So this post is all about cheese ... farmhouse cheddar cheese. But more semi-instructional or possibly emotive story-telling than poetic. After making the mother culture starter on Monday, we were ready and rearing to go on Thursday. With the cows next door freshly milked, Amisadai and Louisa went with Taifa to get 7 litres of their milk and we began our first attempt at making hard cheese at 9am.
First we gently heated the milk ... actually we got a little carried away and overheated it, so then had to cool it down again. Then we added a little of our starter and left it nice and warm for an hour.
|Checking the temperature of the milk|
|Cutting the curds|
And then we were finally ready to put it into Tim's amazing cheese press. But we realised that we had far more cheese curds than would fit in the mold. We had made a "follower" (the pressing piece of wood) to fit this particular mold, but it was clear we would need another. So we filled the first mold and put it in the press. Then we rigged up a makeshift press with another mold in a bread tin pressed with a glass jar and bungee cords from the land cruiser! As my mom said, "wasn't it good I watched MacGyver when I was younger!"
Today was the day that the cheese graduated from the press and began life as a maturing cheese. Further great excitement. But it needed somewhere cool and humid to do this. We don't have anything remotely like a cool cellar here. So dismissing the fridge idea, today the girls and I embarked on a fridge making lesson. The girls thought about it and we looked at plans online and ended up with what we know - clay pots. One clay pot inside another. And wet sand in between. So we collected sand, scrubbed pots and put it all together and then started measuring the temperature and humidity inside. We were looking for 12C and 70% humidity. We managed to get the perfect humidity with a wet towel, but we couldn't get the temperature low enough. We substituted a smaller pot and increased the wet sand. Still not low enough. Now with time running out and the cheese begging to be released from the press, we had to cheat. We added ice. Perfect! But the girls were not too impressed.
|Cheese in the clay cooler|
So a great cheesy moment as we removed the cheeses from their presses. They looked good, smelled good (a bit cheesy) and felt good! We slothered both cheeses with vegetable fat and put the one cheese in the clay cooler. Unfortunately the other didn't fit, so that has gone in the bottom of the fridge which we have turned down low and added a bowl of water for increased humidity! I have asked Tim about making a bigger-better clay cooler for us - specifically designed for the job. Maybe! And it crossed my mind that stove-makers in the village could also make clay coolers .. and there are plenty of Masai and cows out there so who knows where all this cheese-making will end!
So we need a good name for our cheese. Farmhouse Cheddar doesn't seem so appropriate for us here. I was reading about Cornish Yarg Nettle Cheese, a medieval cheese recipe now made by and named after the Gray family. But Regnom Cheese doesn't have the same ring to it! And Ycul really doesn't work! Tim thought of Shamba Cheddar ("shamba" is Swahili for "farm"). Louisa's only contribution was "Cheesy Feet" ... do you have any good ideas?
|Two rounds of farmhouse cheddar ready to mature|