Friday, May 24, 2013

Quick cheese for busy people

Its funny how having a cow changes your perspective on life.  For most people, getting good quality milk is the limiting factor for their cheese-making activities, because its expensive and can be hard to find.  Not me, I don't have any shortage of beautiful fresh raw creamy jersey milk, but I don't have time to make a cheese every day!

the reason for all this milk.....
When a dairy cow first has her calf, she makes more milk than the calf can drink.  This isn't a problem for beef cattle, but we've bred dairy cows to produce excess, and if the cow isn't milked out completely she is at risk of mastitis.  The cow's milk production actually increases and peaks in the first few weeks after her calf is born and then (thank goodness!) begins to decrease.  As the calf grows, it can drink more and more of the milk, until eventually it can drink all the cow's milk and then we don't need to milk every day.  At that stage, we have to separate the calf from the cow if we do want to milk.  Once we get to this stage, we only milk once a week, and get about 4L, which is enough for the two of us for the week.  When it comes time to wean the calf and dry up the cow before her next calf is born, her milk production is so low that its safe to just gradually stop milking her dry and her body will stop making milk.  This is not safe at first though because she is just making so much more milk.

When Molly was in that very first stage, her milk production was increasing and we were getting over 10L per day, and Monty the calf was drinking as much as he wanted, but he was tiny, so that was not much.  I start to panic when we have more than 10L of milk in the fridge.  We can't fit much more in there, that means I've got to make a cheese (and refresh the kefir and make yoghurt, but there's only so much of that you need either).

I went through all my cheese-making books and wrote in the margin the time required for each step and added them up to find the quickest cheeses.  I don't want to be up all night stirring curd if we have to get up again at 5:30am to milk again the next morning!  Sometimes cheese recipes can be deceptive, they can seem easy, but take longer than expected.  I found two that are quick and easy, and now I know them, I can use them regularly without having to consult the recipe all the time.

Speaking of cheese recipes, one thing I've noticed is that in across my different cheese recipe books, the recipes for the same cheese are in some cases completely different.  I've come to the conclusion that the recipe really doesn't matter that much.  The important things are using the right starter for the temperature, using fresh milk, starting with clean equipment, stirring and adjusting the temperature (although the recipes may not agree, so the exact temperature is unimportant) and turning the cheese in the mould a few times to get a nice surface.  Having all this milk gives me the opportunity to experiment, and most of that has been seeing how many corners I can cut before the cheese doesn't work, and I haven't made any that were inedible so far!

Feta and Romano, my two quick cheeses
For a hard cheese, I use a romano recipe in one of my books.  All you have to do is heat the milk, add starter, add rennet, cut the curd, heat the curd and scoop it out, all done in about 3 hours, perfect if I remember to start as soon as we get home from work.  The next morning I put it in brine and that evening I take it out of the brine to dry out in a container in the fridge.  When its dry I vacuum pack it (and recently I've started waxing them).  The other quick one is feta, even better, one of my recipes says not to stir it at all, which is fine by me, the process is as above without the heating and stirring and brining!  I cut it and marinate in oil, it lasts for ages in jars in the fridge.

When you make the same quick cheeses nearly everyday, you feel like something different in the weekend, and I was very pleased by the recent release of Gavin Webber's cheese ebook "Keep Calm and Make Cheese - The Beginners Guide To Cheese Making at Home".  In fact I tried three new cheeses in three days!  The Italian bag cheese, the camenbert and the farmhouse cheddar.  Gavin's book has very clear instructions and the recipes are nice and simple, without some of the more complicated and time-consuming steps I've seen in other books.  The cheeses are practical for use in the home, rather than trying to match every step used in a commercial process.  Many of my other cheese books skip over important details, and I'm never sure if I should put the lid on the pot, or if I should be draining the cheese in cheese cloth, or do I air dry in the fridge or at room temperature?  Gavin doesn't leave you wondering, all the steps have just the right detail.  For anyone who is new to cheese, this is a very useful resource, even if you own several other cheese books, its great value and has some recipes I'd never heard of before (I had to make the Italian bag cheese just because it sounded weird).  Throughout the book there are links to Gavin's youtube cheese videos, but I didn't watch any because our internet is so slow.  If you haven't seen someone making cheese before, this would be a good way to get some first-hand experience without having to go to a cheese-making course.

What is your favourite cheese to make?  to eat?  

If you want to know more about house cows, my eBook is available for purchase on Scribd.  Its only $4.99, and it includes lots of information about keeping a house cow in Australia.  There's more details about the eBook on my house cow eBook blog.  If you don't want to go through all the Scribd/paypal effort, just send me an email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com and I can arrange to email it to you instead.

10 comments:

  1. Great post and it was interesting to get your feedback about Gavin's book

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  2. Over the last few years we have tried most of the cheeses in the Willman’s Cheeselinks book. We came across Roquefort in a small country IGA and found it so delicious we’ve tried to replicate the flavour. Couldn’t get sheep’s milk but were able to increase the fat content by adding back extra cream. The final recipe is a combination of information from a couple of books to get the right mix of starters, salt, setting times and other processes. The final result is a creamy, bluey, very addictive blue nothing like Roquefort in texture but otherwise excellent. We always try to keep the basics in our cheese fridge – Fetta, Parmesan, Haloumi, cheddar, camembert and blue but still try to experiment as often as possible. Whey is used to soak grain for the chooks. We get our raw milk from a local dairy farmer and skim the cream to make cultured butter. Afternoon milk has higher butterfat content. Butter milk goes into scone making. With yoghurt we found the best result is using DVs starter each time and a water jacket (one pot inside another) to maintain temperature. Re-using a previous yoghurt culture seems to result in a more watery consistency. Probably some of the bacteria don’t replicate as well. A very technical book is Cheesemaking Practice by R. Scott. Found it in the local university library. It has details on making 99 different cheeses – very useful when used with other easier to read texts. Very envious of your Jersey milk as ours is Friesian

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  3. I will have to try the romano! I was in a shop yesterday looking wistfully at a cheese making kit. Can't wait till our goat finally kids so we can start making feta again,
    And any kind of cheese that is quick to make suits me!

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  4. lovely post Liz I always wanted to try making cheese but have not ever got round to it as we are cheese mad couple I praying someone might give me a kit or a voucher for my birthday so I can try it out

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  5. It sounds so easy Liz! One of these days I'll give it a try.

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  6. Another of my to do's as my hubby loves cheese,it is always good to get a book someone recommends so thanks for the feedback

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  7. Good news, our local dairy announced this week that they've had enough with the supermarkets that keep dropping their prices. They'll go back to glass bottles, non-homogenised milk and home delivery. Will be great for making cheese I reckon, will sure try out the ebook.
    Our own house cow will have to wait for a bit.

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  8. well thanks for that. Cheese I have always wanted to make, but just wasn't sure about the time factor. NOt that the result isn't worth it because I'm sure it is, but reality kicks in and there's only so much time in a week, really. So thanks :)

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  9. Seeing this detailed post linked up at the Creative HomeAcre Hop was great! Thanks for joining us and we hope you'll come and party creatively again on Sunday at http://mumtopia.blogspot.com/2013/06/Hop9thJune.html. Best wishes, Alison (Mumtopia)

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  10. Thanks Liz, I've been wanting to buy a good cheese book so will look this one up. I like making haloumi...another fairly quick one.....and I have recently learnt how to make mozzarella successfully. I couldn't find an easy creamy blue (like Castello) recipe so made it up using the method for camembert with blue cheese spores. Ha, it was pretty stinky for a while but seems to have settled down. Have been very pleased with my camembert. Unfortunately I don't have a cow or live near a dairy so have to buy non homogenised milk from markets when I am in the city - 550km away!
    I enjoy reading your blog. I do similar things on our 330,000 acres in the southern rangelands of WA. It's a bit drier here! All the best, Emma outback larder.blogspot.com.au

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, if you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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