Tools For Every Purpose

The cheese enthusiast will be happy to know that there exists a neverending array of tools for working with cheese. Some are intended primarily for cheesemaking, others for sampling, still others for preparation in the kitchen and some for serving and eating.

Cheese presses are among the oldest of these tools and are used to press the curdled mixture to separate curds (solid parts) and whey (liquid parts). Modern variations have become increasingly sophisticated, but still have many of the old-fashioned parts in some form. There are drain holes and some means of applying pressure, usually through a screw down mechanism. Some true traditionalists still pride themselves on using good old gravity, a tub of cheddar curds with a board that's pressed on. Great fun!

One of the oldest cheesemaking tools still around is the hot iron. Rarely used today, except for fun, applying a hot iron to developing cheese creates long strings. Depending on how long they are and how they separate, the cheesemaker can get an idea of the amount and type of acids inside the mixture. That's important for knowing how the cheese will develop over coming weeks and months. More fun! Today, simple and highly accurate chemical tests are typically used instead.

On the more practical side for the home chef there is a wide range of tools for shaping, slicing, cutting and preparing cheese.

Graters, per se, are of course a dime a dozen. But there are many dozens of different styles, all having slightly different uses. The fine grater helps grate cheese into small, rectangular pieces suitable for topping a dish raw or cooked. The shaver makes those pieces larger, both wider and longer.

A variation on the theme is a cheese rasp. Perfect for shredding cheese, it makes those pieces even finer. That makes for a very fine sprinkling that is superior for adding to soups or a very fine topping. A six-sided box grater will often combine many functions in one tool. Every kitchen must have one.

A wire slicer is de rigeur. Using a strong, thin wire held between two large tines, these handy tools help peel off a rectangular slab about 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) wide and a 1/4 inch (0.6cm) thick. Perfect for making an array on a cheese dish for that multiple cheese course after the main meal.

A cheese plane performs a similar service, making it possible to slice off a thin layer cleanly. Most will have a sharp opening in the middle of a pie-shaped serving surface and a convenient handle. An indispensable tool for cheese lovers.

Not surprisingly, there are a thousand and one styles of knife for every conceivable occasion. One of the more interesting types is the skeleton cheese knife. A sharp edge combines with a series of holes and a double point on the end. Its 'skyscraper I-beam'-like design makes slicing a breeze.

Don't forget about that fondue pot and fondue forks. Whether iron, stainless steel or even glass, you'll find a dozen variations to suit any individual taste. A favorite is the type with a glass insert and that holds the forks in individual, easy to access holes.

Cutting boards, serving dishes, special storage containers, warming plates.... this could go on forever! Vive La Cheese!

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