Today was cheese day!! According to Yianni, cheesemaking is two-thirds sanitizing and recording data, one-third working with food. It's more like a science experiment than anything else. I guess I need a little science in my life.
So we started out by cleaning the pots and pans, and hands of course, with hospital soap, and then putting one pot of milk into a big pot of water. We cooked everything in the barn, so we had to work fast before the bark-dust came, because then stuff might get dirty. He said that every element counts... the PH level, the temperature, the cultures and bacteria, and many more factors that I have yet to drill into my head. I sort of wish I took a biology class now, just so it would be easier to understand how to make cheese. Maybe someday in college. In any case, we got to work heating up the milk to about 90 degrees by heating up the water to about 100 degrees.
Then, you add the cultures. Each type of bacteria makes a slightly different type of cheese. We used two types- Penecillin, as one (a culture/bacteria used in the medicine as well). We mixed two types of milk, goat and cow. We used about three jars of goat and two jars of cow, from what I remember. This will make the type of cheese that farmers made way back when in France, in the country-side where all the farmers would share their cows' milk, because they all let their cows graze together, and they'd make giant rounds of cheese and preserve way up in the hilltops. However, during the winter, when their cows stayed safe and warm in the barn and couldn't commune up in the hilltops with the other cows, they didn't have as much milk. Also lacking refrigerators, they needed a way to preserve the milk they did have. SO they would mix their cow and goats' milk to make cheese. Yianni thinks that cheese was really made as a simple preservation method that people got creative with later on. I love how things happen simply out of resourcefulness. Like how someone used a waffle to hold their ice-cream when they ran out of bowls, making the ice-cream cone.
So we added culture, which will break down the proteins. It is actually alive, but it was freeze-dried in the packet.... once in the milk, it will wake up and begin to reproduce. We also added rennet, from veal stomach. The rennet will make the cheese harden.
Once we added everything, we closed it up and moved it to the kitchen. Fortunately we finished right when the bark-dust guy came, so we got no dirt in the cheese. However, apparently people sometimes do put dirt in cheese. As well as ash. Like the Humbolt Fog cheese you can find at Zupans'. Speaking of, when I went to Zupans' market on Macadam in the afternoon, I bumped in to my friend Prince, the cheese guy. He waved at me, I hadn't seen him in a few months since I went there to pick up Marcona almonds and a bunch of cheese to bring for a dinner party at someone's house. (Back then, the only thing I could do with cheese was make little labels and set them out on a plate). Back in February or March, Prince and I had a long conversation about the tastiness of Marcona almonds... apparently he polished off a whole box in his car on the way home one day... and we bonded over that. So today, he waved at me and flashed a big smile, and I ran over to tell him all about my new skills! He's a very bouncy type of person, with two big diamond earrings, and was very enthusiastic as I told him all about the day. He told me a story about when he had a home-stay on a farm, and woke up to a circle of angry farmers' faces staring him down in bed at 8 am because he overslept forgot to milk the cows. We talked, and laughed, but then... he asked me what kind of cheese I made. That's where it went wrong. I forgot what type. He asked me what sort of cultures I used. I forgot... except the Penecillin. "Oh, so you're making a blue, like gorgonzola?" "Yeah, exactly," I said, though I really had no idea at the time. He asked me more questions, and eventually the conversation fizzled out, because I realized my knowledge is not up to snuff to hold a true cheese-making dialogue with the Zupans' cheese guy. Well, at least I have my work cut out for me.
I need to start taking notes. Yianni said the other most important part of cheese-making is the note-taking. He owns an entire cheese notebook. He looks back on old recipes that tasted good and tries to recreate them.
After we put everything away, we went to buy baby turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. They were adorable, but I will refrain from naming them, except for food names maybe. They don't look much like turkeys yet.
I think they were a bit freaked out by the feather I wear in my ear. Or it might have just been the car ride home, but they peeped quite a lot. We put them safe and snug under a heating lamp, and they calmed automatically. I think this experience might make me think twice before eating meat. But I'm not a vegetarian... yet.
Then, I worked in the garden. I didn't realize how much I missed having my hands in the dirt. I accidentally chopped a few earthworms in half with my shovel, though. Cringed. Felt sad for them... wiggling in two halves. Don't know how I'm ever going to kill chickens.
This weekend I have a backpacking trip at Serene Lake, and will go back to making cheese on Monday... after I kill the chickens.