Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sandy Creek in the vat

Fresh curds in crottin moulds.

I got to make a batch of Sandy Creek from milk pasteurization to demoulding of the cheese. It is made in a similar fashion as the camembert, but it is formed in a different mould. It is also made with a line of culinary ash in the middle of it like a morbier or Humboldt Fog.

After rennet is added to the heated milk, I love taking the test knife to the curd mass and checking for doneness. It is like sticking a toothpick in a cake to see if it is done. You can only know when to say when by experience. I carefully make a slice in the gelatinous curd and lift up the sliced section with the blade of the knife. If the split curd holds together properly and if the whey is clear, it should be done. The trick is to determine the right point of done. If the curd is too soft, it won't hold together. If it is too hard, it won't drain properly and the cheese won't set up right either. So many variables to learn!

I cut the curd, let it rest, stirred it, let it rest, scooped off the whey, and then dipped the curd into the sanitized moulds. Then I had to wait for the curds to drain for a couple of hours. When the curd shrank by half, I took a shaker and sprinkled ash over half of the moulds. I then had to sandwich the curds together, combining the ashed cheese with the unashed. After they were all sandwiched together, I left them to continue to drain and knit together. In the morning the cheese will be demoulded, salted, rolled in ash and left to dry.

My personal goal for the week: eat as much barbecue as possible. Nate, Carrie and I made a trek to Greensboro to kick off my barbecue binge at Stamey's Barbecue. We all ordered up big plates of pit roasted 'cue and had a great meal on chopped pork shoulder. Stamey's does it right. Heaping mounds of pork, nicely seasoned with a layer of sauce. Barbecue slaw and fresh hushpuppies round out the plate. We were all thrilled with the food. Carrie Fields had never been there and Nate hadn't been there for a few years. I think I like Henry James a bit better, but Stamey's is still good. I like it so much I bought dip and a pound to freeze. It will be coming home with me.

We're waiting for rain. It has been a very dry spring. The lawn is turning brown and plants are wilting. I hope they get some rain soon. The pastures are looking pretty sparse.

It is haying season. It is time for "first cut" of the fields. The rye, hay, alfalfa, clover, have been growing all spring and now everyone is scrambling to mow and bale the nutritious grass of spring. Second cut will happen later in June/July and is still pretty good. The third and fourth cuts are not as nutritious but still provide bedding and hay for the animals. I am amazed to see all of the activity in the fields. Friends, families and neighbors will get together to follow behind the tractor and load bales onto trucks. The hay must be put up quickly and it must be dry. If it is damp it mildews and is useless. Farming is not an easy job.

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