Posts Tagged ‘ACS’
Early in the Festival, before the public was allowed to join the conference attendees, the Monona Terrace ballroom is filling up.
York Hill Farm’s award winning Capriano in the Farmstead Cheese category.
PIneland Farm Creamery’s Smoked Cheddar…
…and their first place Cheddar Spread
Silvery Moon Creamery’s Provalone in the Italian Style category
And from the Breakfast of Champions earlier in the day: Crooked Face Creamery’s Ricotta
Saturday dawned clear and beautiful and it somehow seemed appropriate to get an early start and walk on up to the Capitol square where the Dane County Farmers Market, the self-proclaimed “The Largest Producer-Only Farmers’ Market in the U.S.” It is set-up ringing the Capitol. COMPLETELY ringing the Capitol building, facing in on the sidewalk. Even at 7am there were enough people that you couldn’t start and stop walking without being mindful of bumping into folks. Lots and lots of veggie stands, naturally, but a few (not as many as I would have thought) cheese vendors, a bunch of meat vendors, a bunch of bakers, and then some specialty stands of flowers, popcorn, and — YES — The Gourd Guy.
Striving for a Successful FDA Inspection
This is becoming a necessary skill these days, even for producers who do not ship out of state. ACS presented a good presentation today consisting of two ACS members who have “survived” FDA Inspections who told their stories of what to expect, followed by a food safety consultant who explained what you MUST do and what you can decline to do during an inspection.
Peg Smith of Cow Girl Creamery spoke first. CGC has been in business for at least 20 years, and they now have two cheese making facilities, plus a distribution center, and all three have been inspected at least once. The Kenny Mattingly of Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese in Kentucky spoke from the point of view of a newly started cheese business (within the last five years) who was inspected during a transition between outgrowing an old (first) cheese plant and moving into a newly constructed plant next door. Then Alan Sayler from the Center for Food Safety and Regulatory Solutions talked about the nitty gritty of what the FDA *can do* by law during an inspection, and what rights a cheese plant has during an inspection, plus helpful tips on how to understand what’s going on, and how to “get the most out of” the inspection.
There’s SO MUCH I could write here, most of which would be boring step-by-step items, and some of which I’ll go over in a presentation to the Guild in person at a later meeting. Instead I’ll provide a couple interesting and pity points that jump out from the pages of notes I took:
- Remember, your dealing with people (the inspectors) whose job it is to make sure that each plant they visit can and does make safe food for their customers. Ultimately you’re both on the same team, and even if the process seems adversarial, its important not to let emotion enter into it, and to be respectful during the process.
- “We are a better company because of the inspection.” — Kenny Mattingly, who did NOT have a smooth initial inspection experience.
- Answer EVERY question, and be as honest as possible, but do NOT answer more than the question. It’s up to the inspector to follow-up for more info, it’s not your role to volunteer info.
- Check all badges that they match a photo id of the inspector. Your first question should always be “Who is your district compliance officer?” This information is critical for you to get any information about the inspection after the inspector leaves — the inspector will NOT respond to later requests — that’s the job of the district compliance officer.
- Having good records of EVERYTHING that happens in the cheese plant is the most important ingredient in a successful FDA inspection.
The Art and Science of Smear-Ripened/Washed Rind Cheeses
Talk about drinking water from a fire hose, this session was chock FULL of information…a little too chock…but our presenter warned us going into the session that he was condensing a short course that they teach at the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin that is normally taught over three or five days, and that he wanted to make sure he left some time for the tasting, and for questions…and away we GO!
At lunch we were offered pre-wrapped sandwiches to take along with us while we visited the Dane County Farmers Market just up the street if we hadn’t already done that.
Understanding Cheese Defects
Rules number one in attempting to fix a “flaw” in your finished cheese is to DOCUMENT everything during the make and aging process. [One person's flaw can sometimes be another person's unique flavor/texture that customers are willing to pay for...] If you don’t know what you did, or what happened at the beginning, you don’t know what you can change.
Item one for cheese makers and mongers alike: Retail abuse is a major source of abuse. You can make the best cheese in the world, but if it sits on a hot loading dock in the sun for an hour, no one will recognize the result, and if that’t abused cheese is still put in the front of the public the reputation of the maker AND monger are affected (fair or not). Part of a cheese makers responsibility is to understand the custody chain of their cheese to make sure the consumer purchases the cheese they thought they sent to them through whatever distribution method.
Following these general thoughts, Nana Farkye (CA Poly State) and Mark Johnson, (UWisc DRC) walked us through a FIREHOSE of information about common defects and the possible fixes. A rather subjective sample follows:
Summer milk often is produced by a heat stressed animal, which lowers the protien and fat content, but not in the same proportion so your ratio can change wildly, often with much lower protien. This can result in lower yields and/or a HIGH moisture cheese and all the problems associated with that unless the cheese maker stays right on top of their milk quality.
Sometimes a high moisture cheese can result in a high acid curd, which can produce brittle body, grainy mouth-feel, weepy cheese once it’s packaged, and a soft pasty body. This can be fixed by using less culture, reducing the ripening time by adding the rennet earlier, and rinsing/washing the curd.
Bitternes factors can be attributed to:
- low salt
- fast cultures (increasing the enzymes in the finshed cheese)
- excessive mold in the make plant (contributing their own unwanted enzymes)
- coagulant type — some rennets, particularly mucor mehei derived — are linked to bitter flavors in long aged cheeses
- psychrotrophs in the raw milk due to excessive cold storage before making into cheese; always use milk within 48 hours of milking to prevent psychrotroph build-up
Other flavor defects were catagorized into Microbrial, feed, mechanical (agitation, pumping), and brining issues. Texture defects could also be microbial related, or make related (how the curd is treated in the vat before forming into wheels). Visual/packaging defects can also be microbial, but often involve temperature and/or light abuse.
It also shouldn’t be a surprised that many defects — specifically the microbial based — were a result of poor or uninformed sanitation routines.
Overall the instructors assured the cheese makers in the audience that EVERY defect has been seen before, and once the source of the defect has been determined, it CAN be fixed. The hardest part is finding the source of the problem, especially when it may be out of the cheese maker’s control, hence the DOCUMENTATION and CUSTODY CHAIN points at the beginning, but it all boils down to knowing as much as possible about your cheese, from the raw ingredients through the retailer treatment. Good luck!
At the 2013 American Cheese Society competition, the largest North American cheese competition with a record 1794 entries this year, Maine cheese makers won five ribbons announced at their gala Awards Ceremony August 2 at the Monona Terrace Conference Center in Madison, WI.
Read the rest of this entry »
Good Morning Madison!
First up was an EARLY (7:15am) meeting of cheese Guilds with the idea of exchanging information, and trying to find out how ACS can better communicate with us as well, find out what they can do to help Guilds form and function without being able to dedicate significant staff time toward the effort. There were representatives from Massachusetts, Oregon, Missouri, Texas, Wisconsin, AZ/UT/CO/NM, South Atlantic states, Vermont, California, and Ohio. Several of the Guilds are brand new (OH, MA, TX, WI).
Read the rest of this entry »
Monona Terrace Conference Center
The conference began on a spectacular day on the shores of Lake Monona in the beautifully restored Frank Lloyd Wright Monona Terrace Conference Center with breakfast (including a full plate of Vermont cheeses to sample on each table), and the Keynote speech by Odessa Piper who ran L’Etoile, a farm-to-table restaurant before anyone knew what that meant.
While I enjoyed some Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. cultured butter on a croissant, there were two other Guild members happily refilling the cracker baskets on our tables.
Read the rest of this entry »
Outside of Janesville, WI
This was my travel day, and I reached Madison by bus from Chicago’s airport which gave me a chance to soak in the upper Midwestern landscape on my way into Madison, which is separated from the surrounding farmland by being squeezed between two lakes (Mendola and Monona). The land is not table flat but has a pleasant roll to it, with large fields of corn andn soy broken by tree lines. Almost every farm visible from the highway has a large series of silos.
The bus also dropped well north of the conference center (on the shores of Lake Monona) right in the middle of the University of Wisconsin campus. That made for a pleasant stroll down State Street to the Capital where the last in their series of outdoor symphony concerts was taking place as families picniced on the grounds around the domed building. On one corner was a bit of edible landscaping.
At our April meeting the members approved supporting the following subsidies in 2013 that relate to the American Cheese Society Conference to be held in Madison, WI between July 31st and August 3rd:
–The Guild will reimburse for ONE Individual Producer membership to ACS (a $199 value) for a Maine Cheese Guild member who applies for that;
[ACS membership is required to submit cheeses to the competition, as well as to attend the conference.]
–The Guild will reimburse any Maine Cheese Guild member who submits entries to the ACS Conference Competition for their first on-time competition entry (due May 17th, a $60 value per participating member);
–The Guild will arrange for and pay up to $500 for a group shipment of all ACS Conference Competition entries from the Maine Cheese Guild to arrive in good condition (if the shipping costs exceed $500, the participants agree to split the additional costs by the number of entries);
–The Guild will reimburse half of the expenses (registration, travel, lodging) up to $900 for FOUR Maine Cheese Guild members to attend the 2013 ACS Conference as part of the Guild’s delegation;
–The Guild will reimburse ALL expenses (conference registration, travel, lodging) up to $1800 for ONE Maine Cheese Guild member to attend the conference as the Guild’s designated representative;
There is no application required to participate in the Guild competition reimbursement and/or group shipment — participants must be a Maine Cheese Guild member in good standing for the time period between the competition entry and the competition itself. Instructions on participating will be posted in a separate Guild web site article.
All applicants must be a Maine Cheese Guild member in good standing for the time period between the request for consideration and the conference itself. The Guild Board will then vote on who will be awarded each stipend, and the selections will be announced by mid-May to allow the designated members time to make their arrangements, including to register for the conference before the Early-Bird deadline.
As has been the case in the past, recipients of stipends to attend the ACS conference will be asked to contribute materials of interest to the Guild at large based on the information delivered at the conference. This material will then be posted on the web site and/or published in a future issue of the Guild newsletter.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR APPLYING FOR A ONE YEAR MEMBERSHIP* TO THE American Cheese Society PAID FOR BY THE GUILD:
(*Producer – Professional Individual Membership, worth $199)
1. Please provide short paragraph with a description about your personal history, including why you got into cheese making, what are your cheese making goals (eg: where would you like to see your cheese adventure take you), and how will you use an ACS membership to benefit your cheese making?
Email your application to email@example.com together with the title “ACS MEMBERSHIP”, your name, the name of your cheese operation, your email address, and your physical address BY SUNDAY MAY 5th. The Maine Cheese Guild board will review all applications (unless they are also an applicant) and vote for their choice. You will be notified before SUNDAY, MAY 12th if you have been chosen.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR APPLYING FOR A GUILD SCHOLARSHIP TO ATTEND THE 2013 American Cheese Society CONFERENCE
1. Please provide short paragraph with a description about your personal history, including why you got into cheese making, and what are your cheese making goals (eg: where would you like to see your cheese adventure take you)?
Next, please address these questions (a sentence or two for each would suffice):
2. Why is attending the ACS conference important to you?
3. What three items in the 2013 Conference Agenda interest you the most?
4. How do you plan to share the experience with the Guild?
Email your application to firstname.lastname@example.org together with the title “ACS SCHOLARSHIP”, your name, the name of your cheese operation, your email address, and your physical address BY SUNDAY MAY 5th. The Maine Cheese Guild board will review all applications (unless they are also an applicant) and vote for their choice. You will be notified before SUNDAY, MAY 12th if you have been chosen.
An often raised topic for our cheese makers is how to measure acidity, and what are the best tools for the task. Titratable Acidity kits are traditional, but messy and somewhat subjective (because it depends on the eye of the user to see pink); pH meters can be precise, but have been very expensive, delicate, and finicky.
As we learn in each workshop TA and pH both measure different aspects of the acid in our milk, whey, and curds, and they do NOT correlate, so the *best* practice is to use both methods to tell you as much as possible about what’s going on at the chemical level. Practically we all know that you can make cheese without measuring acidity at all, except by feel and taste of the curds, just as they have done for thousands of years. But the risks of bad, un-sellable batches for unknowable reasons imposes a real cost to this method of production as well.
Dave Potter of Dairy Connection, Inc. led a Havarti workshop that I attended at the 2012 ACS conference, and during the make process he told everyone that he had found the “perfect” pH meter because it was waterproof, rugged (his first electrodes worked for four years before requiring replacement), the electrodes were flat so they weren’t at risk of breaking and could be used directly on the surface of draining wet cheese, it had a cap with a sponge to keep the electrodes moist, and it was relatively inexpensive. It’s the ExTech ExStik EC500 which also measures temperature and a few other things. Not surprisingly Dairy Connection sells them, but *surprisingly* they list it $20 cheaper than I could find anywhere else the Internet: $115 plus shipping. If this is your first pH meter you would also have to purchase buffers to use for recalibration (around $30 for the pH7 and pH4 buffers). You can also purchase the complete kit for the ExStik that includes cups, all the buffers, a carrying case, and other goodies. DCI doesn’t sell the kit, but you can find it elsewhere by searching for the ExTech EC510.
The Maine Guildsters just before they enter the last event of this year’s ACS Conference.
Read the rest of this entry »
Good morning Raleigh Convention Center! Someone finally had the amazing idea to offer ALL the cultured dairy products like Creme Fraiche, yogurt, ricotta, and other mild less-than-solid competition entries for saturday breakfast (now called “Breakfast of Champions” because the awards are nestled with the winners, just like at the Festival), instead of presenting them with all the cheeses at the Festival of Cheese on Saturday night.
Wow! Instead of looking at them as the lonely girl/boy at the evening party (because they’re so awkward to sample when you’re standing up holding a glass of beer or wine), they are the Star of the Morning and you can really appreciate a selection of them for breakfast. I had tastes of as much as I could and wanted to go back for more, except I was at the breakfast to network with other cheese guilds around the US.
Read the rest of this entry »