How do I plan a visit to a cheesemaker?

Starting on the Trail Map page, sort by the region you’d like to visit.  The list of cheesemakers will be winnowed down.  Then, select Open and/or Retail locations, to find places that are regularly open.  You can click on each to make sure they’ll be open during your trip. Then click “Pin to Itinerary,” in the blue bar below the name of the cheesemaker. Continue selecting all those you’d like to visit. Press “Show Itinerary” to view your list. You can then open the itinerary in google maps and print or send it to your phone for use (if you’re not already on your phone).

How do I visit a cheesemaker that is only Open by Appointment?

Each cheesemaker will list how they prefer to be contacted. Check their listing. Those open by appointment often need at least a month of planning, and usually can’t accommodate a last-minute visit. But, you never know unless you ask!

Do you have any suggested itineraries?

Yes! If you’re not sure how to navigate the website or just want a suggested tour of open locations, try one of several driving tours throughout California. Click here for the full list.

Can you freeze cheese?

It’s not a good idea as freezing tends to change the texture of cheese. Cheese is usually sold expecting the buyer to eat it within two weeks, which is what you should do, as then you’re getting the flavor and texture that the cheesemaker intended.  The best thing is to only buy as much cheese as you can eat within those two weeks.

Curds & Whey

As most of us do when hearing about Little Miss Muffet, we wonder what those curds and whey really are.  Here’s the story:  Milk naturally thickens and forms curds when left in a warm place or when a coagulant like rennet is added. Cutting the curds allows them to release water (whey). Eventually the whey is poured off, leaving only curds, which are then formed or pressed into rounds or other shapes and creating cheese.  Miss Muffet probably ate a combo of fresh curds and whey.  She may have added something sweet or savory or eaten them just plain.

Does Cheese Need to be Refrigerated?

Oh yes, it does. Though it can be left out for several hours without a problem (it ages naturally at between 50 and 60 degrees).  The best thing to do is keep it refrigerated until you would like to eat it.  Then, for the best flavor, take the cheese out of the refrigerator about an hour before eating. Cheese always tastes best at room temperature.

How is Cheese Made?

The cheesemaker adds cultures and coagulants to the milk and then cuts, stirs and cooks the curd at different temperatures and times to create a spectacular array of flavors, textures and aromas.

How Long does Cheese Last?

Cheese tastes best, and as the cheesemaker intended, if you eat it within two weeks after purchase.  It may last longer, but the flavor will change as well.  If it smells ammoniated or tastes bitter, it’s probably time to throw it out.  Don’t worry, though, a cheese that has “gone off” can’t hurt you.  It just doesn’t taste very good.

How Much Cheese do I Need?

Not sure how much cheese to buy for your event?  Here are a few loose guidelines:
If you’re having a small dinner party and cheese is the appetizer, then allow 2 ounces per person.  If you’re having a bigger party with other food besides cheese, allow 1 ounce per person.  If there’s no other food besides the cheese, then 4 ounces per person.

Mold on Cheese

Sometimes a mold is supposed to be there, like the white fluffy rind on a Brie.  That’s normal and even edible (it’s a matter of preference).  However, if you see mold or fuzz on a fresh cheese, like cottage cheese or cream cheese or creme fraiche, toss it. If it is on a firmer cheese,  you can just cut it off and eat the rest.   It won’t hurt you, but it could affect the flavor of cheese.

Serving Suggestions

Cheese tastes great with so many things.  But here are a few suggestions:  crusty bread, crackers, sliced or dried fruit, preserves, roasted almonds, olives and wine or beer.  Be creative and enjoy. The California Milk Advisory Board has a free app called “Pair Savvy” which suggests beer, wine & accoutrements that work well with specific cheeses. Do a search for it in your app store.

Should you Eat the Rind?

Eating the rind is a matter of preference.  If you want to taste the cheese as the cheesemaker intended, try the inside first.  Eating that white, fluffy rind of soft cheeses is just fine. The rind of harder cheeses are not always easy to eat or necessarily pleasant. A suggestion is to save the rinds of hard cheeses and use them to flavor a homemade soup.