Cheese board games

I turned 31 a little while ago. My parents back in Australia sent me a cheese voucher – such a good present! The problem was, I ordered everything all in one go. So when our vegetable draws were overflowing with fragrant, paper-wrapped packages, and the mingling of odours were becoming all bit much, we decided we really needed to invite people around to help us get eat it all.

We started in near the Alps with comte and some extremely  ripe vacherin mont d’or. Comte is fast becoming one of my favourite cheeses. It is nutty, slightly springy, fresh. The vacherin was almost too ripe. Its prime season is October-April – so the last rounds at the end of May were always going to be potent. Almost overpowering, it  I would prefer to try it younger, maybe next February.

Back in England, we went for harder cheeses next. The cheddar is the Somerset made Keens Chedder – cloth bound, 14 months old, with a strong flavour and moist texture. We made our own interpretations  and then looked up various commentaries. The suggestion of onions did seem to fit, once it was mentioned. The other hard cheese was Old Winchester (or also known as Old Smales). This was more flaky and dry, described as a aged Gouda-pecorino style cheese. It’s also a bit nutty, but much drier than the comte.

Finally, there was the gooey Baby Wigmore. Made from unpasteurised ewes milk, it oozed over the board, and was quickly scooped up with bread.

There was also some really excellent Beenleigh blue but I forgot to take photos. Oh, and some broccoli salad, just to make sure we didn’t have coronaries.

Homemade cheddar – part 1

I started my first hard cheese last weekend. My small block of cheddar is now air-drying in a cupboard and in a few months I’ll see if it worked!

I used a recipe from David Fankhauser, whose website provides a really useful collection of cheese-making recipes and resources.  I particularly like the use of readily available cultures, like yoghurt and buttermilk.

It is always good when the cheese making matches what is expected in the recipe – so when my curds sunk and turned out like firm scrambled eggs I was really excited. Even more so when, after using my new cheese press for the first time, an actual block of cheese was produced.

I’m now trying to figure out the whole process of drying and ageing – there seem to be so many options around bandaging, waxing, temperature and humidity requirements, and lots written on makeshift ways of getting around the fact it’s unlikely most people have a cheese cave in an urban flat, especially upstairs like me.

So, having decided on a naked air-drying approach…my cheese is in the kitchen tea cupboard and I’m zealously checking it every day for a rind. There’s none yet but I think that’s ok. Then I can decide how  and where I will age it.

In my attempts to unpick all of this, I’ve found lots of useful sites and articles, so I’m going to  put those together onto a new page soon.