Friday 15 September 2017

The Best Cheese Ever?

Nicest cheese so far, by a long way. 
Here pictured is, we are sure, 'our' nicest cheese ever. All Liz's work, this one and a first try at a new recipe. Both of us had been plugging away last season at the soft cheeses and Feta style semi-soft ones using the very generous gifts of 9 litre batches of goat's milk coming from Sue and Rob. These are all a case of gentle warmth, waiting for curds, slicing curds into dice, lifting with a slotted spoon and straining in a colander with or without gentle pressing to help drive out the whey. This followed by a short wait, and no real 'maturing' time.

More 'Gubbeen' style cheese at the salt-cure stage. 
This year Liz went with a recipe from the Gubbeen book (Gubbeen (The story of a working farm and its foods) by Giana Ferguson, pub Kyle 2014, ISBN 978 0 85783 240 5 page 98+) which added an extra stage. This was "scalding" - reheating the separated cheese/whey to 39ºC and then breaking up the curds into tiny pieces (the size of unburst pop-corn) with your hands, followed by quickly scooping them out and into the final mould, where they will quickly set into one lump; your embryonic round of cheese.

An impressive hail storm turned us white
on Wednesday.
This 'lump' is drained some more, then cured with sprinkled salt all round (including turning to get at top and bottom) and washed now and then with saline while it matures for 10 days and develops a rind. To be honest, we could hardly wait. It looked so promising but today was the day. Patience was key. Well, dear reader, we are delighted. It is, as I said, the best ever - I'm saying "our best ever" though I wasn't involved at all, because it way 'out-cheeses' anything I have done.

It is a firm cheese with a definite rind. The flavour has the lovely delicate level of acidity and salty savouriness that it needs without overpowering the gentle goat-milk tang. It is dry-crumbly without a hint of the 'sweat' or greasiness you'd get in plastic-wrapped, shop Cheddar. We are delighted and Liz is re-living those Greek Island lunches where cheese just like this (She and Diane called them "Not-Feta") came with tomatoes, basil, olive oil and other sun-soaked accompaniments.

Roll up! Roll up! Git yer iggs frum 'appy
'ens 'ere. Fresh laid!
Meanwhile, while we are on 'produce' we are having our first venture into selling eggs at the farm gate via an 'honesty box'. We have no idea how this will go. Various friends and contacts have had some good success with the method.

The 'Manus', hatched when we had the Help-X lads here are
5 weeks old and will soon be leaving Mum. 
Our main contact (no names etc) reports only one problem when a neighbouring farm had some Herberts camping in one of the fields who took to roaming around on mopeds and stopped one day for an egg fight up and down the road. Our friends were out that day and came home to an empty box, no money, obviously, and eggs smashed all over the tarmac. Ah well. We put ours out yesterday and we know it has been spotted and the word will have gone round. Maybe the weekend will see a few first customers

The wine gets racked off and 'stabilized' (= killed)
The batch of 5 gallons of red wine completed its first ferment and comes due for racking off, 'killing' with stabilizer and fining. These are all words which would have tripped off the tongue back in the 70s. My brothers and I had 30 gallons of different wines on the go back then and all that terminology was 2nd nature. Now, I must confess, this is a bit of a rusty re-visit and  the 'fining' etc is just a case of following the instruction sheet from the kit-box and adding, at the right time, the contents of sachet D, E and F. Ah well. It'll surely taste OK.

At least 2 babies for Bobtail. Bottom left. 
Our current 'first' broody hen comes up to the crucial day, #21. This is 'Bobtail', a Buff Orpington with all her tail and bum feathers long since pulled out. "No better than she should be" (as they say here) she used to have a perfectly good tail, but she seems to love the attentions of the Rooster rather too much (!) Never mind, she went broody and thus gets a few weeks break from Gandalf's amorous attentions.

Bits of Cider Press in the paint shop.
We love that you can play a trick on a broody hen on due-day to see whether she has hatched. If you drop some food under her chin inside the nest she will either quietly peck away and eat it, or she will start that low-pitched bass-y clucking hens use to tell babies they have found food for them. If the latter, then if you stand a while and watch, any hatched, dried off and mobile chicks will surely start to appear from under her 'skirts' to see what Mum is talking about. I did this at lunchtime today with Bobtail and was pleased to see at least 3 youngsters emerge. Her colleague, 'Stumpy' 3 boxes along is not due for another 2 weeks. She is sitting on 7 eggs at the moment. More on this when we have progress. I'm off to see if I can blag some more of that cheese.....

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