Despite the subject matter, studying for a cheese exam is still studying (read: not everyone’s favorite activity). I’ve been enrolled in the ANCO Fine Cheese Prep Course for the past few months, which has been a useful tool in preparing for the huge exam coming up in just a few days, at the time that I’m writing this. It’s been great—an emailed PowerPoint of information and a quiz every week, which has been a nice structure to have since the ACS Body of Knowledge is terrifyingly large and full of information. Sometimes staring at the ACS website feels like staring into a black hole. Study structure helps.
I’m usually studying at my laptop, likely wearing some large noise-canceling headphones, getting distracted and staring at the screens of what other coffee-shop-dwellers are doing. There aren’t many pictures in a prep course, so when you look at the information for too long, you start to just get dizzy and zone out at a certain point. I’m no stranger to studying or staring at screens (I have a ,a href=”http://culturecheesemag.com/blog/sande-and-the-ccp” target=”_blank”>library sciences master’s, after all), but we all sometimes get that eye-to-screen overload that makes your brain hurt.
Also, as many other test-takers surely do, I have a full-time job that is largely based at a computer. Sometimes going home to go back straight to a screen can be less than appealing.
How do I combat this and make studying fun? I eat a bunch of cheese.
Disclaimer: There is no sensory section of this test. But in life, aren’t we continually tested on how we respond to and talk about cheese when we’re around our peers and discussing cheese with guests and customers? If Liz Lemon can have night cheese, I can have study cheese.
Here are a few of the ways that I ate my studying instead of just reading prep materials:
Old World vs. New World
An Old World vs. New World showdown can be really fun and informative. A favorite that I do often in the summer, when a rampant addiction to ash-ripened goat cheeses tends to pop up, is to buy a round of Selles-sur-Cher and a round of Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche. One was inspired by the other, but do they taste alike? My findings determined that the American iteration was brasher—in a very good way—and had a denser, fudgy texture. (That’s largely based on the age of the piece, as studying has thoroughly explained.) Lemon notes are more prevalent in the Selles-sur-Cher, but the funky amplified chalkiness and silkiness of a perfectly ripe Bonne Bouche gets my goat a lot more. Similar fun tastings: Delice de Bourgogne v. Four Fat Fowl St. Stephen, Comté vs. Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Old Recipe vs. Modern Recipe
Lots of cheeses were historically made one way, and now lots of makers make them differently, just because they can. Consider the Chällerhocker—it’s made by Walter Rass, whose family made Appenzeller as he was growing up. This informed his Chällerhocker, which is a similar-yet-different cheese made by changing the curd size, tweaking the temperatures during cooking, and lengthening the aging process that he knew for Appenzeller. This also has a lot to do with what the EU used to allow for cheesemaking versus what they allow nowadays. It’s still interesting. Also if you aren’t familiar with the changes in rules for Swiss cheeses, definitely read about it … while eating these two cheeses.
This Kind of Milk, That Kind of Milk
A lot of preparing for the CCP exam is learning about different breeds of cows, goats, and sheep—again, tasting is believing. I confess, I did not know that Zamorano cheese existed until I started preparing for this test. Googling led to lots of Manchego comparisons, thanks to the distinctive zigzag pattern and cylindrical shape. The region of production is different (Castile-Leon instead of La Mancha), and so is the milk used. Zamorano comes from the milk of Churra sheep, whereas Manchego famously comes from the milk of Manchega sheep. Do they taste the same? Find out for yourself!
If specific breeds seems a bit imposing and requires a lot of research, this taste-test game can also be done with cow’s milk vs. goat’s milk vs. sheep’s milk. Locally I like to do Valley Milkhouse Clover, a great fresh cow’s milk cheese, against Shellbark Sharp II Chèvre or Yellow Springs Farm Chèvre. You can absolutely taste the differences in this kind of tasting, and you can see the color differences too!
Mold Identification Game!
Let a bunch of cheese rot in your fridge and identify the colors on the molds / which cheeses could still be safely eaten!
This is a joke. 0-stars, do not recommend, do not pass go and collect $200, please do NOT do this. Not only is this wasteful, but it’s disgusting and unsafe. Now, if you happen to have a friend who has “accidentally” done this and a HAZMAT suit and face mask that I can borrow, maybe we can chat. But overall, no.