiss, blue cheeses, brie/camembert, and even into washed rind varieties which are a bit more work. At the end there's the classic "Where to go from here?" and also several sections outlining potential general cheese making troubleshooting steps, glossary, resources, and index.

    Nothing particularly new for a cheese making book, but I do like:

    • There's a complete absence of imperial units. No gallons, quarts, oz, pounds.
    • Recipes are clearly written and easy to follow (once your culture amounts have been calculated.. I have an article about that on this site found here: Adding the right amount of culture.
    • Pictures are very handy to see whether "yours came out like it should".
    • It also outlines that some cheeses do grow "surface mould" more readily than others, and simply wiping it off with a clean cloth moistened with brine/vinegar is good enough to deal with it.
    • Nice range of recipes, easier at the front, more challenging at the back.

    The thing I feel could have been done better in the 2nd edition:

    Considering Valerie doesn't include any indication of how much culture to use in the recipes themselves, preparing beginners with a better guide to navigate this would have been a huge advantage. I feel this is the biggest hurdle to this book for beginners. No explicit detail regarding the solution is made.

    In fairness, Valerie explains why cultures vary from one batch to another, and the reader can understand that.

    The gist is as follows:

    So the manufacturers growing the cultures, use their equipment to figure out how "active" each batch is likely to be, then adjusts the amount supplied accordingly. Usually they provide a set amount that's enough to culture a specific milk quantity (like 1000L of milk). If the batch is less active, they simply supply more culture. If the batch is very active, you'll get less in the packet. Both will turn the same amount of milk into cheese, but amounts must be calculated on a case-by-case basis.

    She explains all this but only alludes to the solution somewhat vaguely on page 18. A simple example wouldn't have hurt. Also, suggesting that a kitchen scale with very accurate resolution (say 0.01g) is a requirement to use the recipes in this book would have been nice. However, that isn't explicitly mentioned, (and if it is, I didn't find it, and I humbly apologise). Many people have kitchen scales, but the common models will often round a reading to the nearest 1-2grams which is completely useless for cheese making needs.... unless you're making a lot of cheese and use larger quantities of cultures as a result. But let me be honest, that will be beyond your average home cheese maker's capacity/interest.

    All in all, once you get over the calculation issue, this book is a very handy reference that you can keep coming back to.

    If you're just starting out, feel free to use my guide on calculating culture quantities, and that will fill that pesky pothole left by this book, and it'll be relatively smooth sailing from there.

    Cost: At $35-50 (AUD), I'd say it's actually at the cheaper end l'd expect for this sort of book. I wouldn't recommend paying the upper end, as that's getting into hardback prices, and it's not a hard cover. I generally prefer hardbacks because it makes leaving it open as you make cheeses easier when you're washing your hands 30 times a day, it's nice to not leave whey stains all over your book because it keeps closing on you.

    It's cost is probably reflective of the smaller reader pool. So I'm going to give it 85%.

    Readability: 95%
    Information quality: 95%
    Ease of use: 80%
    Range of recipes: 90%

    Overall: 445/500 = 89%

    Who does this suit? Most cheese makers, (especially as a reference) but might intimidate a complete beginner. There are many books which cover a very similar range of cheeses, and even go beyond. I wouldn't expect you to find any truly exotic recipes in this book, but as an all-rounder it's very good.

    Mastering Basic Cheesemaking, by Gianaclis Caldwell

    While the number of cheese making books has gone up substantially in the last decade, it's still has a relatively small pool of authors and books. Gianaclis Caldwell is a professional cheese maker and one of the most famous authors in the cheese making book "scene".

    Gianclis' books, while few in number, cover a diverse range of cheese making topics. This one, "Mastering Basic Cheesemaking" is the beginner book, she also has one teaching people how to make and run a cheese making business, called (strangely enough) "The Small Scale Cheese Business". Other books deal with the running of your own dairy, called "The Small Scale Dairy", & "Wholistic Goat Care". Arguably the most popular of all, is her more advanced home cheese making book: "Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking". Chances are, if you search for "cheese making book" you'll find at least one of these in the top 10 results.

    Since you're likely to come across it as I did, here is my review....

    Back to Mastering Basic Cheesemaking...

    This is a true introductory cheese making book. It assumes no prior knowledge and seems to include complete recipes, including all quantities of cultures. You might be thinking, "phew!".

    Many other cheese books start with an introductory (theory) section that leads to the later recipe sections (I guess that's the practice section, but it's often a matter of "just pick the cheese you want to make"). There's nothing wrong with this approach. However, Gianaclis has put a bit of a twist on this approach.

    Ok, there's yet another introductory section which spans roughly 41 pages. Then it hits the recipes. I can guess that you're thinking, "How is that different?".

    Well it goes a little something like this:

    The theory is actually much more in depth... and the way that Gianaclis has done this in a mere 41 pages.... is that's it's not actually limited to 41 pages. Theory is literally found throughout the book, and it is merged into all the recipes as well.

    Wondering why?

    The book starts with the most simple cheeses and gradually gets you to the more complex and involved cheese recipes.

    In every recipe, it outlines how you make it, and the ingredients needed, but also what making this particular cheese might teach you, and how it differs from the cheeses that came earlier in the book.

    In short, the book is structured in such a way, that it actually expects you to make the recipes, one after the other in order, so you not only get practice making a wide variety of cheeses, you see, smell, feel, and taste the differences between them, try differing approaches to making cheeses, and get real experience with adjusting recipes.

    It's not like other books where you learn a little theory, and then treat it like your garden-variety of recipe book, this thing has you doing exercises, comparisons, and in a very real way, the book is the cheese making equivalent of a personal trainer... slowly building your skills, and cheese making strength like a real fitness program. Trust me, some cheeses will have you standing up for hours on end, stirring continuously for sometimes upwards of an hour, tweaking, adjusting, and maintaining temperatures, and the cleaning... oh the insane amount of cleaning! So a cheese making boot camp makes a lot of sense in some ways.

    Overall, the book is not huge. At a total just over 130 pages long. (Other sites say it's anywhere between 141, and 160 something pages... mine does not have that many pages, and I guess these are differing editions to my own). With the first 41 or so pages taken up in the "purely theoretical" section, that leaves roughly 90 for the rest. I'd honestly say 80 pages of those remaining 90 are in fact, recipes.  There are also a few full page photos to soften the informational bombardment too.

    If you're just reading the book, you can probably read through the entire book, cover to cover in under a few hours. However, that won't be as good as actually going through and making each cheese in turn. The book assumes you know everything from previous sections of the book, so it doesn't repeat the same pieces of information in each and every recipe. So I wouldn't encourage new cheese makers to simply skip to the recipe they like... although that might still actually work as a recipe for cheese, you're not going to learn everything as well doing things this way.

    I would highly recommend this book because it provides a solid foundation, gives you the vast majority of what beginners need to know, and it's also easy to understand.

    The cost of the book varies quite a bit, however somewhere around the $42-60 Australian seems to be the typical price range for this book. It's shorter than some, so some people will feel it's not such great value, especially if they want a huge selection of cheese recipes... but others will see that as a highly efficient (easy-to-read) way to cover the basics.

    My copy came in at $46, and is a soft cover. However, the pages are quite wide, so it sits open pretty well. However, I generally prefer the hard covers if I can find them.

    As far as price is concerned, I can see reasons to give it both high and somewhat lower scores. If you're a beginner who wants to get the information quickly, then I'd give the cost score 90%. If you're an intermediate or advanced cheese maker, then I'd honestly put it closer to 70% because of the lack of recipes and relatively high cost per recipe ratio.

    Readability: 100%. This is perhaps one of the best worded, efficient cheese making book that I've come across. It will especially appeal to people who are "time poor".

    Information quality: 95% This comes from someone who know what they're doing, and does it professionaly. However, I feel there's always room for improvement, and while I agree with almost everything in the book, there's a few things that my training and experience has taught me to do a little differently. But that's ok!

    Ease of use: 90% I think the complete recipes are great, and that the book can be used as a reference very easily once you've gone through it. Personally, I don't see many people making each cheese in turn, so I'm going to say it's somewhat unrealistically designed. Those committed enough to follow the steps from cover to cover, will obtain  a very solid understanding of, and experience with cheese making, and that afterall is the goal.

    Range of recipes: 90% Keeping in mind that this is for beginners. I think it's a nice range of cheeses and very good at going through the various types and offers an overview of the popular cheese making techniques. Are you going to get every type? Of course not. But that's not what this book is trying to do.

    Overall: 445-465/500 (89-93% depending on your view regarding price).

    I'll start the next book over the weekend, so stay safe and have fun!

    Ham.

    Mastering Basic Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell
    The bound hard copy of the book.

    After sales support on a book!

    Image

    Keep Calm & Make Cheese: The Beginners Guide To Cheese Making At Home, (Revision 2.3) By Gavin Webber.

    I know I was supposed to do Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking here, but this book literally landed on my doorstep today, and I've just spent the afternoon reading through it.

    This book is clearly designed to be delivered as an "e-book". If you buy the printed copy from Gavin's online store, just know that it is the kind of booklet that is in fact, printed on an office-quality colour printer on A4 sized paper, bound with a standard office binding machine. So while the information is still pretty darn good. It's nowhere near the polished, professionally photographed, professionally printed, and meticulously bound book that one might expect. That might matter to some of you, particularly if you're going to give it to someone as a gift. I'm less worried though, since I've paid people to literally write their recipes and notes down on whatever paper is at hand, so I'm somewhat less prone to literally judging a book by the cover.

    Gavin is another Aussie cheese maker. He and his partner run a business dedicated to offering cheese making, bread making, soap making, and home made cosmetics supplies, which can be found at:

    www.littlegreenworkshops.com

    Gavin also runs his own cheese making podcasts and blog. The site for those can be found at:

    www.littlegreencheese.com

    Now, Gavin may not be a professional cheese maker like other authors on this list, but what he lacks in "professional" experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm, (and YouTube videos) and he both views and writes things from a home cheese makers perspective. That's pretty handy if you're just starting out. The distinct lack of industry jargon greatly reduces confusion to beginners.

    At 91 pages long, the page count might seem light, but it is comparable to "Mastering Basic Cheesemaking" if you remove the full-page photos in Gianaclis' book. However, there's a lot of empty space in this book, so "Keep Calm and Make Cheese" is a noticeably lighter read as far as the theory goes, but there is a wider, and somewhat more interesting range of cheese recipes to try. This is understandable, Gianaclis intended to write multiple books to cover the spectrum of cheese recipes, while Gavin wrote this as an "introductory stand-alone guide".

    I'd also say that while the 26 pages of introductory theory are enough to get people started, there's still a lot left that could be included. Clearly, this book's goals are to get you making cheese as fast and trouble free as possible. If Gianaclis was trying to get you to do a multiple-month-long boot camp with "Mastering Basic Cheesemaking", this book is much more like a weekend "crash course" with the explicit goal of getting your hands making cheese A.S.A.P.

    Like the other books, the simplest cheeses are listed at the front with the more difficult/involved cheeses in the back. No surprises there. There may be fewer recipes overall, but the suggested "additives" such as dried herbs, pepper, chilli, and wine demonstrate extra possibilities that you can do with each recipe.

    The recipes are complete as far as ingredients are concerned. No need for calculations of cultures. Temperatures include both Celsius and Fahrenheit.. however volume quantities are in metric and cups. You won't find quarts, or pints or other imperial units listed in the book. So if you're from far-off lands who haven't come to the dark-side/enlightened side of metric's lazy/easy calculations...  you're going to need to convert those volumes into quarts on your own. I'll send my feedback to Gavin and see if he'll kindly add that in future revisions.

    Multimedia? In a book?

    The thing that really separates Gavin's book from the others is the 23 YouTube videos that are linked via QR codes in the book. If you have the hard copy, you'll need to install a QR code reader app on your phone/tablet in order to take advantage of them, as the direct links are not provided in text form. If you have the e-book edition, you may well just "click" on the QR code and be taken straight to the relevant video. Since I don't have the electronic edition, I can't test that theory.

    Post review update: Gavin has responded and says that the e-book does include clickable links.

    You shouldn't underestimate the value these videos bring. They give you an on-demand instructional cooking video which takes you through an entire process or cheese recipe step by step. Ok, so while the book isn't as professionally printed, and the photos are nowhere near the size of a full page, the videos tell you the story in far more detail than a photo ever could.

    Please note that while there are many recipes with a video, there are some that do not. So don't assume you can just run off YouTube for everything.

    The things I like:
    • It's a short book that lays out the basics and gets you started quickly.
    • The addition of YouTube videos is amazing for beginners.
    • Both Celsius/Fahrenheit temperatures are provided, and metric volume measurements make things easy for Aussies/metric lovers.
    • Recipes suggest cultures/sources that are available in Australia.
    • Nice variety of cheeses, some outside the norm of a beginner's book. This makes it a useful reference.
    • Encourages the use of pre-existing kitchen equipment that you already have, or how to obtain equipment cheaply.

    Things that could be improved:
    • If true international use is the goal, adding imperial volume measurements would be an advantage.
    • Useful information like the flocculation method is way up the back after the recipes... I feel it should have been moved to the start of the book.
    • I'd like to see easier access to the YouTube videos for people who don't use a smart phone, or have a clue what a QR code is, especially for people who own the hard copy.
    • I'd like to see the estimated time taken, and expected yield of cheese (given the provided quantities of ingredients) to be included in all the recipes. It would just help beginners to plan out their cheese making more effectively.

    Quantitative Analysis:


    Cost: $17 (e-book) $25.50 (printed) puts it at the cheapest cheese making book I've seen to date. However, the overall hard copy edition is not, strictly speaking, professionally done. I'd give it 65% but I'm adding 15% for the (free) videos. 80%

    Readability: Starting at 80% The short page count helps here. From an information perspective, I feel it's basic, and may not satisfy everyone, but it's a good beginner reference. No major challenges in reading it cover to cover whatsoever, but there are some minor quirks in the overall organisation of the book where there were parts that might have been useful before the recipe section. Videos are a huge help for those who don't like reading, I'm adding 10% here. Total for readability: 90%

    Information Quality: 85%. I feel the book is aimed at a basic level, but it is sufficient for the task. Like most beginner books, I feel that there are some omissions that might have made things easier for the reader, but there's nothing misleading or wrong per se.

    Going through my own cheese making notes, I've made a few successful cheeses with extremely similar recipes from other sources. (temp difference of 2 degrees, slightly different pressing weight) I'm very confident that the information is solid.

    Ease of Use:
    From a cheese making perspective, I'd say that the book is a solid 95%. However, the requirement for people to have smart phones, and QR code reading apps for the printed edition is an assumption that won't apply to the technologically limited. Yes I know I'm being pedantic, but in my cheese making course, the average age was 74, and many of them were using phones with small screens and actual buttons. I'd really like to see a non-QR link for each video in the book. (Perhaps one simple link in the printed book, linking to a page on Gavin's web site, then each clickable link should be listed from there?) I'm deducting 5%, so the final score on this is 90%.

    Range of Recipes: I've talked about the number of recipes in other books, but Gavin has done something a bit different here. He's skipped a few recipes, so the raw number is lower, I think I'd be giving it roughly 75% all else being equal... but I feel that the suggestion of additives, and the more interesting varieties of included cheeses should warrant a bit extra because they're more inspiring than some of the other books. I'm going to give it an additional 5% for the suggested additives, and another 5% for the marinaded "drunken cheese" which if you ever make it, goes amazingly well inside home made ravioli. Total score here, 85%.


    Overall score for the book: 430/500 = 86%

    Another post-review update:

    I'm very impressed by an email that just came in. It seems the Fetta recipe in this book is a bit too salty for some. So Gavin has kindly updated the recipe and sent it to everyone who has purchased his book. I really like the ongoing committment to existing customers.

    Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, by Gianaclis Caldwell

    Honestly, no cheese making book review page would be complete without this seemingly cornerstone book. However, I am taking my time with this review because it really is very different from most of the other cheese making books that I've come across.

    If you're impatient:

    This book is for people who want to take their cheese making to the next level. Sooner or later, you're going to want to read this book if you keep doing cheese making. If that sounds like you, get it.

    At the time of writing this article, there aren't many books for home cheese making enthusiasts that delve into this level of detail, and are so easily accessible/readable. Having said that, Book Depository seems to have run out of copies as I write now in June 2020.

    Any semi-serious cheese maker will benefit from adding this book to their library, but you don't need to start your cheese making journey with it, as there are many books that will help you to get great results with far less effort in the beginning. Avoiding complications on the outset is important because it will help you to figure out whether cheese making is something you want to get into, and give it a fair chance by encouraging you at the beginning. Once you've done practiced with a few varieties and eaten them, then you can come back to this book.

    If you're more patient... please enjoy a more detailed review. I'd recommend getting a snack/beverage.

    If I had to put it into a category, I'd say that this would fall into the intermediate level of cheesemaking. You could use this as a beginner book, but I think it'd scare many off before some people finished the book. However if you're a "power user" or just really interested, then you may find that it goes the other way and it inspires an insatiable thirst for more information.

    This book is not specifically aimed for beginners, especially if you intend to read it cover-to-cover and don't like science. Because it will scare the unprepared off in chapter 1. However there's more to this story.

    Chapter one might seem like it drops readers into the "deep end". It talks about the composition of milk, curds, whey, and of course, cheese. The chapter discusses enzymes, salts, proteins, fat globules, protein networks, bacteria, moulds, yeasts, acidity levels, amino acids, throw in some greek letters in there for fun, multiple ways of classifying cultures, lots of latin names like "Lactobacillus Lactus, ssp. Lactis" ... and that's just in 30 pages. Suddenly I can see how many people might visibly flinch from this text.

    But it's not that bad! Let me explain...

    In fact, it's ok if you don't understand it all. Gianaclis even directs people to other parts of the book should it all prove "too much". What she's trying to do, is give you the overview of the science. Once you start putting the other chapters together with this general framework, it starts to come together. So I find that this book really does work best when you take your time to read, ponder the concepts, review it, make and taste the cheeses.

    Every time I read this book, I learn a bit more, and it really is surprising how much stuff ends up "rattling around in the head" afterwards. It's well written, and while it isn't an easy goal to cover so much in one book and convey it effectively to people who may not have a technical background, it explains things very well.

    Why is chapter one so hard?

    Gianaclis has already made the beginner book (reviewed above) being freed from starting again "from scratch" in this book, she has really dug into the mechanics of cheese making. She isn't just giving you recipes to follow in this book, but providing the tools to go your own way, understand why the recipes are done in a particular way, and then adjust recipes from others.. or even make your own recipes. It really lays out the foundation for you to understand exactly what you're trying to do. I'm not going to lie, there's a lot of stuff to know, and I don't think you'll ever stop learning in this hobby, but this book takes you much further than many others and empowers you to diverge from simply following recipes.

    How much theory is there, and does it get any easier?


    Where most books have 30-40 pages of introductory material, then go into recipes, this book does not do that.

    Don't worry, there's six chapters over 125 pages dedicated to cheese making theory, and the seventh chapter is more about identifying rather than making cheeses. Then Gianaclis has done her signature move of "lets incorporate more theory and the cheese-specific theory/tips/lessons learned" in the recipe and appendices sections too.

    However, I think chapter one is the hard part, then the book goes a bit easier on the reader, breaking the aspects of cheese making down into detailed, but not overwhelming sections. It's not all academic, it includes things like:
    • choosing the right milks,
    • setting up a cheese making area, and of course,
    • differing ways to make cheeses using basic gear that you probably already have in your kitchen, and then goes into some detail about the benefits of using increasingly expensive equipment.

    Perhaps one of the best things in the book is chapter 7, and it is titled "Getting to know the family". After the initial hit of science found in chapters 1-3, it almost seems friendly. I think this is one of the most iconic sections of this cheese book. It really is the "family tree of cheeses", and fantastic as far as figuring out which direction you want to go in your cheese making.

    Remember that many cheeses created by region not country... so there are lot of similar cheeses with differing names, so you can often easily make an Italian style cheese, with the same ingredients as a Swiss style. Or if you're a blue cheese fan, there's Italian "Gorgonzola", British "Stilton", French "Bleu d'Auvergne", Danish "Castello" and many other directions you can go. Simply changing the ratio of the ingredients, the temperatures and cook/pressing/aging processes, you can end up aiming for one cheese, and getting another... or if your culture is a little slow, or you have run out of one culture, you can adjust by making intentional changes to the process.


    Half and half anyone?

    At over 330 pages total, 135 pages of theory before, the first recipe plus dozens of pages of cheese specific theory within the various cheese recipes makes this book the first half-theory, half recipe cheese making book I've owned. In fact, including the appendices, suggested resources, and glossary, the theory probably outweighs the recipes. 

    Overall, Gianaclis has gone way above and beyond that of many other introductory cheese making books. However, I feel that there are still gaps, and the occasional lack of consistency. It may seem like I'm holding this book to a higher standard than the others... because I am. It set a higher bar for itself, and I'm just asking: "Does it achieve the goals it clearly intends to?".

    Throughout most of the book, Gianaclis has gone to great lengths to provide both imperial and metric measurements. However, when it comes to some recipes in the hard cheeses section. There are odd lapses in the provision of metric measurements. (Remove 2 quarts or 15-18% of the whey.. which neither are particularly intuitive mid-make). If you're making several cheeses at once, simply following her recipe and use metric, then come across this jarring extra calculation you don't have time for... that can be a real problem. It's this sort of thing that encourages people like me to "wing it", or use "best-guesstimation" (guaranteed to be within 50%... plus or minus). Which is not what Gianaclis is hoping to inspire in budding cheese makers.

    While I realise Gianaclis is trying to get the reader to go their own way, and learn from experience, there's a couple of things here and there, which are mentioned in passing that could stand to be a little less shy on the details. I can see why she has done this. Often it occurs where there's a lot of factors to involved. Nonetheless, a few guidelines assuming "all else being equal" would have been a huge help.

    One prime example is:

    Gianaclis touches on things like "the bigger you make your wheel of cheese, the longer it will take to age properly". It is absolutely true. However, no guidance on this is given. Gianaclis doesn't discuss the size of the mould/basket she used in the recipes, so it's hard to guage whether she's making a batch small wheels, or a handful of somewhat larger ones, or one super massive wheel. So there's no reference point to start from.

    Going further....

    If everything else is kept the same, will making a wheel that is twice the size, require twice as long to age? Obviously this will change from one cheese type to another, the surface area of the wheel... relative to the volume of the cheese, moisture contents, aging temperatures, and of course, the potency of the reactions still working in the cheese. Other factors include taste preferences for young versus vintage cheeses. So I get why Gianaclis didn't open that particular "can of worms". But I think it could have been done with a base wheel size, expected aging times (young, medium, or vintage), and some general guidelines for increasing and decreasing wheel size, and how to handle them.


    pH references everywhere:

    Gianaclis does say that a pH meter isn't necessary to make cheese. However, she emphasizes the value of using pH as a guide to making cheese both well and reliably. However, if you don't have a good pH meter for your cheese making, you're going to start wondering about whether or not you can stretch your budget to one after reading this book. However if you're reading this book, then you might be at the stage it will actually be of help. Remember, Swiss cheese needs to have the curds drained at 6.3-6.5 pH. Cheddar a slightly more acidic 6.0-6.2. Which is probably why my Swiss style cheeses keep ending up like Cheddar. These things happen because I don't have a pH meter..... yet.

    Like many, I've looked at the "cheap" ($30-$200) pH meters, but they're often highly inaccurate, or don't last very long. Using pH strips is of negligible use... because I can't necessarily distinguish between the subtle shades that might separate a pH of 5.4 and 4.9. In fact depending on the light in the room and the time of day.. I've occasionally misinterpreted the colour by as much as 1.5-2 pH values (say 4.6 Vs 6.1.. which for a cheese maker... is almost completely useless). So pH readings are something I've decided is either a "do it properly, or not at all" thing.

    The other half, the recipes:

    Like most other books, this starts at the very basic acid-based cheeses, and works it's way up to the very hard, grated cheeses at the back. What impresses me about this recipe section is the sheer number of tweaks and directions that you can go for each type of cheese. You can make something more stretchy, or tangy, or grillable, or change the flavour entirely with a few minor modifications. Each section, whether it's fresh cheeses, or aged, has a bunch of really handy information, and stuff that's just interesting. Each cheese recipe has been contributed by a pro cheese maker, and so there's very little concern about it being "problematic". 

    The recipes include target temperatures, pH levels (a nice addition if you can measure it) which puts the quality of the information higher than most beginner books. However, it's going to frustrate those who can't measure such things accurately.

    Quanitative analysis:

    Cost:

    At anywhere between $55-80 (Australian, with cheaper offers for e-versions) this is definitely at the higher end of the spectrum and is not a hardback. Cost is another reason that I don't think this suits beginners, but for the quality and quantity of the information I can see reasons to think it's actually a bargain.

    I am going to give this 95% on the basis I doubt I'd find this much information, so nicely worded, and presented in a nice bundle, and I think it deserves to charge extra.

    Readability:

    I am not going to lie, this is very well written, but the material is still pretty "heavy" in the beginning. You're not going to read this in a hour, but it's well worth the time to read... several times.  I'm going to grade it based on it's intended audience, those who want to know more. As such, I'm giving it 96%

    Information Quality:

    As a book written by a professional cheese maker, collaborating with other professional cheese makers who each kindly bring their own speciality to the book, with many of the recipes tested before publication. I'm left to ask.... what more can I as a reader ask for? Since I can only find minor flaws with the gaps, the informational quality is really good. I'm going to give it 98%

    Ease of use:

    This book takes a complex bunch of information sourced from many places, and puts it into one nicely wrapped package. From an intermidiate cheese maker's perspective, it's definitely easier to use than the technical documents, text books, and industry publications that most alternatives would entail. So much so, that interested hobbyists can understand a surprising amount with careful reading and consideration. 

    The recipes are straight forward and for the most part, include both metric and imperial measurements. However, the suggested ways to "tweak" or adjust recipes makes them significantly more versatile while neglibibly increasing their complexity, and learning to become an adaptable cheese maker.

    I'm going to give 91% because Gianaclis has done a wonderful job of gathering and explaining the information, but chapter one hit me hard the first time I read it, and I actually put the book down for a couple of months because I felt I should read other books before this one.

    Range of recipes:

    This is where the raw number of cheeses might be misleading. Sure, 150 pages of recipes, nicely arranged from quick to "aged for years" seems to be much like other books. However, even from the simplest varieties of acid-based cheeses, can be made in a variety of different ways, and each variation can bring a wealth of new possibilities. It's that sense of freedom, and "what happens if I....." that really engages me as a cheese maker. The addition of cheese type based backgrounds and make tips (particularly large batch advice) in the recipe section is also very handy.

    I'm going to give this a solid 97%

    Overall score: 477/500 = 95.4%

    This book aimed higher than many others available today. Answering the question, "Did it achieve its own high-set goals well?" 95.4% when my expectations were raised from the norm is a very respectable result.
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    Stay tuned!

    More books will be following. I have about a dozen that I've used to varying degrees.

    Stay safe and happy cheese making!
    Ham.

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