Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Under pressure

Monday, March 19, 2007

Steve is still sorting out problems with the pasteurizer. The batch of fresh cheese that was left overnight to drain is a failure. It is extremely soft, soupy in places, and has stuck to the drainage socks. We speculate as to why the curd didn't drain right. Did it cook too long in the pasteurizer? Did the new pumping system break up the curd too much? The pH of the cheese is correct, so that's not a problem. Steve calls his consultant to ask for advise. The answer: it cooked for too long. We have denatured milk proteins, so instead of the milk proteins setting up into curds, we have whey proteins that have set up into curds. We made ricotta! It tastes good, it is just not what we intended.

My job for the morning: empty each sock into big tubs to feed the curds to the pigs. The little piggies love to eat our mistakes. Steve is heartbroken. We're feeding money to the pigs.

Sammy shows up around Noon to deliver goat milk for cheesemaking. We take 70 gallons and pour it straight into the vat. On today's menu: Providence made with goat milk. This batch will be shipped to Laura Werlin for a big Food and Wine event in Aspen, Colorado in June. She's a fan of Goat Lady Dairy and Steve is honored that she wants to serve his cheese at her event.

I enjoy making Providence. It is a relatively quick cheese to make. It is made in Taleggio style moulds, so it turns out square. Each finished cheese is about six pounds. The milk is heated up, culture is added, melts in and then gets stirred. The vat is left to sit, covered while the milk ripens. Rennet is added and stirred in quickly. The milk turns into a Jello-like texture when it's ready. Then we test the curd and see if it is ready to cut. The break isn't clean, so we wait for five more minutes. Success this time. Steve cuts the curds with two different curd knives. He cuts in several directions. Then the curd is stirred and the temperature of the vat is raised for ten minutes. The curd settles to the bottom, underneath lots of greenish-yellow whey. We siphon off the whey to curd level and then scoop the curd into the sanitized moulds. The curds are piled high because they shrink quickly as they knit. When all of the moulds are filled, we flip them so the bottom side becomes the top. The moulds will be flipped several more times before the end of the day.

Sammy joins Steve, Tommy, and Bobby in trying to sort out the pasteurizer problems. They check the flow rate of the water. They check the pump. The pump has a problem. It barely pumps. Then Sammy notices the plumbing is hooked up backwards. They consult the diagram from the manufacturer. It is drawn backwards! The guys are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It is chaos in the Barn. I lay low and try to stay out of their way for the rest of the afternoon.

At suppertime I go up to the Barn to forage. Steve is running a practice batch of water in the machine. He comes out to tell me that it seems to be working better. We hear a sound coming from the cheese room that sounds like falling water. We go into the cheese room and see the pasteurizer has become a fountain. Water is shooting out of the small pressure valve, hitting the ceiling and cascading back to the floor. There is water pouring out of release valve on the bottom of the tank. "Oh no! It's sprung a leak!" Steve cries. He quickly rushes over to shut of the water and drains the pasteurizer. "This is not good," he moans. When the water is gone, he examines the thing. It has busted a seam at the base. It built up so much pressure, that it became a bomb. A weld didn't hold.

Note to self: don’t fill with water and run a pump at the same time.

Steve is about to break. He's soaking wet. He looks like he's about to cry.

And on top of everything else, Jonah, the little buck died.

Perhaps we need to make an offering to appease the gods? Something is amiss, here.

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