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Is it a Cheddar? Is it a Gouda? Is it cheese at all?

My kitchen resembles something like a military command post. I have spent a week planning this project and have set aside an entire day. The counter tops are littered with reams of instructions and recipes. I am barefoot but not pregnant. I have chosen to wear comfortable attire and not my milk maids uniform.

Everything that I need, is set out in the exact order that I am going to need it. My failed school maths has not helped me at all with my calculations and I can only hope that my conversions from 100 litres to 4 litres are correct!

Let me take you back a little.

I completed a cheese making course at the end of October and learnt how to make cheddar, gouda, haloumi, feta, ricotta and mozzarella. For those out there familiar with cheese making you will know that probably the most labour intensive and tricky of the above to make, is cheddar. Brave is my second name, so I am making a cheddar.

Now I am one of those people who before embarking on anything, has to have all of the correct gear. I decided once to play golf. So I bought the clubs, the shoes and the best attire. I arrived on the allotted day full of naïve enthusiasm, only to discover that despite looking the part, I was useless.

I decided however in this case, to heed the advice that I was given on the course and to make do with what I had in my kitchen. So armed with my 4 litre pot, I got cracking.

I am usually pretty adept in my kitchen but in this case I feel like a newly wed whose mother in law is coming for her first dinner and I have to prove that I am worthy of her boychick.

I am going to us the ‘stirred curd method’. Which is supposed to be the shorter way but will still take me the best part of the day, night and following day (which is why this blog is so long, bear with me)! My milk is already pasteurized store bought jersey milk.

My thermometer is in the pot and I check it every few seconds. Precision is paramount! 32 degs and no scalding. The first leg of my cheese manoeuvre goes off successfully.

I now have to inoculate the milk. It now all becomes latin to me Lactococcus lactis subsp lactis / cremoris is added.

The cultured milk is left to ripen. Apparently the bacteria in the culture is busy producing acid. I have to believe my notes as I don’t have a Ph tester.

My military operation continues. I have chosen to not add colouring but the Calcium Chloride goes in. All relatively easy so far. It is time for the rennet and the diligent student that I am, I remember that the method of adding it is very important to prevent ‘swirls’ in the cheese. In it goes. I get it right.

Phew, now I can take a break while the rennet does its job and sets the milk.

The milk is now a fairly solid mass and has to be cut. Yes, I know it sounds very strange. I do the curd readiness test and voila begin to cut. Looking good.

From Military Commander to Little Miss Muffet, I am now going to sit on my tuffet and stir (not eat) the curds and whey. This is a very tiresome part of the process as one has to stir for at least one and a half hours. I am however prepared. I have a stool (tuffet) to sit on. A bowl of popcorn for sustenance. A beer, as I will need lots of energy. A book to read and my cell phone so that I can take selfies of my stirring. And so the endurance part of the operation commences.

My enthusiasm is now somewhat waning as I am a tad bored. I am however buoyed up when I drain off the whey and am left with masses of fluffy curd ready to be pressed.

I am not at all phased that I only have a very small gouda mould, as remember, I am making do with what I have. First hitch in the operation. I have more curds than space in the mould. Being an out the box thinking commander, I decide that the only other thing I can use will be a feta basket. Ok, now I can see the bespoke cheese makers tut tutting and shaking their heads. Sorry!

My next innovation is the ‘Cheese Press’. Or actually a brick wrapped in a cloth and placed on top of the follower and in the case of the feta basket, placed on top of a jar filled with water. Again apologies to the cheese makers. But you’ve got to give me credit for my creativity.

My notes say to press the cheese overnight which I figure is about 8 hours. So at the allotted time later, I remove it from the moulds and place in a solution of calcium chloride, citric acid and salt to form a rind. I have to say at this stage, I am pretty impressed with myself and my cheese does not look half bad.

I don’t actually know how long to leave it in the brine. The notes say that it depends on the size of the cheese but that still gives me no clarity. I decide to leave it overnight.

The troops are getting restless as the exercise is taking rather long but on we go. Out the brine and left to dry. I am now going to wax the cheese. Well that was easier said than done. I have wax everywhere even on my toes but I guess one can’t hope to get through such a thing unscathed.

The cheese is now packaged and placed in the back of the fridge to mature. It should be in a cheese cave but I don’t have such a thing so again a boer maak n’ plan.

My operation is all but over except for the cheering. But I will have to wait at least three months before I can tell you how it has actually turned out. If you are an instant gratification type of person then this is not for you. Now I understand why cheese is so expensive. It is very labour intensive and it takes a large amount of milk to make one small cheese.

What is the point of all of this? Well firstly it is actually fun. It’s a challenge. You have never tasted anything as delicious as fresh cheese made in your kitchen. Probably most importantly – Create your own food security and health. Know where your food comes from, how it was grown or what it was fed on. Grow as much as you can yourself. Make as much as you are able with produce from reliable sources. I have since this, sourced a good supply of milk direct from a farmer.

Cheddar –  Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, off-white, sometimes sharp-tasting, natural cheese. Originating in the British village of Cheddar in Somerset.

Health tip – Cheese is an excellent source of protein and Calcium. It also contains Vitamin B12, Phosphorous, Selenium, Zinc, Riboflavin, Vitamin A and Vitamin K2.

Next Adventure– It is all about The Fizz – Probiotic Sodas!

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