Showing posts with label Cheese making. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cheese making. Show all posts

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

When Cheese Goes Wrong!

by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

I could wax lyrical about all the cheese that I have made that went according to plan, but I don't think I have ever mentioned one that has gone terribly wrong!  This is one of those times.

It started out looking kind of nice and something like this.  There was enough curds for two small and one rather large cheeses.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I totally neglected these cheeses.  They required turning every 4 days and humid conditions.  At the 30 day mark I was to scrape off the mould and it would have looked nice.

Anyway, because of the neglect, this is what they looked like on Monday night!

The large one had mostly had a melt down, but was salvageable of sorts, but the two small ones had totally lost their form and were runny inside.  A bit like blue cheese Camembert I suppose.  As for the taste, well they were fantastic.  A great creamy blue cheese flavour.

This is what I managed to do with them.

I scraped all of the mould off of the large cheese, then wrapped it in cheese wrap and put it into the normal refrigerator to see what happens.  I could use it now, but it would be just good for spreading on crackers like a blue cream cheese.

As for the two small ones, we stored them for a day in the fridge and turned them into a wonderful blue cheese sauce.  Kim cooked up some Penne pasta and lots of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and corn, mixed it all together with the some rue which she added the cheese to make a blue cheese sauce and baked it in the oven.  The flavour was amazing and the meal was delicious.  Our son Ben went back for seconds as did I!

If this is what is known as a disaster in the cheese world, then I am happy with it!  I love it when we learn from mistakes that can be turned around to something edible and yummy.  It just goes to show that cheese making is not all about recipes and following rules, it can be about serendipitous mistakes as well!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Whey Ricotta

written by Gavin from Little Green Cheese and The Greening of Gavin.

When making a semi hard cheese, one is usually left with a large volume of whey (the milky leftover water).  I don't like wasting this by-product, so I usually make Whey Ricotta.  It is easy to make and a very versatile soft cheese, that can be used in may meals!

Anyway, the process for this cheese is very simple, and I caught it all on video for all to see.  I hope you join me in watching another one of my cheese making video tutorials.  For the full list you can visit my cheese website, Little Green Cheese.


Enjoy and I hope you find the time to give it a try!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Living with a House Cow

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I've written before about our house cow:
House Cow FAQs
House Cow Journey Part One
House Cow Journey Part Two
House Cow Journey Part Three
House Cow Journey Continues

It's been over two years since we first brought Lucy home and we're feeling more confident about raising our own cattle these days.  The timeline of our journey (if you don't want to read everything above) goes like this...

We brought Lucy, a pure Jersey cow of a few years of age, here to our 42 acre farm from a dairy.  She was in calf to a Wagyu (beef breed) and had never been hand milked, halter-led etc before.  We also got Honey, a pure Jersey heifer, from another dairy at the same time, just a couple of weeks old.  Lucy raised that calf (begrudgingly), and after she was weaned she had a break, then delivered her Wagyu-cross bull calf named Wags whom we later steered.  I got another pure Jersey heifer, Poppy, to raise alongside this calf.

They weaned and we had mixed success with milking Lucy that lactation.  Awhile after she was AIed we sent her out into the large paddock for a break.  During this time we cared for (and milked) someone else's cow for a few months.  We also had the butcher in for the steer calf, Wags (at 20 months).  Honey went to live with my friend and had her own heifer on her 2nd birthday (a surprise beef X - neighbour's bull!).

Mimi and Lucy
Between Christmas and New Year, we were blessed to welcome another little heifer calf.  This leaves us with 3 pure Jersey females.  Lucy (the original cow), Poppy (the 2nd foster heifer) and now Mimi (Lucy's own heifer calf).  These three will be our house cows in rotation over the coming years, all going well!

The delivery of Lucy's second calf on our farm went smoothly.  I went out to the shops after lunch one day, and when I drove back in the driveway there was a calf at her feet.  The delivery of the placenta, her feeding the calf, first milkings etc all went very smoothly.  It's hard to tell if that's luck, experience or good management though!

Mimi and Lucy
Again we froze all the colostrum we milked off during the first week.  We keep this in case the calf becomes unwell, but we've not had to bottle-feed any calves to date.
Baby Mimi
Because I'm share-milking with only one calf this time, we get a lot of milk each day.  It's time to get back into making feta, yoghurt, quark, custard, bechamel sauce and all those other recipes to use up milk!  It's probably time for me to learn some more cheesemaking.  I'll be heading over the Little Green Cheese for some inspiration!  While I wasn't milking, I was buying Misty Mountain dairy products.  It's lovely to have a local alternative so similar to our house cow's milk, but of course it's just not the same!

Looking back, the first months with our house cow were the hardest.  It was a huge learning curve and we were having a dry spell so feed was expensive.  Feed doesn't ever cost over $20 per week now, during peak milking/feed times.  I switched to chaff (oaten/lucerne) over bales of hay to reduce waste (stalks flicked onto the floor by Lucy).  I still give a little steam rolled (micronised) barley at milking time only.  We found a bulk source of seaweed meal which makes it much more affordable and so tend to give this valuable supplement more generously.  We use natural sprays for flies, balms for udder etc as per suggestions on The Family Cow forum.  We mix these up ourselves from ingredients bought in bulk.  We use diatomaceous earth (DE) in the feed buckets for about 4 days around the full moon each month as a worming preventative.  We also dust it on for ticks and flies and sprinkle in the bedding area as required.

 I'm always seeking the best way, asking questions, reading books, articles and forums when I have questions no one knows the answer to.  Trying different things with my cattle, and being as present as possible - checking them over daily so that any health problems are immediately recognised.  A lot of what I do is quite different from standard dairying practice in my area.  But when you're working with a very small herd, you can afford the time and resources to do things differently.

Timing of holidays is really tricky with a house cow.  Recently we had a two month break of no milking, and I really should have taken advantage of that more.  It still took some effort to arrange for people to look after our pets and other farm animals, but it's really tricky to get someone in to milk a cow!  When thinking about weaning a calf, drying off a cow, timing of AI, etc - we try to time this to best suit family commitments.  And these things don't happen overnight, so spontaneity can go out the window somewhat!

When others ask me about having a house cow, I strongly suggest that unless they are really passionate about it, and willing to spend a lot of time with their cow, don't bother.  Even though these past couple of years of raising our own cattle have been so very rewarding for me, I know it's not for everyone, especially in today's fast-paced society.

cow - adult female bovine who has had a calf, generally over 2 years of age
bull - adult male bovine who has not been castrated
steer - male bovine who has been castrated
heifer - young female bovine, who hasn't calved
AI - artificial insemination - how to get a calf when you don't own a bull
colostrum - first milk

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Camembert Video Tutorial

by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin

Have you ever cut into this cheese and wondered how it was made? Well let me tell you that this one is well worth taking up cheesemaking as a hobby just to find out.  Camembert, if made correctly can be a very rewarding cheese to make.  It should go well with my quince paste.

Wikipeadia states;
"Camembert was reputedly first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy, following advice from a priest who came from Brie.

However, the origin of the cheese known today as Camembert is more likely to rest with the beginnings of the industrialization of the cheesemaking process at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, an engineer, M. Ridel invented the wooden box which was used to carry the cheese and helped to send it for longer distances, in particular to America where it became very popular. These boxes are still used today.

Before fungi were understood, the colour of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, most commonly blue-grey, with brown spots. From the early 20th century onwards, the rind has been more commonly pure white, but it was not until the mid-1970s that pure white became standard.

The cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. It has many other roles in French culture, literature and history. It is now internationally known, and many local varieties are made around the world."

From experience, Camembert can be a tricky cheese to make if you haven't done so before, so please watch this tutorial that I posted on my personal blog today, for the first part of the process (milk to culturing container).  Over the coming weeks I will make another video updating the progress of this batch as the mould grows over the cheese.

The recipe can be found in any good cheese making book.  I highly recommend "Home Cheese Making", by Ricki Carroll.  It contains the recipe that I used to make this video and all you need to know about getting started in this wonderful hobby (I am not affiliated with the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co, I just like the book)!


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Feta Cheese Tutorial

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Back in March 2010, I posted a basic walkthrough on how to make Feta.  This cheese is wonderfully sharp and tasty.

Feta (Greek: φέτα) is a brined curd cheese traditionally made in Greece. Feta is an aged crumbly cheese, commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads (e.g the Greek salad), pastries and in baking. It can also be served cooked or grilled, as part of a sandwich or as a salty alternative to other cheeses in a variety of dishes.

Well after much practice, I believe that I have perfected my technique and I have recorded it on video for prosperity.  The video is taken from my YouTube Channel.

As I didn't list the recipe within the video here it is so that you can give it a go.


4 litres full cream milk (1 gallon)

1/4 teaspoon of lipase diluted in 60ml (quarter of a cup) of non-chlorinate water
2.5 gm (a heaped smidgen) direct set mesophilic culture
2.5 ml rennet diluted in 60ml of non-chlorinated water
2.5 ml calcium chloride diluted in 60ml of non chlorinate water (if milk is homogenised)

2 litres water (boiled)
1/3 cup salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 drops calcium chloride
Boil brine for 5 minutes then cool to room temperature before adding finished cheese.

I hope you enjoy this simple to make cheese and give it a try at home.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Emmental Cheese

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Last year, I made my first Emmentaler cheese.  Here is a before shot that I took during eye formation.

When it was sufficiently aged, we cracked open the wheel and this is what we found.

There was a 3cm (1.5 inch) split on the top and it was slightly infected with Penicillin Roquefort, however the Propioni Shermanii culture did its work (this makes the holes and gives it the nutty flavour).  Well, some of it worked in most parts of the cheese.  

I believe that even though I gave the wheel a wash of brine a couple of times a week as per the recipe, after I let the eyes form, the rind is far too thick.  I think that because the cheese was not waxed, as stated in the recipe, it just hardened too much.  I have since made two more rounds, but this time I waxed the cheese after the three weeks of eye development.  It made for a more moist cheese and I avoided the blue vein infection.

Now, how did it taste I hear you ask?  Well, it tasted much better than a Swiss type cheese that you can buy in the supermarket, however there was an obvious difference due to the Penicillin Roquefort culture.  It was very nice, and both my wife Kim and Pam (Kim's Mum) agreed that it was a very tasty cheese.  The rind had a very strong flavour and as you can see more eyes formed closer to the rind than in the centre.  Here is it sliced on a platter.

The quarter I served up was very holey indeed.  Easy to cut and great flavour with a plain cracker.  I really liked the extra flavour in the blue vein part, but then again I love blue cheese!

I highly recommend this cheese to anyone thinking of making it, but do think about waxing it after the eye formation.  When made commercially this cheese is made in 60-80 kg wheels, which aids the uniformity of the eye formation.  Apparently, from what I have read, the bigger the Emmentaler, the larger and more frequent the eyes. 

What is your favourite type of cheese?  I am looking for new flavours and recipes to try!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Home Made Ricotta

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Those of you who read my blog may know that I am a passionate amateur cheese maker. I took a cheese making course at my local community house about two years ago, and haven’t looked back since.

I have made the following cheeses so far with great success; Feta, Wensleydale, Gouda, Pepper Jack, Pyrenees with peppercorns, Parmesan, Romano, Camembert, Stilton, Yoghurt Cheese and Caerphilly.

However, not all cheeses have been successful. For instance, once when making Wensleydale with UHF Full cream milk (which is not advised), and I had a total disaster when the curds did not set. I thought back to the cheese making class, and I remembered that one of the ladies mentioned that if the curds doesn't set after a second go, never throw out the milk because you can always make Ricotta out of it.

So, out with the cheese making book and off I went. I brought the milk to 90°-95°C stirring all the time to ensure that the milk didn't burn, and then added half a cup of white vinegar. This is meant to separate the milk into a basic curds and whey. Guess what? Nothing happened! This was the most stubborn milk I had ever come across. So in a panic, I threw in another half a cup of vinegar. It finally worked. The whey was visible and the curds were so tiny that you could just see them. I strained the curds and whey through cheesecloth in a colander and waited for 5 minutes. The cheese was still very hot so I had to be careful not to burn myself.

After a bit of mucking around, I ended up with two containers full of creamy Ricotta. I added half a teaspoon of salt to each container and stirred well. I now make ricotta with fresh whey that is left over from when I make a cheese, and add one cup of full cream milk to it. That way, I don’t get very too much ricotta and none is wasted. To make a small amount, just use 2 litres of full cream milk and quarter of a cup of white or cider vinegar. It works fine this way as well.

I used it in the filling for some ravioli that I made the next day. It tastes very nice indeed and much better than the store bought stuff that they try and pass off as fresh ricotta.

The old saying is true;

“When at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” Or “Waste not, want not!”

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Home Made Wensleydale Cheese

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

No so long ago, I made a video tutorial for Wensleydale Cheese which I think you will enjoy. 

This cheese is up there with my favourite cheese Caerphilly and on a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 9.5 especially when you hit that layer of sage in your first mouthful!  The only down side of this cheese is the 8 hours it takes from milk to mould.  Well worth it if you have a rainy day and can't think of anything else to do.

You can find the recipe that I used at this post titled, Wensleydale Recipe and Method.

Here is a bit about the cheese itself.   Wensleydale cheese is a firm and slightly flaky cheese but not dry or crumbly, in fact quite the reverse, its moist and quite succulent with a melt in the mouth forte to it. Slightly sweet but not that it is immediately noticeable and with no after-taste, Wensleydale is perfect to accompany all fresh fruits including apples, pears, grapes, grapefruit and strawberries to name but a few.

Also nice with a glass of light wine, or a cold beer with a Wensleydale ploughman's lunch, Wensleydale is also great on rye or crackers.

No wonder Wallace and Gromit like it so much! For other ramblings about my cheese making journey, pop on over to my cheese posts on my personal blog.  You will find a wealth of information on how to start making this wonderful dairy product in your own home.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Waxing Cheese

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

As I make many different cheeses, and post video tutorials about how to make them, I thought that in this post that I would show everyone how to wax a cheese.

The cheese wax is a special formulation and is not the same as paraffin or candle wax.  That type of wax is too brittle to be used to coat cheese, as the cheese needs a solid yet flexible covering to keep the air and bacteria out of it and to keep the remaining moisture locked in to help with the maturation process.  I received a kilogram of red cheese wax with my kit and it is about AUD$15 per kilo.  It lasts for quite a while, because you can reuse the wax again after you have eaten your cheese.  I have even used some wax that Ben 10 collected off of his baby bell cheeses!  He was very happy to contribute.

So firstly, I set up a double boiler a small pan with about 5 cm of water.

Cheese Wax 001

On top of the pan use a stainless steel or glass container that you can reuse specifically for cheese making.  Once you melt the wax in the container, it is very difficult to get it back out again.  Once the water has boiled, keep it at a simmer.  This temperature will be sufficient to melt all of the wax.

Cheese Wax 002

Don’t try and put the entire block of wax in like this because you will be there for a month of Sundays!

Cheese Wax 004
Cut the block up into smaller pieces and it will melt much quicker.

Cheese Wax 005

After about 15 minutes, this is what you end up with.  A nice smooth consistency, just ready to dip the wheel into.

Cheese Wax 007

So here is the cheese before, nice a dry with no visible liquid.  I turned it about three times a day so that the remaining whey would drain out evenly.

Cheese Wax 003

Now the tricky part, and unfortunately no photos, because I had my own safety to consider and the wax was very hot!

Firstly, place the wheel in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool it down.  This way the cheese wax cools very quickly on contact and it is an easier way to finish the job without too much fuss.

Grab the wheel firmly and dip it into the wax so that it is half coated.  Without dropping it, let it dry for about 1 minute, rotate 180 degrees, then holding by the waxed side, dip it again.  Hold for another minute and allow to dry.  You will find a very thin layer of wax over the entire wheel.  Repeat the process about 3 to 4 more times, ensuring that you don’t hold it in the wax too long, as you don’t want the cheese to melt.  Check for an even coating, and if you are satisfied that it is dry enough, rest the wheel on some baking paper and place in the normal fridge to harden and mature.  This is what it should look like.

Cheese Wax 006

It has no holes in the wax, and is about 3mm thick all over.  After about 20 minutes place it back in the cheese fridge for the designated maturation period.

Here is the finished cheese after the maturation time of 3 months.  This is a Wensleydale with sage. 

It was absolutely one of the best cheeses I have ever made and tasted.  There is nothing quite like home made cheese.  If you would like to learn how to make Wensleydale, have a look at this post on my blog titled "Wensleydale Cheese Making Tutorial"


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Making Parmesan Cheese - Video Tutorial

By Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I recently posted a series of cheese making tutorials on my personal blog, and the response was so good, that I thought I would share my favourite here with you.  It is my favourite because I get to taste test one of my own Parmesan cheeses on camera at the end of part 2!

Parmesan is really called Parmigiano Reggiano, named after the two regions in Italy where it is made.  It is one of the worlds most famous grating cheeses.  Normal sized wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano weigh about 46 kg each, but this recipe is modified to make 1 kg of this delicious cheese.  It certainly beats the crappy, smelly, powered cheese you can buy in those green containers!  Everyone in my family gives it a massive two thumbs up, and we eat it shaved or grated on many types of pasta dishes.

To find the recipe I have used many times that the tutorial is based upon, take a visit to this post simply titled "Parmesan".  Both videos run for a combined total of about 26 minutes, however in real time, the entire process took about 4 hours from milk to mould and the final press.

Part 1;

Part 2;

Bon appétit!

If anyone has any questions about the process, please leave a comment below, and I will endeavour to reply as quickly as possible.  Who thinks that they will give it a go?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Homemade Feta

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Since trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, I have seized as many opportunities as I can, and have been willing to learn new skills where I can.  Back in February 2009, I attended a Cheese making workshop and since then, have made over 15 different types of cheese.

This golden opportunity was too good to pass up.  The Cheese Making Workshop was held at our local community centre.  The two ladies who ran the workshop were just fabulous.  I could see that between them, they had years of cheese making experience.

So, starting at the beginning, I rocked up at about 0950, after having had to turn around once because I forgot my wallet.  Yes, friends, I was that excited!  I was not the first to arrive, and met most of the other students.  They were are friendly bunch, with 3 men and 8 ladies in the class.  We were asked to pick our preference of cheese recipes, and being a clever lad and having done a little research before hand, I decided to ensure that the fruits of my labour were going to be able to be sampled with in a few days.  Therefore I chose to make Feta.  One lady chose Wensleydale, and would you believe that the majority chose Parmesan.  The reason I was a bit shocked was because Feta takes 2-3 days before you can eat it, Wensleydale 1-3 months before maturity, and Parmesan 9-12 months before it matures!  All worth while, but if I have learnt any thing on this sustainable journey, it is that if you put effort into anything, you must be able to reap the rewards quickly, which then gives you a sense of achievement that pushes you to carry on.  The other thing to take into consideration is that the harder cheeses must mature at a temperature of 10-15C for the entire time.  It is very hard to keep anything at that temp here in summer without a cellar or modified refrigerator.

Enough babbling, here is what I saw when I first arrived.

Feta 001

On the table is a small gas camp stove, a pot with water, and a 20 litre bain marie with 10 litres of full cream milk.  The pot acted as a double boiler.  Next to the spoon is a cute hair net (no photos of me wearing it either) that we had to wear so as not to get hair in the cheese.

It is illegal in Australia to make cheese out of non-pasteurised milk.  Pasteurisation kills certain bacteria in the milk that can breed when the temperature of milk is raised during the cheese making process.  To pasteurise milk, simply bring the temperature up to 68C, hold it there for 1 minute, then cool rapidly.  We were already using store bought milk, so it was already treated.  Next we had to reverse the homogenisation process.  Apparently homogenisation shrinks the milk fat globules, which makes it nearly impossible to make into cheese.  To reverse this process, we added 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride to 2 tablespoons of boiled rainwater which was then added to the milk and stirred for 25 seconds.

I then had to raise the temp of the milk to 32C, and keep it there.  Once at temperature, I got to add 10 grains of Mesophylic starter culture and a quarter teaspoon of lipase powder mixed with 50 ml of boiled rainwater.  Here is the milk at temperature with the starter and lipase mixed in (not a very exciting picture).  You must not let the milk get over 40C or it will kill the culture.

Feta 002

At this stage it must ripen for 45 minutes.  The starter and lipase gives the cheese its distinct flavour.  After the time had elapsed, the rennet is added.  The temperature had to be raised again to 32C, and then 2.5ml of rennet is added to 16ml of boiled rainwater, then added to the milk with a quick stir.  At this stage you cannot reheat the milk, because something magical happens.  The milk starts to change composition into curds and whey (Miss Muffett's please stand).  For my cheese this process took about 40 minutes.  I was told not to stir it during the setting.  This is what it looks like when set.  

Click to enlarge and you will see where I had to put my sterilised finger in to test the firmness.

Feta 003

Once firm enough, I then had to cut the curd into 1 cm cubes using a whisk.  Basically you gently stab the whisk vertically into the curd until you reach the bottom.  You repeat this all over the curd three times.  Then you leave it to sit for 5 minutes.  Here is the cut curd.

Feta 004

Now the boring part.  You then have to stir every 10 minutes for about 2 minutes for two hours!  You also have to maintain the temperature at 32C again during the process.  It was during this time I decided to buy a cheese making kit, because I was determined to make more types other than Feta.  The kit was $122 and from looking at other cheese making web sites, it was great value.  I should be able to make at least 60kg of cheese with the kit ingredients!

This is what it looks like after the two hours.  You will notice that the curds and whey have really separated and the curd sinks to the bottom.

Feta 005

The whey looks a little yellow doesn't it.  I bet you are thinking that this is why some cheeses are yellow.  Not so my friends.  The yellow in most cheeses is a food colouring.  Real cheese is usually off-white!

Next the curds is strained through a cheese cloth and the whey kept for later on.  Don't throw the whey away (that is a mouthful), because you can make something special out of it.  I will show you later.  The cheese (finally) gets returned back to the bain marie and you massage it a little until rubbery.  Here is my rubbery feta.

Feta 006

Now it gets strained for a second time and put into the basket (mould).  Luckily they had a cheese press and we could speed up the process.  Here is my semi finished cheese.

Feta 007

It was still a bit watery, and had a little whey still oozing from it.  I wrapped it in foil for the journey home. 

I said goodbye to my classmates, thanked the instructors for a great class and told them I was coming back in three weeks for the mould cheese course.  They gave me 3 litres of whey to take home.

Upon arrival at home, I placed the Feta on a wire rack to dry.  It must be fairly dry before you brine the cheese.  The tray is to catch any excess whey still trying to escape.

Feta 008

Now for the surprise!   If you add a cup of milk and bring the whey to a temperature of 80-90C and hold it there for 30-50 minutes, the excess protein in the whey coagulates into Ricotta cheese!  What a bonus.  It tastes fantastic as well.  Nice with crackers, but Kim thinks it needs a little salt to sharpen it up.

Feta 012

Back to the Feta.  I left it on the kitchen bench overnight with a vinegar soaked tea towel (rung out tight) covering it all.  This morning it was quite dry and about 50ml of whey was in the drip tray.  

I then added the Feta to the brine solution.  The brine is simply 3 tablespoons of non-iodised salt to 1 litre of rainwater and bring it to the boil.  Here is the photo from this morning with the Feta in the solution.  The brine must be cold before adding the cheese to it, otherwise the cheese absorbs too much salt.

Feta 010

I used a food grade plastic container, and then put it in the fridge until I got home from work.  My son Ben met me at the door and was so excited that I was home.  Not because he wanted to see his Dad safely home, but to taste Dad's home-made cheese!  And taste it we did.  It was wonderful and had a firm consistency.  I liken it to a texture in between the softness of a Danish Feta and the crumbliness of a Greek Feta.  In the middle of the two textures and just right.  It was so nice that Kim and I had some more in our home grown garden salad for dinner.  It was a great feeling that I had made or grown everything in the salad bowl!

The feta should last for a few months in the brine solution, as long as I keep it submerged.  To keep it longer you can cut it into 1 cm cubes and place it in some olive oil seasoned with herbs and garlic.  Here is some marinated Feta that I made a few months after the course.

Friday, 20 November 2009


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Recently I’ve been thinking about the things we do which take time, and how we adjust our lives so that we have time for these things. Or how we just do things from scratch to to learn, to understand, to appreciate… I often make the excuse that I'm doing something or growing something to teach my six homeschooled children about that thing, but the truth is that as a child of the modern age, I also need to learn some patience.

I’ve been growing some rice in a big plastic tub. It’s quite a big pot of rice. The grains grow as seed heads on a lush looking grass. My first crop yielded half a jar. We are a family of eight. Half a jar of brown rice grains doesn’t go far between eight people! A whole season’s worth of rice wasn’t even enough for a side dish. That really helped us appreciate the amount of land and water used for our usual 3+ cups of rice consumed with an evening meal once or twice each week.

We also grow pigeon pea. It’s a medium to large sized bush with many pods after flowering. The seeds can be eaten raw as a green pea, or dry similar to a lentil and traditionally used in dahl. Mostly our pigeon pea is a fodder tree for our animals, but sometimes the children and I harvest the dry seed, sift through and discard the imperfect ones and cook up a spicy feast. Processing the pigeon pea pods takes hours! Taking 200g of lentils from my freezer takes under ten seconds! Growing and processing our own might save us a couple of dollars at the most, but the main benefit is how much we learn about self-sufficiency and begin to truly appreciate our bulk-bought plant protein foods.

For the last few months we’ve been milking a house cow. Because of the recent dry weather, the milk we get equates to approximately the same price as the bio-dynamic milk in the local supermarket, taking into consideration the cost of feed and supplements. It’s about twice the price of the cheapest supermarket-brand milk. If we consider our initial investment in buying the animals, fencing, shelter and equipment, it will take us years to recoup costs! And that’s not including the 1+ hours a day I spend caring for the cows… But, to have abundant raw cow’s milk for our family is such a blessing. And to have learned about cows and calves, their food and care, supplements and health, milking, cheese-making and more is invaluable, to me!

From excess cream I have been making butter. I use a Thermomix (the food processor that does everything) to make the butter – so it’s fairly fast and not as messy as it could be! Before, I bought local butter in 500g blocks at the supermarket, stored a few in the freezer and took it for granted that I could grab one when I needed it. Now I make butter in bulk and freeze it in containers, but the effort involved, the time, the mess, using up all the buttermilk – it sure gives me a new appreciation for butter!

What sorts of things are you growing or doing from scratch that give you a new appreciation for the effort involved? Has anything surprised you? Do you think about things you consume in a new light now? I do.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Learning to Make Cheese from the "Queen"

by Badhuman

the finished ball of mozzarella, originally uploaded by cafemama.

Generally speaking J. and I try to live a frugal life but we also believe in spending time and money on learning useful skills. So it was with great pleasure that we set aside a weekend to go up to Massachusetts and learn to make cheese from the self-professed Queen.

I first heard about Ricki Carroll in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" where the author talks about making mozzarella from one of Ricki's kits. Shortly thereafter my husband bought a kit and we had our own at home mozzarella experience. At the time we were living in Colorado and couldn't afford to fly all the way to New England for a six hour class but once we moved to Pennsylvania we immediately signed up. She only offers classes half the year and those fill up quickly so we ended up in the very last class of the year!

The day was jammed packed with far more information then anyone can be expected to learn and retain in a day so your class fee includes a DVD and a couple booklets of recipes for you to take home. Over the course of the day you will get to taste a dozen or so different cheeses and yoghurts and they are all good. You will get to do some hands on work but I honestly think this could be cut out entirely. When Ricki started these classes they were geared towards individuals intending to become cheesemakers. The class size was capped at six individuals and I imagine there was a lot of hands on activities and individual attention. Now the classes are filled with people hoping to make some simple cheeses in their kitchens with store bought milk. There are also a lot more attendees- almost 50! We were crammed on an enclosed sun porch with ten people each crowded around folding tables in metal folding chairs. By the end of the day my butt was sore from the hard metal but I will say I didn't notice it during the class when I was too distracted with everything going on.

I did have a lot fun and I did consider it well worth the $150 per person that we spent but there are some things to keep in mind. First off I wouldn't go to the last class if you can avoid it. Ricki and her husband were in a good spirits but you could tell (and they admitted) that six months of classes virtually every weekend had taken its toll. Trying to teach 50 people and allow them to do hands on activities is not easy. As soon as Ricki gave us a set of instructions everyone wanted to leap into action and not let her finish. And when she needed our attention back it always took awhile for everyone to settle down. Personally I think you could take the hands on portion out entirely. I know people like to touch and see and do but the cheese we made at our tables was one that has to cure so it wasn't like we could eat it at the end of class and because we weren't paying strict attention to the temperature it wasn't even edible.

The pace of the class is quick and its easy to lose track of what cheese you are tasting when there are three floating around the table simultaneously. I suggest taking notes on the booklets you are given. The instructions in the class will not always match the book because Ricki continues to adapt her recipes. You will want clear notes on what has changed and if you don't write them right beside the correct recipe it's easy to get confused. Don't get too stressed out about this though, they offer lots of assistance on their website and through email.

You get a 10% discount on purchases the day of the class (I don't remember being told this before attending the class). So if you plan on buying supplies look at their catalog and try to figure out what you want before the class day. Otherwise you will end up trying to figure out what you want during or immediately following class along with 30 other people.

If you are even remotely bothered by dairy or cheese you are probably going to upset your stomach. You are eating a lot of cheese in a small amount of time so take small portions.

Lunch is included and they had a nice variety of cheese (not surprising!), vegetables and protein. And though I admit being skeptical that there would be enough to feed everyone there was in fact plenty of food.

You can bring a camera and take photos but you probably won't think of it during class when you are to busy listening to Ricki. I would suggest leaving the camera in the car. Like I said the class room is small and you are moving around so there really isn't a convenient place around the table to store your stuff.

I would recommend the class to anyone interested in making cheese for fun. The class is incredibly informative, Ricki is a great teacher, and the class is a lot of fun!

Has anyone else taken a class like this? What did you think?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cheese Making Tips

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Having produced cheese as a hobby now almost weekly for more than 8 months, I thought it would be a great time to share some tips that I have learnt with you.

Tip #1.  Firstly and most importantly is cleanliness.  The area that you intend on making your cheese in, and your tools that you make your cheese with must be spotless clean and sterilsed.  I can not stress this enough.  Some people use bleach to clean their surfaces and utensils, but I prefer vinegar and bicarbonate soda, and to boil all the utensils that I will be using for the process.  Here is a little unedited video that I made to show how clean my kitchen was last Saturday as I began to make some Pyrenees style cheese with green peppercorns.

I spray all surfaces with white vinegar including the utensils that I can't boil to sterilise and let them dry naturally.  This kills any wild mould spores that can inoculate your cheese unintentionally.  I even spray my hands with vinegar and give them a good rub together everytime I handle the cheese during the process to aleviate this problem.  I have not had a problem with bad mould to date.

Tip #2.  Have everything all prepared and layed out before you start.  As I am waiting for the 15-20 minutes for the pot,  stainless steel utensils and cheese cloths to sterilise, I get a clean tea towel and lay it on the kitchen bench next to the stove top, ready to place all the tools on.  I select the recipe well in advance, and get out all the necessary ingredients and put them on the side ready to go.  Cheese making requires un-chlorinated water for diluting some ingredients, so I have to pre-boil some rain water from my tank and let it cool to room temperature.  You could use bottled water, but I do not due to environmental reasons.  I pre mix the diluted calcium chloride with this water, and do the same with the rennet.  Something I learnt in the Boy Scouts that I shall never forget and that is the Scouts motto, "Be Prepared".

Tip #3.  Although the process of cheese making is not particularly difficult, it can be time consuming.  Ensure you take into account all factors involved in culturing the milk, renneting, stirring, milling, and pressing.  If making a simple hard cheese, allow at least 4-5 hours to entirely finish the process.  I make one cheese, Wensleydale, that take over 9 hours from start to the final pressing!  Mind you the final product is well worth the effort.

Tip #4.  Start off with a simple cheese to build your confidence. 
  • Try a soft cheese like yoghurt cheese which is basically putting 1 kg (2 pounds) of natural yoghurt into a cheesecloth and draining for a few hours, then gather into a ball and suspend over a large pot overnight in the fridge.  Simple, yet tasty and you can mix in different flavours, either savoury or sweet to liven it up as a dip.
  • Ricotta is another easy cheese to make.  Take 4 litres of milk, bring to about 93C (200F) and add a quarter of a cup  (67ml) of white vinegar or lemon juice and stir.  You will see the milk separate into curds and whey.  Ladle into cheesecloth lined colander to drain.  When cool to touch, tie the corners of the cloth into a ball and wrap the ends around a large wooden spoon and drain over a large pot.  After a few hours of draining you can add salt to taste and it will keep for about 5 days in the fridge in an airtight container.  Great for lasagne and any other dish that requires a large amount of ricotta.  As I said, simple successes give you the confidence to try something a little harder next time.

Tip #5.  If you find that you enjoy making simple and basic cheeses, see if you can find a local cheese making course that is held nearby.  The knowledge that you will learn will take you to the next level, and as I found, the interaction with other amateur cheese makers is priceless.  Some of the courses can be expensive, but I found a relatively cheap one that was definitely worth the money.  I have attended two of these courses (basic and mould) at our local community centre.  Have a look around your local area.  You might just get a suprise.

Tip #6.  When taking the next step and you have the urge to make an intermediate skill level cheese, like cheddar, feta, parmesan, edam or the like, try and make one like feta or caerphilly that only take a short time to ripen so that you can taste your handy work quickly.  By making these quick to ripen cheeses once a month, you will always have some type of cheese at hand at home and never be tempeted to by that processed store bought rubbish that some supermarkets try and pass off as cheese!

Tip #7.  Once you get the basics right fairly consistently, don't be afraid to experiment a little by adding other flavours to your cheeses during pressing or milling.  I add a layer of home grown sage leaves into the middle of my Wensleydale and it imparts a fantastic flavour.  I add home grown dried birdseye chilli to my Monterey Jack to produce a variety called Pepper Jack.  I have even added green peppercorns to my Pyrenees style cheese as mentioned in tip #1.  It is all about the cheese and the final flavour.

Tip #8.  Have patience.  A good cheese, like a good wine, needs to ripen for a specific period of time and get better with age.  Try and resist temptation by eating your cheese earlier than recommended.  All hard cheeses take time to mature to the right taste.  You would be amazed by the difference a week or month between tastings.  Depending on the cheese, if tasted early it will be very mild, but if left for longer then the flavour gets stronger over time.  I will give you an example.  I made some Camembert, tried it at 3 weeks and it was fantastic.  Left one for 4 weeks, and it was so strong it was overpowering but out of this world.  Another example, my first Caerphilly cheese I sampled at 15 days, when it was supposed to ripen to 28 days.  It was nice, but when we tried it at 28 days, it was fantastic.   I don't dare try my parmesan until at least 12 months!

Tip #9.  If you find that cheese making is the hobby for you, invest in a few good books, a decent press, and if you don't have a cellar that maintains a constant temperature between 10-15C, then you will need to invest in a wine fridge that has the same temperature range.  After I decided that cheese making was going to be a long term hobby, then I took this step and invested in such a fridge and it has become my "cheese cave".  The summers can be pretty gruesome where I live, so it was a need more than a want if I was to continue to make cheese during this hot season.  I picked it up relatively cheaply, and it has served me well so far.  I can now make un-waxed cheeses as well as mould type cheeses (blue vien, brie, camembert) because I can keep the temperature constant.

Tip #10.  Don't forget to have fun and share the final product.  I usually make my cheese on a Friday night, with a few glasses of wine to relax after a tough week at the office.  I find it very therapeutic.  I also enjoy breaking out a small cheese platter when friends drop by whereby sharing all the different tastes.  Most say I should sell it at a local farmers market, but I think it would spoil the fun of the hobby.  Some of my friends have never heard of most of the cheese types that I make, because the main cheese consumed in Australia is cheddar or processed cheese slices.  I love the variety that home make cheese making gives you.

Who would believe that you can make so many different types of cheese with plain old milk!  It is great fun, so give it a go, and remember the most important rule.  Don't cry over spilt milk :-).  If you have had some cheese making experience, either positive or negative, please share via a comment.  If anyone has any questions that are specific, I will try and answer, but remember I am just a humble cheese artisan and a may not have come across that problem before, but I will do my best to get back to you quickly.  If you would like further information, my personal blog has many cheese recipies and fully documented step by step method of most of the cheeses I have made so far.  Just have a look at the right hand side bar and click on a photo of the desired cheese for the tutorial, of you can click here for all the posts I have written about cheese making.

Have fun with cheese making and catch you next time at the Co-op!