Just add Jean takes inspiration from an award-winning cheese and experiments with a touch of chocolate.
Once the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards were over for this year, I got time to start developing more recipes. Judging at the awards is always inspiring and this year a standout cheese – Wangpeka Family Farm’s Matariki – had me craving the time when I could get back to my own cheesemaking.
Judges get to view, smell, taste and feel the cheeses, but we can only guess at the ingredients and techniques used to craft them. We are told what type of milk and what class the cheese will be entered into, but recreating a cheese from that information is impossible. At best, all you can do is an approximation, your own special interpretation. It’s great fun.
One of my goals was to make a similar hard textured cow’s milk cheese with an intense flavour and an almost chocolate coating. I could try to simulate the external look and even an approximation of the paste (the inside of the cheese) but the fudgy, spicy, notes of the rind would be my imagination gone a bit crazy.
I started with my parmesan recipe, minus the lipase (the enzyme that gives parmesan its tangy taste) as it’s pretty much fool-proof, then added a wash of chocolate and pepper that I hope will make the taste sing.
A hard textured cheese like this will take at least several months to mature but part of the enjoyment is in the expectation of what will develop.
Wangapeka’s cheese was a 2kg round and a cheese that big uses about 20 litres of milk. Since this was a first experiment, I used 5-litres of milk and made a 500g cheese. Next time, I will make a much larger cheese so while I’m sharing the 5-litre recipe with you, you can successfully double it for a 1kg cheese or quadruple it for a 2kg cheese.
If you decide to do a 2kg round, I would suggest making it in two 10-litre pots as it’s too difficult to heat a 20-litre pot on the stove, and it would be too heavy for most people to move easily. All you do is combine the two pots of drained curds just prior to moulding up.
I love to see large cheeses maturing in my cheese fridge. Maybe it appeases some survivalist need to store food for the winter, but whatever the reason, it gives me great pleasure. Even more pleasing is all those months later, cutting into a large wheel and exposing the beautiful cheese inside, then sharing the bounty with friends and family.
Last night I stuffed some chicken breasts with slices of a parmesan I made last year, along with spring onions and herbs from Dave’s garden. Once rolled in breadcrumbs and baked, the cheese and greens lifted the chicken into gourmet status, part of the magic of having a selection of great cheeses on hand. Dave dug new potatoes from the garden (he doesn’t know what type as he planted some leftover sprouted ones from the vegetable bin) and cut a broccoli that had gone a bit wild too. We sat and ate a dinner mostly harvested from our own land, and what could be better than the freshness and flavour that home-grown gives you.
1Warm milk in a bain-marie to 33°C over 5 minutes, then add the thermophilic starter (I use Christian Hansen’s ST-B01). Stir gently for 1 minute, then cover and leave to ripen for 30 minutes, maintaining the temperature at 33°C.
25 minutes and then test it again. When successful, cut the curds into 5mm cubes, then leave to settle for 5 minutes.
Grating beetroot is always messy. It doesn't matter if I wear gloves or carefully grate beets into a large bowl, somehow it seems to find its sneaky way onto whatever white piece of fabric happens to be lying around. Not to mention my stained hands, cutting board and dish cloth.
It’s definitely not the sort of vegetable you’d invite to a wedding unless it has been made into wine, which is when it's almost acceptable to spill it down the front of a nice white shirt, dress or blouse.
My recommendation is if you are going to have a go at making one of these recipes, why not make both and get the stains done all in one day.
Beetroot seems to be a vegetable that people either love or hate, like mushrooms or Brussels sprouts. One way – for some people, the only way – to consume beetroot is as a liquid. I have juiced beetroot for years, mainly because it is very high in vitamin C and tends to be abundant and cheaper in autumn and winter.
A shot of this brilliant purple liquid is exactly what I need to keep me healthy, and I read recently that you destroy more than half the vitamin C content in beetroot by cooking it, so it seems that eating it fresh in salads (incidentally, the recipe at right is my absolute favourite) or drinking it as fresh, raw juice is the way to go. I freeze the fibrous material from juicing beetroot and carrots for making semi-raw crackers so every bit has a use. I'm still experimenting with these but I promise when I'm ready, I'll share my successes.
My mum grew loads of beetroot, both round and cylindrical, and as far as I can remember we never ate them raw. She always cooked them whole for about half an hour, with the skin intact, not even cutting off the wee 'tails' that stuck out the bottom. Then she would skin them (easy once cooked, although they can squirt juice out all over you so again, avoid wearing white), slice them very thinly, sprinkle brown sugar and lemon juice in between and over the slices and that would be part of our dinner. Fortunately our son Theo likes them this way but forget raw and grated. Eating them that way may wait until he is an adult (or maybe not). When it came time to choose a beetroot recipe to share with you, I looked no further than my kasundi–obsessed community. We had the first annual chutney competition in Waitaria Bay a couple of months ago, alongside the ones for beer, cider, wine, cheese and non-alcoholic drinks. It was an absolute hoot and a very successful fundraiser for our local school. There was a bar and we served nibbles as people