Spending a weekend with curds
Aden Miles admits his knowledge in the world of cheese is limited but this did not stop him from trying his hand at creating a slice of cheesy goodness under the watchful eye of master cheesemaker Neil Willman
The simple fact that I am not a huge consumer of cheese indicates my limited knowledge of the food.
While I have above average baking abilities, I am not a cheese connoisseur and at last weekend’s cheese-making course at the New Zealand Cheese School in Putaruru I made that clear, no doubt to the disapproval of some of my course comrades.
We had a choice of two cheeses: semi-hard or havarti. I opted for the former because it sounded easier and simpler. In our group of three, I was clearly the most inexperienced.
Before starting, master cheesemaker Neil Willman layed down the house rules and the unwavering importance of hygiene, saying our hands needed to be sanitised every time we touched another object.
When making semi-hard cheese you need to raise the temperature of milk to 44 degrees Celsius in a water bath, put the milk in a plastic bin and keep it warm by placing the lid on loosely.
We also had to use water to create a water bath around the vat.
We added a quarter of a teaspoon of semi-hard cheese starter powder to 10 litres of milk.
Then diluted rennet is added. It is imperative to sanitise the rennet utensils. While stirring the milk, pour in the diluted rennet, this helps to set the curd which needs to be left for up to one hour.
In the meantime, Over The Moon director Sue Arthur allowed the group to taste some of the awardwinning cheeses.
One of the most delicate processes was cutting the curd into 0.5-1cm cubes, cutting vertically first in both directions then horizontally.
Once cut, we gently separated the curd, massaging it with our hands – a strange sensation. The curd texture was smooth and slippery and our hands were left feeling velvety.
One of the last processes was to hoop the curd. We had to allow the curd to settle then we removed the whey to curd level and hooped the curds into a single hoop.
We pressed and stacked the cheese for it to be brined the following day.
Semi-hard cheeses (also called semi-firm cheeses) include the ever-popular cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack.
Semi- hard cheeses are the most readily available as their shelf life is longer.
Do I think Saturday’s event sparked a passionate interest in all things cheese?
Probably not, but I appreciated the taste of Over The Moon’s OMG Brie that I left with. And the course was a delight; it held my interest and was easy to follow.
The South Waikato News has a copy of Neil Willman’s book, The guide to making your own cheese to give away.
To go into the draw, simply tell us what type of cheese I made along with your name and contact details.
You can either submit your entry on the back of an envelope and post to PO Box 89, Tokoroa 3444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRICKY BUSINESS: Separating the curds and whey was a tricky operation.
HOUSE RULES: Master cheesemaker Neil Willman delivered the house rules and his personal story during the weekend’s course.