I like cheese. Cheese is my hero. Cheese is my friend. As a friend it introduces me to the world. Certain tastes send me to Provence in France, a dry parmesan cut from a huge, aged wheel takes me to a remembered trattoria in Perugia, Italy, a large slice of room temperature manchego transports me back to Spain and has me singing ‘the man from La Mancha’. My relationship with cheese had been rather shallow, but last year I saw my first cheese master (mistress) at work creating heaven. (See blog post In Praise of Cheeses, posted 29 April, 2017). Narcissi Municio was making a raw milk cheese that I can only describe after eating far too much of it – if that’s a thing – as life-changing – Torta del Casar.
Absolutely nothing to do with cheese making, but look at these pretty eggs that came from the chooks at Franklin Gardens.
And to see the workings on a biggish scale opened my eyes to the creation from whoa to go! Well, not quite. I didn’t meet the animals from whence the mighty milk came from.
Recently I had the opportunity to make cheese! I’m not now going into full artisan cheese making in my postage stamp size kitchen, but it was a wonderful experience and made me more appreciative of what went into my indulgences.
An old friend of mine who I used to party hard with many moons ago now lives in New Zealand on a little farm where six goats (three pregnant), two dogs (rescue cuties), three cats (one a mongrel thief), 12 sociable chooks and several ducks and geese that scurry, and a husband reside.
Jas milking, me stirring, one dog staring . . .
My mate Jasmin learned to make cheese when she acquired the goats. She travelled to Italy to take master classes and now does modest cheesemaking courses for keen enthusiasts – what are they called? Formagios, Cheddarists? She lives in Paparoa, Northland New Zealand, a couple of hours drive north of Auckland, on a drive through an impossibly beautiful green landscape.
So time for me to don the apron and learn how to make cheese – today it will be haloumi. The goat was milked the day before and the fresh, creamy, raw, organic milk was refrigerated overnight. Next morning, three litres of the milk were strained into a vat and then heated til temp. reached 32deg. exactly, and kid rennet was added to set the curd.
This was serious, it was all about the temperature.
Straining the milk. This cat was nowhere near the cheesemaking, even though he would like to be – just thought he would add to the ambience of the post! (His name is Roo.)
The milk cooled and I could see it separating away from the edge of the vat. Just looked like junket – back to curds and whey again! (After production the whey went to the chooks for happy hour.) The curd is soft because it is goat’s milk and doesn’t have a lot of fat. The long spatula was inserted and I began the process of slicing through the curd in lines, crisscrossing in an even measurement.
Cutting the strained curd. There’s that damn cat again – he was not in the cheese making room, I promise!
I lifted the mixture out and placed it in square plastic tubs, evenly packing it so the whey would drain into a tray beneath. The little containers were left for a while until all the whey had disappeared down the whey way! Turning the blocks of dry cheese out onto a board I then sliced through the squares in reasonably straight lines to create rectangles of haloumi.
The (almost perfect, if I do say so myself) rectangles, that had been salted on both sides were then dropped into the whey that had been heated up ,and let cook for a few minutes until the pieces floated to the top.
They were then removed from the whey and set aside to cool. When cool the slices were gently placed in a storage box destined to become dinner that night.
All in all it was the best experience and even though it looks like I’m the Cheese Whisperer, the real champion of this venture was the Big Cheese Jasmin Futter in the background guiding me every step of the way.
We ate the cheese that night (little olive oil in pan – cook one minute each side), had it with salad and thought it ever so fine.
We took several slices back to Auckland to have the next night. Same drill and it was better than the night before. I can honestly say I have eaten my share of haloumi over the years but this was the best squeaky haloumi I ever tasted. So thank you Jasmin and thank you goats.
Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey . . . what the heck is a tuffet?
Cheesy grins from the Big Cheese and The Cheese Whisperer.
If you are interested in learning the dark arts of cheese making have a look at @Fromage at Franklin in Paparoa Cheesemaking Classes on Facebook or email Jasmin Futter firstname.lastname@example.org