Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cheese - First Contact

  From Duchamp's Flickrstream

So last Monday, after scrubbing my bodyweight in dishes, I was called over to where they were ladling curds out of a vat and into molds.

I sanitized my hands up past my elbows and was ready to join in the fun.

We were working on Toscano, a lovely, aged sheep-milk cheese.  I'm not privy to the magic that happens inside the vat - the heating of the milk, the adding of the culture and all that.  It was only my first day, after all.

But once that magic has happened, the soft curds are ladled out of the vat and into the molds.  We stood at the table and pressed down on the curds.  Whey flowed out of small holes in the molds, trickled down the table and was saved in a bucket, to be reused.

Once the molds were full, the cheesecloth was pulled up and smoothed (the fewer wrinkles in the cheese, the better) and the cheeses were stacked two deep.

After fifteen minutes, they had set enough that they could be taken out of the mold, turned over, and put back in.  This was no easy task for a beginner like myself.  They're heavy, slippery in the cheesecloth and still fairly delicate.

Fortunately, all the machinery in the room covered the sound of my swearing.

Once they'd been flipped the first time, they were moved to the very low table in the middle of the room and re-stacked, top to bottom.

This process was repeated a few more times, at fifteen minute intervals.  The cheese became progressively more firm.  In fact, I found it amazing how quickly it went from a near-liquid in the vat to something entirely recognizable as a wheel of cheese.

Meanwhile, the whey had been returned to the vat and was being heated...

2 comments:

HB said...

Hi there - this looks like a major adventure you undertook! Have a look here http://myimperfectgarden.blogspot.com/2008/05/history-in-making.html for a sneak pre-view of your PIF.
Take care
Heloise

Barb McMahon said...

It was that! And thanks for the preview!