Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Freeze and cheese

April 9, 2007

For the past few nights, we've been hit by a hard, late freeze. Every morning I walk past the garden and see white sheets draped across the lettuce beds. The rest of the plants had to suffer the effects of 25 degrees for several hours. The asparagus stalks froze and thawed. Now they look like someone pinched each one in half and left the top half drooping towards the soil. The parsley and cilantro are black from frost damage. The young leaves on the kiwi vine have blackened and withered. The cabbage looks wilted. We were hit pretty hard, but the full effect of the freeze is being felt by other farms. The peach, apple, and grape crops are all ruined, according to the local news. I'm sure we will get more news at the farmers market on Saturday. We had ice on many water buckets for the past few mornings. The chard should be fine and the red Russian kale should be OK, too.

Yesterday I spent the morning dealing with a batch of fresh fromage curds that didn't set quite right. The curds were pumped from the pasteurizer to the draining bags Saturday morning. They are left to hang and drain for 24 hours. When they're ready, they usually get debagged and made into fromage, or set in tubs, refrigerated and used in a day or two. This batch had a good pH at draining (4.6) so it should have been fine. Instead we had curd soup. It was soft, way too moist, and just not together enough. It looked like it needed to drain another 12 hours. It also stuck to the side of the draining socks (bags) and formed a hard layer of dried out, crusty curds on the top half of each sock. Also not good. My task was to debag the curds and try to knock off the hardest crusty bits so we could try to salvage the soft cheese.

Today Carrie decided to continue draining some of the soft curds in a muslin cheese cloth set in a large colander. This additional draining time should help get more of the whey out of the curd and firm it up so we can make our flavored fromage with it. If the curd has too much whey, it has a bad texture and a much shorter shelf life. This curd worked up fine once it drained a bit more. We made fromage for our wholesale accounts, and the texture and flavor was just right.

Steve and Carrie are now trying to troubleshoot. Why did the curd turn out soupy if the pH was fine and the drain time was normal? The room temperature was still at 70 degrees. The amount of rennet was the same. They poured over the variables. Steve decided to up the amount of rennet in the next batch to see if that makes a difference. In their research, they discovered that after 6 months, rennet starts to lose its potency. It actually drops by 2 percent per month. After 12 months, that can make a difference in your cheese. Funny that it hasn't affected anything else. Let's hope that the curds are OK. We'll find out on Wednesday.

Pizza for lunch today with their home made sausage and goat cheese. Ginnie's secret ingredient of the day: salsa instead of pizza sauce. Quite delicious. Her crust is excellent, too.

Nubians in the sun. Or, as the locals say, newberns.

We dipped the bloomy rind trifecta this afternoon: Camembert, Sandy Creek, and Crottin. I love making three cheeses out of one vat of curd. This is really inspiring. At Ticklemore, we would make two cheeses from the goat milk curds: Ticklemore Goat and the Goat Buttons. This is even better use of time and energy. Same curds, just aged differently and drained differently in a variety of moulds.

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