When the world gives you snow – make cheese

After an hour it was white

After an hour it was white

You should always be flexible in life, so when it started snowing very heavily today I simply changed my plans. We live right by the coast, so snow is not particularly common and we are not set up to deal with it. Even so, when the flakes started to fall I didn’t think it would be a problem. However, an hour later it was still snowing and the ground, even the road, was white. I was supposed to be taking the car to the garage and have lunch with a friend in Aberystwyth, but she reported snow up there too so I cancelled arrangements and rescheduled for next week (lunch and car).

Which left me with an unplanned day… and 8 litres of organic milk that I bought yesterday. The obvious solution was to combine these two resources and make cheese. After the success of the soft cheese, I decided to have a go at a ‘simple’ hard cheese. The biggest issue with this is the size of containers, but the pans I use for preserving turned out to be ideal (and, of course, easy to sterilise). The new cheese-making book made me realise that, at the temperatures required, I don’t need to have a water bath on the stove for bringing the milk up to temperature and maintaining it there, I can just have a big plastic tub and add warm or cool water to it, which is what I did and is, in fact, much more controllable.

The first part of cheese-making requires a lot of intervention, and so my unexpected day was a gift in this respect. There’s heating, and adding the bacterial culture, and mixing in rennet, and waiting, and mixing, and allowing it to settle, and straining through cheesecloth several times before putting it in a mold and starting to press it. It takes about six hours before it’s ready to go in the press – some of that time you can leave it to its own devices and some you have to be directly involved, but either way you need to be around and only doing other tasks that you can stop when necessary. Anyway, the cheese is now in the press, so fingers crossed that my first attempt will produce something edible.

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14 Comments

  1. Gosh yes, fingers crossed! I was going to say that seems like a lot of attention, effort and time for a cheese – and then I remembered that making a painting requires even more hours of attention, effort and time and you can at least eat a cheese 🙂 Enjoying the process is more to the point I guess. The snow, it appears, was timely!

    Reply
  2. You’re more adventurous than I am. 🙂

    Reply
  3. The day was a gift, and you have used it wisely! I love making cheese; it’s a magical process when the liquid stiffens into solids, the solids compress into cheese. I do look forward to hearing if your cheese making turns into the same sort of obsession as my sister enjoys. Her cool room (underground, well ventilated, full of salami, preserves, cheese and bacon) smells wonderful and is home to several wire racks of cheeses. I’d pass on one tip from her: don’t use paper to wrap your cheeses if they need wrapping. It sticks and is impossible to remove. Use cheesecloth or muslin.

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  4. He he, I warned Jon he’d be getting a lot of cheese sandwiches for work.
    I hope the hard cheese works out the way you want. Let me know when you start doing Caerphilly please Yum!!
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    Reply
  5. We look forward to hearing how it all turns out. I’ve never had a go at hard cheese; Feta and Mozzarella are as adventurous as I’ve got 🙂

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  6. fingers crossed!

    Reply
  7. Most interesting Ms Snail and while it might seem like a lot of time and effort (and cost) to create what you can buy at the shop cheaper, people forget that the process, the act of creating your own food, needs to be factored into that cost. The sheer unmitigated enjoyment of the moment that you take raw milk and turn it into cheese sarnies for Mr Snail is where all of the fun and potential comes in and best of all, you are learning something new to add to that grey matter and that can never be a bad thing :). Let us all know how it turns out 🙂

    Reply
  8. ourworldheritagebe

     /  January 15, 2015

    This seems like such a fun thing to do! If only I had the time 🙂

    Reply
    • It really does take a lot of time, but it’s such an interesting thing to try. If I lived in a more accessible place, I would have gone on a course, but I couldn’t find any in the local area, so experimenting at home was the only option… which is fun.

      Reply
  9. I must say that I envy you getting the chance to taste a ‘real’ cheese, hot (or cold as the case may be) off the press!
    Enjoy the fruits of your labour, Jan 🙂

    Reply
  10. I think if I had to make cheese, I would give it up entirely. I admire anyone going to extra length to make their own food. If the world comes to a time where there is no grocery store, I will be the first one to starve to death. I am excited to hear the results of your process. I have friends that make jam,, liqueurs, and all manner of things. I get to be the recipient and am willing to pay for the product. Funny how things time out. You were able to enjoy a lovely snowfall from home and try something new. 🙂

    Reply
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