First Cheese Making Class of June

Richard's goats and kids

Richard’s goats and kids

Richard from near Richmond (Yorkshire) came to make cheese with us last week.  Richard was an unusual cheese making class attendee in that he Richard's goatshas already made quite a lot of cheese as he has three goats, British Alpines.  He kindly let me have some pictures of them, so here they are.  Aren’t they beautiful!  I got a twang of goat envy when Richard was describing their characters, but then I thought pigs and geese were probably more than enough and Snouter would get jealous, (Penny Pig would be utterly indifferent.)

Richard has been making soft and hard cheese for some time but has been experiencing problems with the consistency of his makes: sometimes they go really well and sometimes not so well.  Our job was to go through the steps of hard cheese making with Richard and see if we could find out what was happening.

Also, Richard is a science teacher, and his knowledge of the science behind cheese making was spot on, which is a huge bonus.

I think we identified three critical points where Richard’s practice differed from ours, here in our little dairy.  I am going to outline the three points in the hope that they may help other would be cheese makers because I think this is where making cheese without an acidity meter becomes tricky and a matter of

Richard proudly displaying his block of cheese

Richard proudly displaying his block of cheese

Richard testing the set of his curd

Richard testing the set of his curd

experience and confidence.  Of course, there are recipes to follow, but I can’t help feel that a little more intuition and consideration of the feel of the curd and the colour of the whey is called for, within the parameters of a recipe.

Cheese making, as I have previously explained is a question of acidifying the milk, converting lactose into lactic acid.  If you have an acidity meter, the acidity can be checked, but to do this at home without an acidity meter takes time and experience to guess when the right stage i.e. acidity has been reached to progress on to the next stage.  But if farmer’s wives of yore could do this, then so can we.  This can be mastered by looking at and feeling your curd and the colour of the whey as well as considering temperatures and timings.  It also helps to look back at old make sheets, you should be able to detect a pattern.

1) When to take the whey off.  With the recipe we use to make a Wensleydale style cheese, we take the whey off when the curd particles have become shotty to the touch, like small pellets, firm and dense and they should spring back when gently pressed.

Cutting the block into small cubes

Cutting the block into small cubes

2) When to cut the block after having taken the whey off: for us, this is when most of the whey has come out and the expellation of whey has slowed down considerably.  The block should be firm to the touch, like chicken breast and there should be a reasonable resistance when cutting.

3) When to salt: again, after tumbling the cubes around, the whey should be milky white and very little whey should come out of the cubes if you

Potting Up!

Potting Up!

gently press it between thumb and forefinger.

I think Richard and I agreed that he was being a little quick when blocking, cubing and salting and that by allowing more time between the various latter steps, this gives the acidity greater opportunity to develop so that the cheese is full bodied and should have a good taste, smell and texture.

Good luck with your future cheese making, Richard and would love to hear how you get on and also any more goaty stories!

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3 Comments

Filed under Ribblesdale Cheese

3 responses to “First Cheese Making Class of June

  1. Pingback: Second Cheese Making Class of June | Ribblesdalecheese's Blog

  2. Steve

    Richard, it’s good to see a bit of science in cheese-making, and as a teacher I’d have thought that a bit of TA testing would have been right up your street. I fully appreciate that there’s a lot of different kinds of science teacher, and wouldn’t the chemistry department have something that would substitute for the TA testing apparatus that you could borrow to get the feel of the curds at the right acidity for taking off the whey, blocking and salting? It seems that the dornic solutions are fairly cheap from that french supplier that Iona recommends, and it’s then a case of very careful measurement…
    During my most recent cheese making I followed my process control chart very carefully and only began testing when I expected the cheese to be close to the target TA, and I believe that I’m getting sufficient experience with the ‘shotty’ feel now to almost do without… except measuring the TA and getting an exact product is the fun of it for me.

  3. Thanks, Steve, for your feedback – have passed on to Richard.

    Sounds like you are really getting the hang of this TA malarky through experience – congrats!

    I do the same thing, I don’t take a TA until I think we are ready to move to the next step which helps to validate one’s experience, if you know what I mean.

    Speak soon, Steve, Iona

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