Wheels of raw cow’s milk bloomy developing a rind. This is about six days in. The recent heat wave has had my poor wine refrigerator working overtime to maintain temp.
The Financial Times has a great profile of William Oglethorpe of Kappacassein Dairy, one of the first true modern urban cheesemakers in London (and probably any city, for that matter). This man is my role model! :
Twice a week at 4.30am Bill Oglethorpe leaves his flat in Streatham, London and drives for 50 minutes to an organic farm outside Sevenoaks in Kent. When he arrives the cows have just finished milking. He unloads his squat 20l aluminium churns and pours a little of his fermented milk starter into the bottom of each one. The milk comes straight out of a tank in the milking parlour, through a pipe and into the churn at the temperature it leaves the cow’s body: 30C. Bill fastens on the lids, heaves the churns into the back of the van and heads off to his Kappacasein Dairy in Bermondsey. In just a few hours the milk in the churns will have been transformed into five fat wheels of cheese. Bermondsey Hard Pressed cheese goes from udder to a recognisable cheese in a little over seven hours.
Cheese makers perform a daily alchemy, turning a perishable ingredient – milk – into something durable, storable and dense with protein: cheese. But to be a cheese maker you must rise, like Bill, before dawn to fetch your milk – and not just any milk. The French cheesemonger, Pierre Androuët talks about cheese having a cru, or growth, just like wine. Instead of the quality of the grape, it is the milk that is the first (and possibly the most fundamental) thing a cheese maker must get right.
William Oglethorpe sounds like a very English name, but this cheese maker is a Frenchman raised in Tanzania and Switzerland, where he learnt his craft in the Swiss Alps. The simple way cheese was made there (by heating raw milk) appealed to him, as did the relatively small amount of equipment needed. I join him as he starts work on the first cheese of the day, similar to an Alpine Tomme de Montagne.
(Photos ©2013 Financial Times)
Closeup on the array of cultures that go into making a cheese: Included are Flora Danica, Geotrichum Candidum, Penicillium Candidum and more.
The Boston Globe profiles Vermont Farmstead, a farm and cheesemaker that was started to save the land from development, and is now producing award-winning cheeses (You can see my review of their Lille Cheese, pictured above, here).
SOUTH WOODSTOCK, Vt. — Perched on a hill overlooking a valley, Farmstead Cheese Co. began as a neighborly plan to preserve a dairy farm.
The bucolic 18-acre site was a former water buffalo farm and creamery that produced mozzarella and yogurt. When its owners moved to Canada and put the land up for sale, locals worried about the loss of jobs and the disappearance of another bit of the Green Mountain State’s rich heritage. They feared that the pastoral landscape might be grabbed by a developer.
So 14 neighbors banded together to buy the farm and decided cheese making might safeguard its future. Within the year, they rebuilt the creamery, brought in a mixed breed herd — Holstein, Jersey, Ayrshire, and Swiss Brown — to blend milks and make farmstead cheese. They started the first community-owned dairy farm in the state. In two years, the company has won dozens of awards for its cheddar, a harvarti-style tilsit, Edam, and English and French-style cheeses.
The new owners are not novices. They include seasoned farmers and food industry executives who hired experienced staff. The top cheese maker, Rick Woods, 46, has been plying his craft for 19 years. “We’re a new company, but it’s not the first time around the block for these people,” says Sharon Huntley, who is in charge of marketing.
Read the full story.
Last Saturday, I found myself on an early morning train, traveling up to Bedford Hills, NY, to visit Arattom, the new farmstead cheesemaking operation helmed by Jon Bonanno. The property on which Jon has established his new venture is actually Rainbeau Ridge, the farm of Lisa Schwartz, maker of the excellent Meridian cheese, a fresh goat’s milk cheese that was highly esteemed by cheesemongers and restaurants alike (you can see it here on a cheeseplate from Casellula), and took a 1st Place Ribbon at the American Cheese Society Competition in 2010. Martha Stewart, a Bedford Hills neighbor, even toured the farm and featured it on her blog in 2011, and Schwarz wrote a book about her experiences, “Over The Rainbeau:Living the dream of sustainable farming”. The farm is compact and efficient, the goats, llamas, chickens, turkeys and wandering guinea hens all tucked into the idyllic landscape surrounding the farmhouse, with the cheese plant a small structure, immaculate and well-maintained, with vat pasteurizers, draining tables, chilling tanks, workstations and sinks all tucked in like Tetris pieces into their proper place.
Lisa has recently gone on sabbatical from Rainbeau Ridge, and Jon, who has worked at Rainbeau Ridge with Lisa for a couple years — not to mention being a former monger at Saxelby’s and putting in time at Consider Bardwell, Cavaniola’s and other cheese-related ventures — stepped in to keep the goats milking and the cheese flowing while she’s gone. He’ll be working under his own label, Arattom, and will be producing several cheeses, including the Cinder, a fresh, ash-coated pasteurized goat’s milk wheel with a center ash line that is similar to the Meridian; an uncoated wheel called Clover; fresh Chevre (which he is currently supplying to Blue Hill at Stone Barn) and a goat’s milk Feta. Arattom also has some other cheeses in the works, including a washed rind tomme and other cheeses in development.
While there I got the chance to make cheese with Jon, taking part in the makes for the Cinder and Clover, as well as one of the experimental Tomme recipes which Arattom is currently working on. Also pitching in was Yoav Perry, fellow urban cheesemaker, hardcore culture nerd and the man behind ArtisanGeek.com, a new cheesemaking supply company based in NYC (check out his site for cultures, moulds and much more. You can hear Yoav on a recent episode of Cutting The Curd with Sascha Davies and Diane Stemple).
For the Cinder and Clover, The goats milk is pasteurized, starter cultures and a small amount of microbial rennet added and then the milk allowed to culture for as many as 24 hours to develop the desired depth and complexity of flavor. From there it gets carefully ladeled into the molds in 6 passes; after the 3rd pass, if the fabrication is for Cinder, a layer of ash is sprinkled on the curds, and the following three layers than carefully laid down on top of it. When it has drained sufficiently, the wheels are unmolded, and the outer layer of ash and salt applied, and the wheels go into cheese coolers to age. Jon makes maximal use of the limited space, operating like a well-oiled machine to keep the wheels moving from vat to moulds to draining tables to coolers, each step making room for the following step.
The finished product, in the Cinder, is a bright, fresh, milky cheese, with a soft, fudgy paste and citric and grassy notes, balanced nicely by the ashy coat.
The day started with Cinder and Clover, but moved on to taste-testing the newest batch of Feta (which was delicious, although Jon would like to finesse the recipe to produce a softer, creamier feta rather than a firm version), and the fabrication of a test batch of a pasteurized goat’s milk tomme. We’ll know in a few weeks how that one came out!
From the Oxford Mail in the UK comes word of a new blue cheese, courtesy of a Baron with French roots:
Oxford Blue cheese is to be made here in the county for the first time.
And its creator, a French-born baron, believes it could one day rival Stilton.
Almost 20 years after coming up with the idea for a soft and creamy English blue cheese, Robert Pouget – who prefers not to use his full title of Robert Pouget de Saint Victor – has at last been given the go-ahead to make Oxford Blue in the county of its name.
Mr Pouget, 74, said: “It’s thrilling news. After many years of looking for a suitable premises in the county and going backwards and forwards with planners, we have been granted permission to make Oxford Blue in a converted barn in Upton, just outside Burford.
“Production should start by the end of 2013 and Oxford Blue will not only be made here, but will hopefully also be made using local milk.”
Mr Pouget, from Oxford, came up with the idea for Oxford Blue in 1995. He wanted a soft, creamy blue, similar to the famous St Agur or Dolcelatte, but without the strength of Stilton or Roquefort. But the painter-turned-cheesemaker had already opened the Oxford Cheese Company shop and was enjoying selling quality cheese to the city’s restaurants and colleges.
Read the full story.
(Photo ©2013 Oxford Mail)
Hudson Valley Almanac Weekly toured some of the cheese makers and mongers in the Hudson Valley, including two that I’ve had the good fortune of taking part in the make process with, Hawthorne Valley and Sprout Creek:
Whatever your pleasure, there’s bound to be a local cheesemaker or -monger who will have you waxing poetic. The Hudson Valley cheese scene is in full bloom.
I took a trip to Hawthorne Valley Farm, home to one of the few 300-gallon Swiss-style copper kettles in the country. In it, milk reaches havarti heights with heat, rennet and salt. The basement houses row upon row of butter-yellow wheels, archived by type and date. It’s all made from the milk of cows that graze on the farm’s 200 acres; but exceptional taste isn’t solely terroir. “The caring, initially, is what makes the difference. The intent in a person, who’s making your food, is critical to its final flavor,” cheesemaker Pete Kindel told me.
Check out the full list of recommendations.
(Photo ©2013 hudsonvalleyalmanacweekly.com)
It’s official! I’ve completed the Cheesemaker Certification program through the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese, at the University of Vermont, Burlington. I took the first section last year, and completed the program last week.
I had hoped to continue on with the Advanced Cheesemaker Certification (the facility construction and business planning classes were of particular interest), but sadly, we learned from our teachers that, due to federal funding cuts, a change in focus, and other issues, the educational component of VIAC — which was born in 2004 — will be ending for the time being. The program at UVM will continue but will be focused on consulting with Vermont cheesemakers and will not be offering classes to the public. If you had visited the registration pages and wondered why the calendar ended in April, this is why.
This seems like a real loss, as VIAC is the only program of its kind on the East Coast; even nationwide, there are only a couple programs, in Wisconsin and California, that offered a comparable course list and expertise to non-enrolled students.
So yes, I’m popping the champaign for my new certificate! and pouring out a little for the end of the program. We’ll always have the vats…
VIAC Chemistry Class, day 1, including samples of Jasper Hill cheeses courtesy of Matteo Kehler and the rest of the JH team who are attending the sessions.
Slicing open more of the Bloomy Rind Couronne experiments. This batch was made with raw cow’s milk but without the addition of any fat, so as expected the paste is less creamy-rich than the double-creme Couronne (which I sliced into a week ago). The salt levels on this wheel are definitely low, and there is a slight bitterness, but also some nice mushroomy notes and a hint of barnyard. The texture of the paste is good, smooth and buttery, but the rind is a little thick. This wheel was also a bit over the hill, with the rind starting to sag and dry in a couple spots, but the interior was in good shape. For flavor I definitely prefer the double-creme (and not just because of the “more fat makes everything taste better” principle), but it’s not bad.
Another fix for next time: the stainless steel dowel I used for the hole in the center of the couronne was a little too small in diameter, so when the rest of the rind had stopped sprouting aggressively it was still growing thickly in the hole, where humidity was probably higher. As a result the wheel had a fuzzy little pocket right at its center, which didn’t damage the flavor but was perhaps not aesthetically ideal.