Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Highs and Lows

Well, not all things turn out right. I made a semi soft, bloomy rinded goat cheese to give away at for the holidays. I was happy early on, but when I tasted it last week, something was amiss. It had a faint taste of bleach. Chlorine and cheese do not mix. Damn! They looked good. Perfect little hockey pucks of cheese. Soft, velvety coats encasing snowy white cheese. Too bad they are so unappetizing. A big waste. I hate throwing out cheese. Into the trash with it.

I was not going to be stopped. Three days before Christmas I ventured out into the crowded parking lots of suburban San Francisco and went to Trader Joes. I needed more goat milk. If I couldn't give anyone an aged cheese, I'll give 'em something fresh. I also stocked up on other essentials like cereal and uncured bacon.

After a harrowing time at the grocery store, I managed to get home safely. I cleaned the counters and my stockpot. I dumped the goat milk into the pot, heated it, added my starter and let it sit for 18 hours.
The next day I gently ladled the firm curd into clean cheese cloth and set it over the prep sink to drain for another day. I like my fresh chevre to be creamy, yet dry. I actually let it hang for a day and a half.
The next evening, I plopped the beautiful blob of fresh cheese into my Kitchen Aid mixer, started it on low and added some salt. Not too much, but enough to enhance the flavor and give me the creamy texture I was looking for.
I grabbed an ice cream scoop and dished some up into four containers. I was sharing it for Christmas with Jim's family, my mom, and my sister. I got to keep a small amount.
It turned out well.
Now I've got to clean out the cheese cave in the garage and make sure it doen't smell like chorine. No more bleach flavored cheese for me.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Deeper and nearer

Photo of curds from my caerphilly cheese. Yes, I washed my hands.

I have not been neglecting my dreams. I have been taking classes on how to start my own business at the Small Business Association and with their affiliate, SCORE. Very helpful and productive use of our tax dollars. I have all kinds of information that I need to research in order to write a solid business plan. My work is cut out for me. I like having a plan, though. It is nice to have a good map in order to move forward and not get lost.

I also feel that I have a bit more to learn before I'm comfortable making my own commercial endevor. I want to make some hard cheeses on a larger scale than in my own kitchen. More tools for my toolbox. Recently I saw a posting on one of my online discussion groups. A goat dairy in North Carolina is looking for interns to work on their farm for 3 months and work in all aspects of the cheesemaking business. This posting looked too good to be true! I'd get to learn about production from udder to market. It took me a few days to ponder the implications, but finally Jim and I decided that this was a good opportunity for me. I see it as graduate school. What do I have to lose? I emailed 'em my resume and a cover letter and got a reply with in a couple of hours. They said, "Wow!" They like me. I talked to the cheesemaker for 45 minutes on Sunday. This looks like a good thing for everyone. I'm not comitted to doing anything this spring, so I could make this intership work. I couldn't design a better graduate program.

Sure, I'm nervous. It is three months away from home, three thousand miles away from home, and three counties away from where my mother grew up. It is also time that I could be searching for our new home and business. I'd be working all Spring. There are pros and cons in every major decision.

I could just bite the bullet and get going, learning as I go. I'll do that anyway, I just want to get a few more tricks up my sleeve and I learn best from working with others in a group setting. Gaining the knowledge in isolation is never fun.

Climax, North Carolina, here I come.

Let it ride.

Sometimes, if you just leave something alone, it will turn out in your favor.

This is the cheese that I made in late September, a week after I got home from Ticklemore. It is about 10 weeks old. The taste has really changed and opened up. The texture is better than I could have hoped for. As it matured, it has developed a very delicate, light mushroomy flavor, slightly earthy. Not goaty at all. It is amazing what you can do with milk from Trader Joes.

I took it into Cowgirl last week to see what my co-workers thought. Everyone like it! I got some good feedback and I hope to replicate this cheese again. Woo hoo!