Yesterday I went to a cheese-making class organised by WEA and run by Sheree Sullivan who is the co-owner of Udder Delights, a local company and award-winning Australian cheese-maker. A very enjoyable and interesting morning making my first batch of feta.
I learned a bunch of things that are probably well-known to others but not to me (such as what is rennet). Much of it was not technical, but with enough understanding of procedures to get started.
We started with 4 litres of non-homogenised milk, which is easy to get here in the Adelaide Hills. Mesophilic starter culture was added. We heated the milk to 35 C and then put it into a warmed Esky for half an hour while our teacher talked about the origins of cheeses (Egyptian tribes, animal stomachs as ‘wineskins’, rennet in the stomachs…)
We then added liquid rennet mixed with some distilled water and left the mixture for 50 minutes. During this time we had a tasting of local and imported cheeses and talked about the difference between brie and camembert. Wish someone had brought the wine…
We then “cut the cheese” (OK, the curd) with a knife to break it up and waited another half hour. I think on this occasion Sheree talked through what was going to happen next. There was a lot of waiting and the talks started to blur into each other. It’s like making bread…
Next we stirred the curd and if the pieces were too big we could break them up. A 20 minute wait. Basically the curd starts to lose liquid and solidify, and the stirring helps that. I think it was in this break that we talked about making camembert and I decided to go online to Gumtree to see if I could buy a cheap second hand wine fridge (for aging cheese and curing meat such as bacon). Guess what? There was one locally for $60 so I arranged to buy it that afternoon. The class thought this was hilarious (or perhaps excessive!).
We stirred the curd a second time and waited another 20 minutes. We talked about whey and what to do with it after cheese-making. 4 litres of milk. 3 litres of leftover whey – acidic, high protein, no fat. Use as a substitute for milk or water in baking, put it on the garden, make ricotta, or boil it down to make some kind of Scandinavian cheese.
We then stirred the cheese a third time and put it into ‘hoops’ – in this case little plastic cups with holes in them, but first lined with “chux”. These were allowed to drain, turned, packed down and put into plastic containers.
After buying the wine fridge and arriving home I left the cheese to drain at room temperature overnight. The weather has been quite warm here. This may be why the cheese seems drier that it might be otherwise.
The next day I brined the cheese for half and hour and then put it into the fridge. It is supposed to be ready tomorrow, but tonight we tried some with some spiced chicken breast, sauted vegetables and figs. Quite fine for a first effort. Tomorrow I’ll put some cheese in oil with herbs and spices and stuff, and we’ll see what happens.
I have previously been given and bought cheese making stuff from Green Living Australia, but not used it. Sherry was recommending and selling kits from Mad Millies. Lucky we live near Handorf so we can go to the Udder Delights shop and buy fresh cheese and kits!
Finally I cut it all up and put it in oil with various things – 30% olive oil and 70% another oil. One has bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and garlic. One has chilli flakes, preserved lemon and caraway seeds. Two have bay leaves and peppercorns.
Next on the list are ricotta, mozarella and camembert. And then we’ll get onto the hard cheese! A year to make parmesan… And don’t forget the pancetta…