CheeseSmiles – Cheese Course at High Weald Dairy
I have just completed a one day course at High Weald Dairy, I had hoped to tweet on the day but having twitter photo loading issues so here is a quick whizz through in photos. First things first though, it was a great day, relaxed, well organised and I learnt a huge amount. High Weald Dairy is based at Tremains Farm in Sussex, set in beautiful countryside, it has grown and developed over the years from a small family business to one creating a wide variety of cow, sheep and goats milk cheeses that are sold through farmers markets, delis and supermarkets. The whole team at Tremains Farm are, as I have learnt to expect in cheese makers, smiley people. Husband and wife Mark and Sarah along with ‘the apprentice’ Chris ran the day. The course took place in a training room above the cheese maturing shed, with a teaching kitchen and place for teams of two to work on their cheese, a soft cheese had been part started and the cheddar was worked on throughout the day. The course materials are good too, with plenty of detail and information on suppliers, cheese record keeping, etc so lots of take home value is included. My main interest was to learn the processes and equipment for hard cheese making and maturing, to work out if it is feasible to do this at home.
The picture above is a valuable one to me for the little blue jug and the blue manmade cheese cloths. Up to now I have been transferring my curds with a ladle but the little jug is much more efficient. I also tend to use cheese cloths from Lakeland but they aren’t quite big enough, having a generous sized cloth definitely helps and the blue does mean if there is any loss into the cheese it would show.
The picture above is the soft cheese curds draining, they were left with minimum disruption to gently give up their whey. Just occasionally we moved the cloth to softly tumble the curds allowing puddles of whey to fall into the container below. The final processing, salting and adding flavourings was carried out at the end of the day, I created a cayenne and chilli version and kept one batch plain (I may add some horseradish from the garden to half and try the other half with fresh blood oranges). The soft cheese is delicious and the flavours enhance over the following 24-48 hours.
The other main cheese production of the day was a cheddar. This gave the opportunity to stir the curds as they were reheated in their whey, a key part of the process the curds reduce in size and increase in ‘ping’.
The resultant curds are then strained and later pressed lightly in a single block. The block is then cut and stacked, the cheddaring process. Later this is broken down by hand into smaller bits, milling, and salted before putting into the press for the final stage.
After pressing, turning and pressing again the cheese emerged, pale and interesting.
Now my little cheese is sitting in its cave, actually a cardboard box with a cup of water to raise the humidity and has become mellow yellow. I am exhibiting my best efforts at patience while it matures and becomes a star in its own right.
Of course I have brought the stages of the day together in this post; one of the great things about cheese making is that its not a hurry, there are pauses and opportunities to do other things. Have coffee, chat, a wonderful lunch was provided (no surprises that cheese featured heavily) and a tour of the dairy manufacturing, packaging and cheese storage rooms. we also made mozzarella with much elastic stretchy, pinggggy fun! The cheese below I really like the look of, the shape is from the colanders that the cheese are formed in and they remind me of the sourdough breads made by @pumpstreetbakery that take their form from the proving baskets.
Huge thanks to everyone at High Weald Dairy and the great company of those who were also taking part in the course, it was a superb day and actually as it was pouring with rain outside I can’t think that there would have been a better way to spend the day!