Saturday the 11th July Mrs Chef and I had the chance to do something that we have wanted to do for a long time make our own cheese. The day was run by Nick Haddow of Bruny Island Cheese and what a day it was. We started out with some theory about cheese making to give us an understanding of what we were about to make and the various steps along the way and what was happening to the cheese.
Because we were making this cheese for our own consumption we were given the choice of using raw or pasteurised milk. Of course we jumped at the chance to use the raw milk so we could get the full flavor of the milk into our cheese. The debate about raw milk will have to wait for another post. We started by heating the milk to 35 c and placing the pot into a sink of warm water to maintain the temperature.
After the 45 minutes we added the rennet and mixed well to set the curd. A process that would take around 40-50 minutes. During this time Nick kept us busy getting ready for the next steps and entertaining us with stories of his travels to make cheese in Europe
and again answering questions.
Now the fun really starts testing the curds. At this stage you gently put your fingers into the curd at an angle and gently lift up. What you are looking for is the curd to split as in the photo on the left. When you see this you know the curd is ready for cutting.
Cutting the curd. You are supposed to gently cut the curd into even walnut size pieces, not so easy to do with a knife in a pot. You cut in one direction then the other until you have cut the curd in a criss cross pattern. Then you cut the same way from top to bottom, we ended up with some strange looking walnut pieces. You cut the curd to help release the whey. At this stage the curds are very delicate so you let them rest for 30 minutes before you start stirring the curds.
Stirring the curds. During this process you gently stir the curds by hand this allows you to gently break up any large pieces and by stirring this helps expel the whey. You do this every few minutes for about 30 minutes. during this time the curds are gradually firming up and more why is released. Then you allow the curds to settle and the whey to release you should have in your pot about 50/50 curds and whey.
Hooping time once the curds have settled you drain off some of the whey and then scoop the curds into the groovy little moulds called hoops. You need to fill the hoops to the max because as the whey drains out the curds compress and you will end up with a cheese half the size from when you started.
The finished cheese in the hoops draining once they have sat for about 10 minutes you need to turn them in the hoops. It was at this stage that Nick casually eased a cheese out of the hoop tossed it up in the air and caught it one handed and deftly placed it back into the hoop a process that took Nick around 5 seconds. For us it would take longer with mixed results. Until Mrs Chef took a spare hoop and placed it on top of the filled hoop and just turned them up the other way. A technique that soon caught on with those that were sharing our bench. But I still had to give the one handed tip, toss, catch and stuff routine a go. But I will admit with mixed results. The cheese had to be turned 5 times over the next few hours to assist in the draining of the whey. The hoops are placed on to a black cheese mat and this is placed onto a cake rack and placed into a plastic storage box with a lid and this box would become our maturation chamber. So there we have it our cheese made, hooped and stored but what to do with all that whey, well I am glad you asked we make fresh ricotta with it.
This is a very old practice born out of necessity to utilise all that you can from a product and not waste anything. Just about all ricotta that you can buy is made from milk these days and not whey which is the traditional way to make ricotta. It is such a simple process the whey is heated to 60 c then salt is added. The whey is then heated to 90 c and some vinegar is added. The ricotta forms almost immediately on top of the whey. The ricotta is then scooped off and is ready to eat. Let me tell you that warm fresh ricotta is so far removed from what you buy in the shop it was fantastic.
So there you have it our fantastic cheese day spent with Nick making our own little cheeses. If you have ever want to give this a go I can highly recommend it as you will have a great day and some good cheese. To be able to spend the day with someone as passionate about their craft as Nick is a wonderful experience. Nick pointed us to a few web sites if we wanted to continue our cheese making endeavors.
We are hoping that Nick will increase his classes and enable us to do more courses. Once we got our cheese home we had to continue turning them and letting them drain. The next day the cheese is taken out of the hoops and we placed them into a salt brine for 45 minutes then back into the cleaned and sterlised maturation chamber. We have to turn the cheese once every day and we should start to see the white mould growing on them around day five. The cheese is ready to wrap in waxed wrap around day 10 then matured as we like. We marinated 1 of the cheeses after the first day in EVO and herbs to eat as a fresh curd and it was delicious. I will post more photos of our cheese as they mature.