When Peter Corrigan from Princeton, New Jersey sent us pictures of his “rainbow” cheese, we were surprised and delighted. We think it’s beautiful! He told us he made it with non-artificial natural food coloring made from vegetables which he ordered online – (click here). He called it Unicorn Cheese because it was the first thing that came to his daughter’s head when he showed it to her! She said it looked like he got the milk from a unicorn and made cheese from it.
We had to interview him, of course!
I live in New Jersey and I am married with 2 children (girls) ages 13 & 11. My oldest absolutely loves to assist in my cheese making and I am trying to teach her everything I learn in hopes of one day opening a small artisan store together. My youngest just loves eating it…
I was in the Air Force for 6 years and got out to use my GI Bill to finish college. I earned my BS in Computer Science and have been in the IT field for many years now. I definitely grew up a nerd at heart. When not making cheese, I also like to build computers and sometimes play the occasional video game in my spare time. I very much enjoy riding off-road vehicles such as my dirt bike down in the South Jersey sand pits as well. Growing up on the Jersey Shore, I have always loved the frequent fishing trip.
How did you get started making cheese?
I’ve always been an avid cheese lover. Recently, a few months back, I walked into a farmer’s market and saw they had a kit to make my own home made cheese. The instructions were not that good, however, and my first attempt failed quite miserably. (Note: this was not our kit!) I think I rushed it from being a bit overzealous. I then went online and started to research what I did wrong. I did not realize it until I started to do a few Google searches, but there was an entire community dedicated to artisan cheese making from within your own home.
I was hooked at that point. I was bound to redeem myself from my horrid first cheese making experience. I immediately found cheesemaking.com and noticed it was located in Massachusetts, which happened to be on the way to a wedding I had that weekend in Vermont. I made sure the GPS routed us right by the main office where I walked in and your employee “April” was wonderful and walked me through everything I would need. She also recommended the book Home Cheese Making which I bought and read the entire thing, front to back, in a day. I knew there was no turning back.
What kind(s) of cheese are you making?
I started out with Parmesans and Romanos. My thought process behind this decision was that they were both easy, and take extremely long to age. I figured I would knock them out first so they could sit and age while I was learning to produce others.
I have always been a huge fan of cheese curds, but over here on the east coast, they have always been hard to find. I decided that I wanted to make my own. They came out so good, that I came home and my daughter had eaten all of my 2lb batch in almost one go! You would think I would have been upset, but there is nothing better than seeing someone else enjoying something that you created with your own heart & hands. (For cheese curds recipe click here.)
Most recently, I have really been trying almost 2-3 new recipes a week and trying to expand my knowledge of different recipes from Gouda to Chipotle Cheddar, Farmhouse Cheddar, and Jalapenio Cheddar. I did a large number of hard cheeses in order to fill the cheese cave (wine cooler set to 50-55F), so I had a nice collection to look forward to. This has allowed me to move to faster ripening soft cheese recipes such as Camembert which I just started to produce last week.
What prompted you to make your Unicorn Cheese?
While making cheese, my mind is always thinking of new and exciting things to do with the recipes. I started thinking about what would be fun, exciting, and also appeal to customers from a marketing standpoint (I’ve often thought about starting my own artisan cheese shop). With today’s society, there seems to be an obsession with consumers to want things that are different and unique. We are often bored with normal. The idea of a rainbow cheese came to me.
I immediately dropped everything and wanted to test. I wondered what would happen if I dyed the milk with natural food coloring (made from vegetables and fruits). Would it affect the rennet? Would it affect the PH balance of the cheddaring process?
“Why not just make a batch and find out!?” is what I thought to myself.
How did you make it?
I made 4 (1 gallon) batches of Stirred-Curd Cheddar from the Home Cheese Making book. I let the cultures set in each batch for 45 minutes. Then, in each batch, I used a different colored natural dye for the milk before putting in the rennet (just like you would with annatto). After renneting, the curd was a bit wet and ricotta like, so I needed to up the temperature from 100F to 110F to help dry the curd a bit better before pressing it. It curdled up beautifully with no discernible change in the PH levels compared to the normal recipe. I then had 4 different colors of curds. From there, I mixed them together before throwing them into the mould for pressing.
TADA! Unicorn Cheddar was born!