Kirstin Jackson is a professionally trained cook, wine bar manager and cheese program director, food and wine writer, consultant, and instructor, whose fridge and head is almost entirely consumed with cheese. Her cheese blog, “It’s Not You, It’s Brie,” was launched in April 2009, and has since received accolades from Blogs.com, Foodista, and Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen. And now, we’re proud to say, she’s joined our expert ranks at Menuism! Get to know Kirstin a little better with this interview, and please help us welcome her to community.
How did your love of cheese begin?
My parents took me on cheese tours around Northern California as a child and teenager. It only occurred to after I heard about what my friends were doing with their family on a Saturday, like going to Magic Mountain, that these types of family trips weren’t normal. But I didn’t really care. I was also a vegetarian for about six years when young and my mother was all for me eating large amounts of cheese to get proper nutrition. As was I.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy cheese?
I like cheese plain best, then with wine or beer. I like it after being left out to come to room temperature for an hour or more and with simple pairings when I’m first tasting it. Often I avoid eating bread or crackers as a base because it takes up too much room in my stomach. I like cheese on picnics, when camping, and when wheeled to me on fancy carts.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to appreciate the finer points of cheese?
Taste, taste, taste. Go to a good cheese shop and tell them what you like. They’ll have recommendations for you. Take those recommendations home and pay some attention to them. Savor them. Then go back and try more. Be open. Realize that most cheese smells a lot stronger than it tastes and that you can’t read a book by its cover.
What trends are you seeing in the world of cheese?
More sheep’s milk cheeses— yay! Cow’s milk is the most common cheese milk style in the United States, but as more people become familiar with cheeses made from other milks that are just as common as cow’s milk in Europe and other parts of the world, they’re learning how delicious sheep’s milk is. Same goes for wonderful goat’s milk cheeses, but I’ve been noticing more sheep’s milk creameries especially where I’m at in California.
Can you name a favorite cheese that you’ve tried?
That’s kinda hard. There’s so many that I love and cheeses are very sensitive if they feel slighted. I will say my favorite cheese(s) are often made of sheep’s milk.
Have you made your own cheese?
I’ve made ricotta— or a house cheese that tastes like ricotta (real ricotta is made from whey, not fresh milk). It worked out okay, but I liked a lot of cheesemaker’s ricottas out there a heck of a lot better. I’ve also made mozzarella. It wasn’t so good. I blame the recipe, which told me to heat the water used to soften the curds to 80 instead of 180.
What cheese-making regions are you most excited to visit or have you visited?
I’ve visited a lot of cheese regions here, but the one that is most exciting to me right now is the southern region of the United States. I’m teaching a class about its glories at the Cheese School of San Francisco soon and am super smitten with the delicious things I’ve tried from Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee— Sweet Grass Dairy, Chapel Hill, and Sequatchie Cove, for example. People don’t often think of southern cheese as artisan, but there’s some amazing producers that are proving people wrong.
What’s your ideal cheese plate?
It has a blue cheese on it, a soft and stinky cheese on it, and a sheep’s milk cheese. But I also like five-cheese plates too. In general, I just like cheese on my plate.
What’s one thing all your readers should know about you?
I’m not a cheese snob—a good cheese ball is always welcome in my home—but I also feel best about eating cheese made by people who care about their craft, and the land and animals that make their craft possible. That’s the cheese I’ll recommend.
Kirstin Jackson is a professionally trained cook, wine bar manager and cheese program director, food and wine writer, consultant, and instructor, whose fridge and head is almost entirely consumed with cheese. Her cheese blog, “It’s Not You, It’s Brie,” was launched in April 2009, and has since received accolades from Blogs.com, Foodista, and Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen. Her first book, It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese published in 2012.