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

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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 swaikato.ed­i­tor@wrcn.co.nz.

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.

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