Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Blessed are the Cheesemakers!

Say cheese!

           No, I have not been whisked away to an Irish medieval priory .. nor have I succumbed completely (only mostly) to the pure, unadulterated fat found most delightfully in Ballymaloe chicken liver pate and hand-made butter!

            I have, however, been up to my eyeballs in class, family from California, and the first annual Food and Literary Fest here. But life (as I know it), is now on an even keel (though I have been getting to school at 7:30 am and getting home between 7 and 8 pm, followed by a couple of hours of class prep for the next day). Nevertheless, I will try to catch you all up in the next few days. Since it is 12:45 am … here is a snippet of my last two days discovering the wonders of making my own cheese!

Tim cuts the coagulated milk which is really now the curds and whey!

Every day the 5-6 Jersey cows are milked here (I’ve yet to get a turn). About every three days, there is enough milk to call 8 students into the dairy to try their hand at making cheese. Tim Allen (Mr. Darina), is in charge of this operation.

By the time we had arrived on Tuesday evening, he had already added the culture and rennet to the two vats of milk. We “cut” the whatever-it’s-called-at-this-stage and it becomes the curds and whey.

Really fun, and impossible to photograph, is getting our hands in up to our elbows and moving around the curds and continuing to break them up. The mixture is very warm and unctuous (love that word). Besides whey is really good for your skin… so it’s kind of like a milk bath! Then 1/3 of the whey is released (it really tastes good and is full of protein), and 1/3 warm water is added. This washes it. Then we release all the whey except a thin covering over the curds… at which point we begin scooping the curds into our own cheese molds (think PVC pipe with pin holes). We weight it, turn it out and reverse it’s direction in the mold a couple of times, figure out our cheese’s position on the grid of our 8 cheeses, and make plans to turn it in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour and 1 hour more. Then we will turn it again in the morning, and “salt” it the next day.
Filling our cheese molds with the curds.

Weighting down the curds in the molds.

Salting is merely rubbing “dairy salt” (a percentage of the total weight) into this gouda-style cheese. Then we will turn the cheese every day for the next week, and a couple times a week for as long as we are here. We can take it with us when we leave. Ideally it would be ready in 4-5 months. Since customs is not going to let it come with me, I guess Brian and I will have a cheese fest somewhere in Scotland or England before we come home!

cheeses waiting to be salted.

My cheese in particular... I think it needs a name!

Tonight I made crackers (called “cheese biscuits” here… which we  mistakenly thought were like the Red Lobster invention), getting in practice for devouring my own cheese!

The intricate and highly skilled task of salting my cheese!

Cheese takes a lot of milk and patience and skill. I have yet to meet a cheese I don’t like!

Blessed are the Cheesemakers!

No comments:

Post a Comment