Our class made cheese at the Monforte Dairy, in Stratford, Ontario. The owner, Ruth Klassen is also the instructor for the course. We started with 90 litres of sheep milk poured into a vat. This was a perfect measure for making cheese for all students in the class.
And so, after setting for 30 minutes, the milk formed curds. The tips of the fingers are run through to determine the break in the setting milk. I remember playing with Junket, a dessert containing rennet that only sets after a while. If too soon, the Junket would be like custard, too creamy to hold its shape. Once set, however, your spoon would go in cleanly with firm edges and the pudding would hold its shape. You can make your own cheese using rennet tablets. My mom said that my grandfather made cottage cheese, I think he may have used the rennet tablet recipe. If you need supplies and other information, contact The New England Cheese Making Supply Company.
And now, The curds are cut back and forth using something that looks like a wire ladder.
The whey starts to separate from the curds. The soft curds are then gently ladled into molds using a plastic bowl. The molds are plastic baskets held in place by a steel frame on a cart. As the curds naturally compress under gravity, the whey runs out of the mold holes perforated in the sides of each mold. The whey drains onto the floor and into a drain.
A second tier of molds sits atop the first and is similarly filled. Additional layers of molds are added and filled with the curds. Within only a few minutes, the curds compress further and sink deeper into the molds.
The molds are capped and the trays of molds are flipped over to ensure even drainage of the curds. The flipping will continue until the shape holds. The curds settle down into the shape of the molds and when turned out, they look like oversized hockey pucks.
The cheese will then be sprinkled with a mixture of ash and salt in the drying room where they will lay on racks for further extraction of whey and drying. And, there they await the Affineur.
|The drying room|
|Ash coated sheep's cheese|
The class was fortunate to meet Neville McNaughton, "Dr. Cheese" at Monforte. Neville is an expert in the cheese industry and a judge in many cheese contests. I just had to have my photo taken with him.
|Neville McNaughton and Karen|
|Cheese platter at Monforte's|
Then, We headed off for a wonderful lunch at Monforte on Wellington featuring a sampler of Monforte Cheese. The cheese platter had three of the Monforte cheeses, lavash, buckwheat honey and a home made chutney. Delicious!
And of course, I had to have tea!
Cheese making sounds so simple but it takes a long time to produce a final product and it takes careful attention to cleanliness to ensure safe food consumption. Running an artisanal dairy is labour intensive. There is regard for wasted energy and wasted product. There is a minimal amount of technology here, relying on assistive technology rather than industrial automation processes. Timing, temperature and humidity controls the cheese making process. There are many artisanal cheese makers who use their experience and intuition to develop curds into a tasty morsel of creativity. And, that is something I hope to learn.
Now I have some of these delightful hockey pucks to nurture the growth of mold to create cheese. I will report on my affinage experience with photos in my next blog posting.