An Interview with Cheesemaker David Bleckmann

How did you get into cheese making?

I have always been interested in how food is made and fascinated with the details of making something from scratch be it beer, wine, jam, or bacon, and now cheese. I have always been fascinated by the way trading has benefitted and brought money to many traders. This is one very captivating point that has inspired me in getting many traders to this field for money has always been a moving factor for anybody and this being the centre of attraction or focus here the number keeps increasing. This link is very useful in getting to know the trading field better.

My wife surprised me with a cheese making class in 2009 for my 42nd birthday, and my obsession began. During the class the instructor mentioned that the books on the market on home cheese making really were not all that great, at least at the time. I made it my goal to learn all I could about cheese making and then write on the subject from the home hobbyist point of view.

When I write and teach about cheese making I always try to explain the food science behind the process. I do this partially because I find it interesting, but mostly because I believe to become good at cheese making it really helps to understand what is going on chemically in the milk and cheese.


How difficult is it to get into cheese making? What supplies do you need?

To make fresh cheeses like cream cheese and fresh chevre, you need just a few things beyond what is already in your kitchen. You need a thermometer that reads accurately between 70F and 120F. A decent digital instant read thermometer will work for this. You also need a fine mesh cheesecloth, finer than what is normally sold in stores. Cheese making suppliers sell butter muslin which works best. In a pinch you can use four to five layers of regular cheesecloth.

As far as ingredients go, you need good quality milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized. You will also need cheese cultures and rennet which you can obtain through local cheese making suppliers or ones found on the internet.

When you move beyond fresh cheeses and into the world of hard cheese, the equipment list gets longer. This list includes large stockpots to hold all of the milk, and cheese molds and presses. You will also need to create an environment called a cheese cave in which to age the cheese. There are a lot of ways obtain or build these items inexpensively to get started, but as you get more and more serious about the hobby you will find having good equipment is nice.

Do you have a specialty cheese?

I made a blue cheese once that was truly exceptional. I followed a recipe but accidentally made a slight variation. I have tried to recreate the recipe, and while some of the results were good, I have never replicated the taste of that first cheese. I tell this story when talking about the importance of taking notes while making cheese. You never know when something you do is going to make a big difference in the final result.

What’s the strangest cheese you’ve ever made?

Taking making cheese from scratch to the extreme, I once decided to grow cardoon thistles so I could harvest rennet from them. You harvest part of the flower and steep in it warm water. It was a strange experience since you normally go to great extremes when cheese making to keep things as sanitary as possible, but to use this rennet you are transferring plant parts that were out in your garden just hours ago directly to your milk. I was amazed and thrilled when the milk coagulated as it was supposed to and the cheese turned out great.


Do you have an all-time favorite cheese?

Blues and washed rind cheeses are my favorite cheeses, both of which are some of the most difficult cheese to make.

Washed rind cheeses are the stinky cheese like muenster and limburger. Although they often have a strong smell they often have a mild, but full, meaty flavor.

What is the one thing someone new to cheese making should know?

Sanitation is important. Making cheese is the process of letting bacteria spoil milk in a controlled manner. You want the bacteria you introduce to be the ones changing the milk, not others that could ruin the cheese or even possibly be dangerous. All equipment should be rinsed in a sanitizing solution or be sanitized in some way by heat (such as immersed in boiling water).

The second “one thing” I would have new cheesemakers know is this: In contrast to fresh cheeses, which are pretty easy to make, aged cheeses can be difficult and frustrating to make at home. Even if you perform every step correctly, you will be lucky if 50% of your cheeses turn out the way you intended. Knowing this in advance may help cushion your disappointment.

What is the most challenging aspect of cheese making?

Aging cheese is difficult. You need to keep the temperature and humidity of the environment in the right range for months. This means you have to check on the cheese frequently, as often as once a day. This is a lot of work, and I have lost quite a few cheeses to neglect. It is easy to forget a cheese when it is in your basement for 3 to 6 months.

How do you perform quality control?

Unfortunately there is not much a home cheesemaker can do to determine if a cheese is contaminated with the wrong culture or mold. We don’t have the equipment to do it properly. All we can do is use our senses to determine if something is not quite right. If it looks, smells, or tastes bad, it is probably not wise to serve it to your family or friends. It is always wise to error on the side of caution in home cheese making.

What type of cheese or cheese recipe would you recommend to someone just starting off in the world of cheese?

Definitely cream cheese. With the exception of rennet and culture, you can find the ingredients easily and the results are realized in 24-48 hours.

Stay tuned! We’ll be posting up David’s cream cheese recipe tomorrow.


David Bleckmann is an obsessed home cheesemaker in Portland, Oregon. Before cheese, he worked his way through other domestic culinary crafts including making beer and wine, preserving jam, pickling, curing bacon and other meat, and roasting coffee. This interest in creating food from scratch and a fascination with food science led to an immersion in the art of turning liquid milk into solid cheese. He teaches cheese making classes and writes freelance articles for Culture, and also maintains a blog and hosts a hobby cheese making podcast at his website, http://www.joyofcheesemaking.com.

Learn from a wide range of cheese making professionals and discover delicious artisan recipes with The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice! This step-by-step book contains interviews with worldwide experts on everything from culture strains to pairings, while the easy-to-follow, original tutorials outline this fun, productive, and classic skill. You’ll also find an array of mouthwatering homemade recipes that will help you apply these newly-gained tips and techniques.