Learn how to make great tasting cheese at home with simple techniques from expert cheesemaker Graham Redhead.

Growing up on a small family dairy farm, Graham Redhead learnt to milk at a very early age and loved the raw milk straight from the cow.

As well as running a training and consultancy service to cheese and dairy manufacturers, he now shares his love of milk and cheese with eager students around the country. Graham’s workshops teach people how to make nine cheeses over 14 hours of almost non-stop cheesemaking.

I asked Graham to explain what goes on behind the closed doors of cheesemaking.

Who wants to make their own cheese?

A few different types of people attend these courses. The people who brew their beer or wine, make their own bread or salami, are very practical hands-on types who pick up the cheesemaking very easily. Some have already made their own cheese but want some clarification on techniques or want to make some different styles.

The second group are the foodies, the connoisseurs. They like good cheese (who doesn’t) and they eat a lot of different cheeses but they don’t fully understand the thing that they are eating. They want to find out more about different styles of cheese and how they are made so they are more informed about what they are eating, even though they have been eating probably all of their lives.

Last is the people who own or dream of owning 10 acres with a few cows or goats and want to do something with their milk.

Why make cheese when you can buy it?

It’s not about economics of making food cheaper as it is far simpler to go out and buy a good cheese. It’s about understanding more about the different types of cheese. So many people who do the course are amazed that one batch of milk can make 10 different cheeses. Once they have done the course they never look at a piece of cheese the same way. They can now look at the cheese section in their local deli and know what happened to all of those cheeses that came from a factory somewhere.

Also, it’s something that is not taught anywhere in mainstream education. Even chefs are not taught about cheese, and people don’t really have an understanding of how cheese is made.

What are the most popular cheeses to make?

There are two popular types. The first is Persian Feta which has different names and comes in different styles (also known as gourmet feta, marinated feta, fresh acid, fresh unripened cheese). People know about the Yarra Valley cow version and Meredith Goat version and several others now on the market, and they love those cheeses. That they can make a similar or the same product amazes most people who attend the courses. The reason these cheeses are so expensive at a shop is the multiple little steps needed over two days to make it. Commercially that costs a lot of money, but it’s extremely simple to make if you have the time as you need to spend no more than one hours over two days. It’s a high moisture cheese so it has a great yield. Add some ash and it changes to another cheese, then marinate it is another cheese, but it’s all one cheese to start with. Plus it’s ready to eat at day two, with no maturation or wait times required.

The second type is camembert, brie or tripe cream.  We make a rich brie at the course and it is most people’s favourite.  It’s another very simple cheese to make but, unlike Persian feta, it does have a few small but important steps to get a nice white mould on the surface.

Which are the easiest cheeses to make?

Milk and whey ricotta are the easiest cheeses. They are very quick to make and ready to eat. Persian feta is the same. Halloumi is also easy to make. Halloumi is very popular at present and people have so many ways now to use it in cooking.  It’s interesting speaking to the Cypriots and Greeks that attend the course about how they use halloumi in cooking. You would think that it would be very similar but its quite varied. At the opposite end of the scale is the Parmesan. To do justice it needs to be ripened for 18 months which is a daunting task. I think people become impatient and eat it when it is a lot less aged than it should be.

Graham’s next Intensive Cheesemaking Workshop will be held over two days, September 27 and 28 at St James College, Spring Hill.