"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

My new toy, the cheese vat

The most critical part of cheese making after hygiene is temperature. For a long time now I have been messing about with pots on the stove and thermometers, all the time dreaming of having my own cheese vat.
Finally I had a burst of inspiration and wondered if it might not be possible to convert an electric baine marie to hold the precise temperatures needed? Soon, after some hunting on the internet, I was the owner of a twenty litre water-jacketed baine marie which arrived having had every single wire inside shaken off its mounts. Not to worry, I was soon off to see my local electrician anyway for he was to fit a digital thermostat in place of the simple dial control that came with the tub.
He managed to source a heater unit that will control the temperatures from 0 to 90 degrees Celsius with a one degree variation.
So the very next day I loaded the unit with twenty fresh litres of milk- we are weaning the calves so we have a surplus of milk right now. I dialed the temperature for 32 degrees and set about making a Fetta. I chose fetta because it is a very simple cheese and does not need to be aged, well not for long anyway.
The temperature stayed exactly spot on throughout the entire process. Within an hour and a half I was cutting the curd.
Then I began stirring the curd in the whey to stop it setting into a mass. This gentle agitation also helps drive out the whey making the curd firmer.
This is now the meal Little Miss Muffet was settling down to enjoy when she had that unfortunate incident with the spider. I imagine it would be quite nice with a little honey.
Lastly the curds are removed from the whey and placed in a cheese basket overnight and turned every few hours or so. The basket has a pattern on it to make the cheese look all folksy. Personally I don't think it makes any difference to the cheese. The next morning I place the cheese in a 15% brine solution and store in the fridge. It can be eaten immediately though. Quite happy with this one. It has a very nice aroma and an excellent texture.
Now I will have to get my cheese fridge repaired. I had modified it to run at 12.5 degrees but after a year it ceased working. Probably my fault. I expect the local repair man will give me a dressing down when he looks at it. Oh well, just so long as I get my cheese-aging fridge back again.

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