Category Archives: cheese
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!
A short break in postcards from Italy to talk about my latest cheese adventure. Today I made paneer, a bland cheese, made at high temperature so produces a non melting cheese which is perfect for curries. Also as no rennet is used it is an excellent vegetarian cheese. Today’s recipe used yogurt and white vinegar to make the curds,
then washing draining and tying in a knot before pressing lightly
– the end result is a springy mass which is easily cut into cubes for cooking.
As before the milk came from Calf at Foot Dairy, ethically produced raw milk – I’m looking forward to sag paneer (lovely fresh spinach from Roger at Framlingham Market) and a sweet paneer dish maybe using some nuts and rose syrup….
Today as the snow started to fall again I decided to make my marmalade. There is nothing like sitting snipping at peels, whilst squirts of acrid juice pop into your eye to aid contemplation. As I peeled each flabby Seville orange, trying to make one continuous piece, for luck, I thought about the french peau d’orange and my current lack of decision on whether or not to enter any big events this year. The two things are not unrelated, cycling and swimming certainly improve the appearance of the skin on the thighs, but do I want to commit to putting in the miles in preparation for another Great East Swim or Dunwich Dynamo? Basically I’ve calculated that if I don’t kick myself into touch next week there will not be enough weeks to be on form for the events.
There is another name for cellulite, ‘cottage cheese thighs’ and therein lies another part of my dilemma I’ve become distracted by cheese. Back in the summer I had the pleasure of visiting a mozzarella shop in Lecce; part of a great day out with Yle of Yltour, I’ll write more about this another day, now I’ve got my blogging mojo back. Later on returning home to Suffolk I discovered that Fi of Calf at Foot Dairy is selling milk for her lovely grass fed Jersey cows in Framlingham Market. The milk is unpasteurised and unhomogonised making it ideal for artisan cheese making. Armed with rennet and some muslin I made my first batch of mozzarella, took it back to the market for people there to try and on seeing how yellow it turned out rechristened it mozzayella! Since then I’ve tried making, feta, quark, ricotta, halloumi and my one real disaster cottage cheese…. So, I’m off to a cheese course later in the year, looking forward to learning how to make hard cheeses. Then all I’ll need is a house cow, a pig to eat the excess whey, a dairy, a cave to store my maturing wheels in and life will be complete…
Today I have had fun shopping for food in Framlingham, Yoxford and the Sandlings. Yesterday, I had a mystery shopping assignment to a top four supermarket. What a soulless place it was; the assignment itself was interesting but above anything it restored my understanding of why I don’t shop in the big four often. Today was a wholly different experience. First I picked up from the Framlingham Market Facebook page that the lovely Darren, below, was doing a Facebook deal on sea bass. So I went along and ask for two Facebook, great success – apparently I wasn’t the first, someone bought their’s with the papers at 7.00am.
Then I popped over to see Roger Etheridge on his veg stall, I bought watercress which will go nicely with the bass and a few purple sprouting plants. There was a time when I bought boxes of fruit and veg from Roger, but now I grow more and buy less.
Next stop was to meet Twitter friend Carl, or as I know him @solebaycheese, another one of those introductions where I have to remember that most people only know me as a green blob and a dodgy twitter name. Carl has just taken over the Yoxford Post Office and is in the ‘soft opening’ phase. This allows for the Post Office training to be carried out by the previous Sub-Post Master; I dutifully posted a parcel to ensure the training was maximised. Carl served me the most gorgeously gooey piece of Vacherin cheese, whilst dispensing tips on how to prepare and cook; that’s service. Good luck to you Carl, I really hope the new business takes off and look forward to the coffee and free wifi once it’s up and running.
Next stop was Orford country market to test out @PumpStreetBakery’s bread. The market is run in the hall and is a delight. I also bought some sausages with caramelised onion and some potatoes. The Pump Street Bakery stall was being run by @patorford and there was a roaring trade. Some fabulous looking pastries, croissants and meringues too. I now have a huge loaf of crusty bread to enjoy with the cheese. Pat mentioned that the village shop in Orford is taking off. It is fantastic, full of local produce and with a small coffee area, I bought a beautiful Romanesco and some Marybelle milk.
From there a quick jaunt to Snape farmers market for High House discovery apple juice, perfect pale lemon pink in colour and Suffolk Blue cheese, piri-piri Sutton Hoo chicken and then off Friday Street market for some Paddy and Scott’s coffee and smoked garlic. All in all, far more miles than I would normally do, but such fun and I have a tidy haul of food to serve over the next few days, topped up with some more veg and fruit from the garden, all will be well.
So what do you think – are we about to see a renaissance for the village shop or market? It may never be able to compete on price but how about quality and friendliness combined with convenience, is it a price worth paying? Vote below and add comments, for example should local shopping use social media more?
We have a little tradition round here, a group of friends take it in turns to host a supper when it is one of the group’s big ‘O’ birthday. This was my chance; ever one to set myself a challenge, I decided to try to source all the ingredients from Suffolk. This is how the meal went, there is a Spotify playlist to go with the post; it was Earth Day too, so celebrating all good things around us seemed particularly appropriate.
The opening gambit from two of the friends when they arrived was, ‘so are we going to have road kill?’ – Little did they know.
Being fabulous people the first thing they asked was, “is there anything we can do?” – I explained that the one product I couldn’t buy locally was Suffolk butter. I poured some cream into a jam jar and asked them to shake it whilst they talked. Passing the jar from one to another; we could eat once when we had produced butter.
Starters: Platters – Salami and Ham from Lane Farm Brundish, Smoked Trout, Mackerel, and Salmon from Pinney’s of Orford, Green Peppercorn Dressing from Suffolk Mud, Mayonnaise from Stokes; mixed leaves from my greenhouse and Road Kill rolls made with white strong flour from Maple Farm, Kelsale.
The Lane Farm meats are dry and not overly fatty so really tasty to eat, especially with something a little spicy like a mustard or the peppercorn dressing. The Pinney’s smoked fish is delicious. The fish is soft and delicately smoked, not overly flavoured. The Road Kill rolls were bread rolls shaped like flattened hedgehogs. Kelsale flour is not bleached, so even their white flour comes up as a brownish roll, perfect for hedgehogs. The flour has a gloriously silky feel when you work with it. I was caught out though by using too much water in the initial mix, so much kneading on a well and frequently floured board was required to bring it back to a good consistency. I proved the dough over night and did a secondary shaping and proving in the morning.
Another time I would make the rolls smaller, they did look rather intimidating.
Amuse-bouche: Weed shot. I made a soup using, Jack-by-the-hedge, cleavers (aka sticky willy), nettles, chick weed, sorrel and land cress from the garden and the lane. I served the soup by giving everyone a shot glass and pouring the soup chilled from a White’s pear juice bottle. Variously described as disgusting, smelling like drains and quite nice; I think it is possibly an acquired taste. I’ll drink the rest for lunch, I guess it will have cleaned the palate if nothing else.
Venus and the Hunter’s return: The main course was a variation on coq-au-vin. Made with chicken breast, Shawsgate Venus, onions, carrots, potatoes, a good bundle of fresh herbs as a bouquet garni and some chopped pickled walnuts (walnuts from one of the friend’s garden) stirred into the sauce. I was trying to keep this course low fat, so didn’t thicken it with a roux and used skinless breasts, the little oil I used to soften the onions was local rape seed oil from Hillfarm. With hindsight this may have been a mistake, the chicken came up rather dry and I wish the potatoes had a bit of a crispy edge to them. Another time I think I would use a deep casserole, slice the potatoes and do as a layered topping. The chicken, potatoes and carrots are all from local suppliers and bought at auction at Abbots at Campsea Ashe. As there were already some veg in the casserole I just served it with a huge deep dish of Birds Eye peas. Now I can’t guarantee these were from Suffolk but there is a fair to middling chance they were; but equally that they may be the last ones we see. I have previously written about the pea harvest in this area; what I didn’t know at the time was that just before this year’s crop should have been planted, Birdseye would pull the plug and not renew the contract. Some of the farmers will have planted beans or other replacement crops, but various contractors have been laid off and had to find new work, all at very short notice.
Cheese: I served, Suffolk Gold, Suffolk Blue from Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, Creeting St Mary, and Shipcord, Hawkston from Rodwell Farm in Baylham near Ipswich. Trying to avoid biscuits, I served them with spiced pickled pears that I made last year and some spiced peaches from Laxfield that I won in a WI draw.
At this point a friend that I knew was going to be late arrived. It was agreed that she should try the weed shot before being allowed to proceed, she correctly identified nettles as an ingredient.
Heston vs Delia Desert: I am not a great lover of puddings and often pass on them preferring to tuck into cheese instead; so deserts with me are always a bit of a risk. I gave each person a small plastic tub and a pipette. The idea was to build your own desert taking as many (Heston) or few risks (Delia) as you like from the following list.
- Baby meringues, eggs from garden, Aspall Balsamic Vinegar and Billington’s Sugar, at the time couldn’t find British Sugar.
- Marybelle Creme Fraiche, Yoghurt
- Coffee Granita made with Paddy and Scotts, Great with Friends Coffee
- Tea Granita made with Sencha Wild Grey tea from Butterworth and Son
- Beetroot Jelly made with ‘Beet it’ from Whites
- Coulis – Wild Blackberry and Raspberry from Whites
- Chocolate from Hadleigh Maid
- Walnut Liquor made with green walnuts from friend’s garden (which is what the pipette was for)
Throughout the meal the drinks on offer were Shawsgate Baccus 2004 and a selection of juices from Whites.
The meal was finished off with a gorgeous cake that one of the friends had made, fizz from another friend and there should have been tea and coffee but I think by then I had forgotten that bit – oops.
I am hugely grateful to Eat Anglia, who when I was having problems getting the Kelsale flour called and asked them to deliver some for me especially, that’s service.
It’s OK, I haven’t got “flop bot” like Tricki Woo.* What we have had is a fantastic season for the fleshy stone fruit, known as drupes; including the whole of the plum collection. The first to really cause me fun and games were the green plums which I wrote about previously. Next have been the damsons from Saxtead Mill House pub. When Ruth first showed me the tree I promised to come back; but I don’t think she believed me. The next thing I knew was a bucket full of plums arrived. These I felt would be too small and fiddly to stone so I just rinsed them and brought them up to the boil to make jelly. I had hoped the stones would separate from the pulp enough so that I could remove the stones and call it jam, but this was not the case. Jelly it was. Having strung my jelly bag up from the cup hooks overnight I could not stand to leave so much pulp going to waste. Having made the jelly I decided to spend the evening forcing the pulp through a sieve to make damson cheese.
If you have not made a fruit cheese before here is a quick how to:
Use the pulp from making a fruit jelly, transfer the pulp to a sieve and force through using the back of a spoon to create a fine, smooth paste. Weigh the pulp and add an equal weight of sugar. Cook in a heavy bottomed pan, stirring frequently until you get the “Red Sea” effect, ie when you drag a wooden spoon through it there is a distinct parting which takes a second or two to fill. Put the mix into sterile warmed pots or moulds, I use little ramekins. Ideally store for a couple of months and then turn out and slice. This is great with dairy cheese or on its own with Suffolk rusks or scones.
* Foot note: so much nicer than hyperlinks don’t you think….
Do you remember the James Herriot vet books? Mrs Pumphrey had a spoilt little dog called Tricki Woo; it, James and Tristan suffered from Tricki’s flop bot