Thursday, November 14, 2013

(About cheese)

These days, I find that if I want to talk with someone about cheese I have to start the conversation myself. This is odd, as what else would people want to talk about besides cheese? It feels strange having to shoulder the burden of opening conversations (about cheese) entirely on my own, but funnily enough, I find few people have much interest in talking at length (about cheese). As every person skilled in the art of conversation ought to know, cheese is a remarkable subject, which is why I am remarking on it right now; but it is also a delicious one. And, best of all, it is not an easy subject to exhaust: if you eat a cheese, it will eventually disappear; but you can keep on eating the conversation forever: it is the cut-and-come again puddin' of conversation.

Thankfully, you, good people of the internet, have highly developed concentration skills and are able to talk about cheese at great length, too, which is why I feel quite happy to announce to you that I made a slip-coat cheese the other day. This is an announcement I have made a number of times to a number of parties. "I am going to make a slip-coat cheese", I said to the Baron, who was inexplicably at that time still sleeping. "I am making a slip-coat cheese", I said to the lady at the shops, who was at that moment unfortunately distracted by another customer who scandalously actually wanted to buy things. "I made a slip-coat cheese", I said to my mother on the phone, though whether I called her to announce that fact or whether she called me to let me make my glorious announcement who can tell.

At this point in the cheese-based conversation, I was usually surprised by the polite lack of interest of the person being spoken to about cheese. "Just what is a slip-coat cheese", is the question I'm sure they would have asked if they were going to ask a question, but of course I told them anyway: a slip-coat cheese is an old type of English cheese, made from lightly pressed curds and wrapped and rewrapped in cheesecloth several times a day for about a week, until it doesn't stick to the cheesecloth anymore (it "slips" the "coat", in other words); at this point it will be ready. I found a recipe in an old book of recipes (Martha Washington's cookbook, no less), and the notes directed me to several similar recipes in Digby. So between the two of them, I was quite able to develop a workable modern version.

Now I know you're all fascinated by this, so just to make things more interesting, I'll give you the recipe:
2 litres milk, 400 mls cream, 1 tablespoon culture, 1/3 teaspoon rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup non-chlorinated water.
1. Milk milk and cream, heat to about 30 degrees celsius. (Don't worry about being too accurate because I wasn't).
2. Add culture, stir for a minute or so. Keep milk at 30 degrees celsius for an hour. (Stick the mixture in a pot and stick the pot in a sink or larger pot of water that you can keep replenishing to keep the temperature constant. This is more gentle than using a direct heat source like a heat pad; water disperses the heat).
3. Add rennet, stir for a minute or so. Keep milk at 30 degrees for an hour (using method in 2, above).
4. By this time the milk should have clabbered (curdled). Scoop the curds out into a cheesecloth bag and hang to drain for a few hours.
5. Line a cheese mould (or any old plastic pot with holes poked in it so long as it is strong enough to hold the curds) with cheesecloth. Stick the curds in, fold the cloth over the top, put a lid of a jam jar or some shit like that on top, and stick a weight on top of that. Maybe the rest of the jam (still in the jam jar obviously). I dunno, turn the cheese over after a couple of hours if you like to give it a nice shape.
6. Take the cheese out of the mould, rewrap it in a clean cheesecloth, and put it on a board to drain and dry. Keep on turning the cheese and changing the cloth three or four times every day, and when the cheese is ready and has formed a rind on the outside, it will slip out of the cloth without sticking. 

Wasn't that interesting post about cheese interesting? Gee it's great talking about cheese.


Steve said...

I don't get this. If you are re-wrapping so often while it is still sticking to the old cloth, isn't it getting smaller and smaller over the week? Do you start with a brick of cheese that ends up as a very tasty matchbox?

TimT said...

No, you just peel the cloth off and nothing much sticks. The first two times I rewrapped the cloth maybe there was a little bit of curds that came away but the cheese quickly forms a dry surface.

TimT said...

I finished the cheese off yesterday and while I enjoyed it a lot next time I think I'll vary the basic idea slightly by very lightly salting it - maybe half a teaspoon to a teaspoon, presumably before pressing the curds. The salt will inhibit the culture from developing too strongly as it did in this one - caused it to have a powerful bitterness - not an overwhelming bitterness, or even an unpleasant one, but it was a little too pungent for a cheese which is supposed to be buttery and creamy. Salt inhibits the culture and is normally added in small quantities to cheeses anyway.

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