Where Guilds Gather
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The Guardian has just published an article outlining one of many compelling stories chartered in Bronwen and Francis Percival’s new book on the cheese industry called Reinventing The Wheel. The authors are currently on tour promoting the book at various book AND cheese stores across America.

I have read the book and would highly recommend it to anyone who cares about the future of Good Cheese in an era of increasing focus on food safety. The Percivals traveled extensively through Europe, Britain, and the US to research the book and the information presented is as authentic to my own experience as a cheese maker and cheese science nerd. They present a compelling case that the two ideas are compatible IF we’re all willing to abandon myths and ideologies.

Every year the Maine Cheese Guild schedules a “Holiday Party” as the regular Guild meeting in December. We try to schedule little or no Guild business for this meeting, it’s always on a Sunday, and it’s always scheduled to start at noon, two hours later than most of our meetings.

We ask our members to bring a pot luck dish so that the meeting will offer a proper meal, but more importantly we ask members to bring their Holiday Cheese for sampling.

“Holiday Cheese” is not one specific cheese, but a different cheese recipe chosen by Guild members at a meeting earlier in the year, usually a style or type of cheese that is different than what most Guild cheese makers regularly produce. The idea is to encourage all Guild members to try something different that will stretch our skills and maybe even lead to a new product in our inventory. Past Holiday Cheeses have been Cottage Cheese, Romano/Grana-style, Havarti, Cheese Curds, Tomme, and Ricotta.

Earlier this month Arlene at Imagine Dairy Farm sent a recipe to all Guild members for Caerphilly that she got from Margaret Morris’s excellent book The Cheese Makers Manual, and we were instructed to make at least one wheel to bring to the party during the first week of September.

The idea is that we all use the exact same recipe at the same time with the milk that we normally use for our cheeses. That way we can specifically explore the variability in cheeses that come from different herds as well as animals, and we can also discover the effect of the “hand of the cheese maker” on the finished product through the make and the aging. We’ve always found it an excellent learning tool, as well as a tasty way to celebrate then end of another cheese year with our professional peers.

At times we’ve also invited a few of our retail partners to attend for the same educational experience, as well as to interact with cheese makers they may not be familiar with. This has always been a very positive experience for everyone.

So stay tuned, and I’ll try to remember to post a report here on how our Caerphilly tasting turned out this December.