The big cheese (and the little cheeses)

So, about those large quantities of cheese in yesterday’s post…

I’ve been making cheese at home for a few years now. All my learning has been gained from books – until this week I’d never actually been shown the process by a real person and I’d never had the opportunity to ask questions. This week all that changed, when I went for two day’s training at The Food Centre Wales. Just 25 minutes from home, this amazing resource provides training and support for small-scale food producers in Wales, as well as having a R&D facility which can also be hired for production. I was lucky enough to be able to arrange training under the auspices of the Welsh Government’s Project HELIX, which is intended to support small and medium business in the food sector in Wales… including people like me who are at a very early stage of considering setting up a business.

I invited two friends who have smallholdings to join me and Tuesday saw us donning hair nets, white coats and white wellington boots to start our cheese-making adventure. We weren’t doing this small scale, either. The plan was to make two types of cheese – a hard Tomme-style cheese and a soft brie-style cheese. The first we made using 100 litres of milk and the second using 50 litres. These are tiny quantities if you are working on a commercial scale, but a huge step up from making cheese in a home kitchen like I normally do.

So we weighed cultures and mixed and added rennet and left the curd to rest and stirred, and waited and drained and filled moulds. We talked about pH and different cultures and temperatures and affinage. We turned our cheeses (the hard ones in big moulds once and the soft ones in small moulds twice) and then we went home with our heads full of new information, leaving our cheeses to drain (Brie-style) or in the big press (Tomme-style).

We returned the following day to take our cheeses out. We salted the small ones with dry salt and we made up brine for the big ones… which needed to be soaked for a total of 37 hours!

Leaving the cheeses to get on with it, we went off for a theory session and some questions and answers. We discussed suppliers and talked more about cultures and equipment. We returned to the dairy after the brie had been coated in salt for 2 hours and washed each cheese off and packed a few to take home. We turned the large cheeses in their brine, but 37 hours was a bit long to hang around for, so once we’d finished some paperwork, we sealed our buckets and each of us returned home with a large wheel of cheese and four small soft cheeses.

Of course, this is not the end of the story. The big cheeses in the brine had to be turned again on Thursday morning, before being allowed to soak for the rest of the requisite time. This meant removing them from their brine late on Thursday evening… which we each did. At the same time, the small cheeses had to be put in a suitable place to begin to mature.

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Out of the brine to drain and allow the surface to dry

The next part of the process will be different for each of us. The idea is that we experiment to see what maturation conditions and affinage (finishing treatment) we like best. We’ve compared notes and in my next post I’ll tell you what we’ve each decided to do.

 

What an exciting week it’s been. And the best thing is that I’m now confident that I was doing it ‘right’ before!

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19 Comments

  1. I used to make cheese for Llanboidy cheese and it is easy when you know how – and the same as at home but with bigger vats etc! The experimenting is the fun bit which I never got to do at work since we only made one type of cheese and the objective was to turn out the same result each time. At home I did try some different things. Good luck with it all and I will be happy to taste for you!😉

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  2. Shirley

     /  October 20, 2017

    How exciting. I look forward to hearing more about it.

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  3. MY goodness, it all sounds very complex. I’ll just have to keep buying my goats milk feta. 🙂

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  4. Well done on the cheese front – they all look rather delicious!
    I look forward to seeing the finishing stages, too 🙂

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  5. What a fabulous opportunity (and to know that you were on the right path!).I am intrigued to know what your future cheesy plans are…..and will each one have its own crocheted cover? 😉

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  6. What an exciting and interesting week. I shall look forward to further installments 🙂

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  7. Well, you can now be satisfied that you’re Madame la Fromageuse (or perhaps that should be Gwneuthurwr Caws – I think I prefer the French version!). What does the future hold? A shop? A market stall? An online business?

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  8. Fascinating. And I want to see you in your hair net, please 🙂

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  9. That’s awesome! What an exciting project 😊

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  10. Ooh, I’m super jealous. This looks like a gob of cheesy fun!!

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  1. Finessing my affinage | The Snail of Happiness

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