Weighing in at merely a couple of Velveeta slices thick, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Cheese is a rather slim showing for the typical Idiot's Guide. A seemingly irrelevant observation when you realize, at least according to the author's retail website, Leeners.com, that the Ohio-based James R. Leverentz is an expert in "fermented food craft supplies" (that chocolate candy, ice cream and fresh sausage making equipment notwithstanding).
And yet, we are compelled to try that mascarpone, ricotta, and feta, knowing we are buying not only a book but, should we so desire, the retail equipment to go with it. And Leverentz gets mega brownie points for not pushing his shop. In fact, he is so convincing that we also want to whip up his farmhouse cheddar, Gouda and Havarti, even though with that long aging they sound a wee bit trickier than your everyday kitchen sink-strained yogurt.
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Sure, at times the Idiot's Guide standard format in this cheese rendition, as in all editions, can be tiresome. Particularly in the text boxes, here dubbed "cheese bites." One such example: "Buy it, then eat it. It is always best to consume fresh cheese before the expiration date indicated on the package." Right.
But you get the sense this was hardly the author's prerogative, as the Idiot's Guide series now numbers in the hundreds. Yet a food category is distinctly missing from the website category listing. Which begs the question. Does cheese making fit in the "family and home" or "health and fitness" section? Maybe "science and technology"? Do let us know.
And yet, we still love this book. Where else can you find, in plain English, cheese-ing broken down into a 7-step process that's actually home-cheese maker friendly? That milk-to-curds-and-whey process sounds so simple when someone else is using the conductor's baton. The black and white photos are great, too, as it makes the entire process seem like home brewing.
In the meantime, to start your curds, we recommend a few basic supplies. The cheesecloth is self-explanatory -- the barbell weights in 2, 3, 5 and 10-pound increments to make a Tomme press, perhaps not. But that's half the fun of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheese Making. And should you decide going straight to the cheese plate is more your speed, there is, of course, an Idiot's Guide for that, too. In the meantime, we'll be trying to perfect our Colby, and will let you know how that goes.