The ultimate cheesehead

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:17 pm

Like a lot of Wisconsin natives, DeDe Chaoui eats cheese just about every day. From adding feta cheese to breads and salads to mixing chevre cheese with honey and pistachios, Chaoui finds all sorts of creative ways to flavor food with her favorite cheese varieties.

But Chaoui’s cheese doesn’t typically come prepackaged. Her cheese, made fresh with farm ingredients, comes right out of her kitchen.

Chaoui, director of development, information and systems at the Milwaukee Art Museum, began making her own cheese about three years ago after a cooking show on television featuring homemade mozzarella piqued her interest.

She attended a cheese making class in Mequon with the purchase of a Groupon and has been buying supplies to produce her own cheese ever since.

“The process is fascinating,” Chaoui said.

It’s also time consuming. When Chaoui sets out to make a batch of cheese, usually once a month or once every six weeks, she sets aside an entire day. First, she heats farm fresh milk and adds in cultures and coagulating agents. Often with help from her 6-year-old daughter, Salma, and her 9-year-old son, Ismail, Chaoui then stirs the concoction and carefully separates the curds and the whey.

After molding the cheese into a square or round shape and draining it, Chaoui must let it age, a process that can take a couple days or a couple months depending on the type.

Thanks to continued experimentation with mixing, molding and maturing, Chaoui has perfected her feta, brie and chevre varieties.

If her cheese babies, as she calls them, don’t end up on her own dinner table, they often go to family and friends as gifts or complement dishes at gatherings and potlucks.

“People are always amazed when I bring cheese,” she said.

While making cheese from scratch doesn’t save Chaoui any grocery money, it does grant her a significant amount of self-satisfaction.

The best part of the process?

“The sense of accomplishment when it actually turns out after you’ve spent so many hours,” she said.

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