Being asked to teach someone else to make cheese led to me doing a bit more research about ingredients. I was surprised to discover that my previous batch of cheese had inadvertently been made with homogenised milk… it was no wonder the curds didn’t form properly. So, I decided to source some minimally processed milk for my session with Kate.
We used to have raw milk delivered to the door, in bottles, but the farmer retired and no one locally seems to sell it any more, so I sought some by mail order. I was delighted to discover a farm that sells milk from their Jersey herd and who do next day delivery. It’s not cheap, but it is very high fat and just what I was looking for. I ordered 12 litres and we used three for the cheese and one for some yoghurt*, so I now have 8l remaining in the freezer and I’m going to use this to make some hard cheese in the next few days.
The unpasturised, unhomogenised Jersey milk was a delight to work with – it made beautiful curds that were easy to handle and there were lots of them. Of course because I was teaching someone else, it made me think much more about what I was doing, and I realise how gently everything needs to be treated, and how much like magic it is that simply cutting the curds into pieces allows the whey to be released. Unless you are making hard cheese, there is no pressing or squishing and a reasonably firm cheese forms in the moulds with only the lightest handling and a few turns.
We made a very simple soft cheese that had a texture a bit like a cross between feta and Caerphilly! I am planning to get some Geotrichum candidum culture to allow me to make a mould-ripened version of this sort of cheese. This would give it a white surface a bit like brie and would allow it to mature for longer and thus develop more flavour. Interestingly, we tried making ricotta from the whey, but there were relatively few solids left. I’m not too bothered about this, as the whey is great for all sorts of other uses.
So, I will be buying creamy raw milk again for cheese making. Kate is on the case to see if we can get some locally (she has a promising lead), but if not I will keep ordering it from the supplier I used for this batch. I find working with living cultures very interesting – they are so sensitive to the environment and the raw materials they are working on. So, now I need to master a good hard cheese….
* Not a success – far too creamy.