So it was only natural that I was keen to learn how to make cheese. I have wanted to do a workshop for sometime and I was very spoilt by a very dear friend for my 40th birthday who was generous with a gift certificate for The Cheesemaking Workshop soft cheese making course.
Lyndall (who is the founder) along with Sue and David run workshops all over NSW. They offer both the soft cheese workshop and the advanced cheese making (which incorporates harder cheeses along with blue vein) as well as other workshops and corporate courses.
With eager and excited anticipation I headed over to Northbridge on Saturday to partake in a day of all things CHEESE!
I was greeted by Sally, who is vibrant, friendly and welcoming and will be our facilitator for the day. There are nine of us today (the workshop can accommodate 12), aprons are passed around and I teamed up with a lovely married couple and after introductions we become the 3 R's for the day. There are three groups of three.
We are all eyeing off the cheese platter on offer and it takes awhile before we all start to taste. The platter consists of camembert, feta, labne and a blue camembert, along with some natural yogurt and mascarpone - all of which we are learning to make today except for the blue - that's just a teaser for the advanced course!
The feta is amazingly salty and sharp and I'm liking it. Hope mine turns out like that!
We are given a breakdown of all our equipment and keeping things separate to stop cross- contamination of the cheeses.
Our workspace for the day. The polystyrene boxes have a big 10ltr container which is our cheese vat and helps keep the dairy environment nice and warm and cozy, perfect conditions for making good cheese.
We start with making ricotta. We gently heat our milk to the required temperature, add in white vinegar and watch as it starts to come together (which is called a raft). This sits for 20 minutes or so as the curds and whey separate.
Ricotta turns out to be the most easiest cheese to make and something I know I will be making at home!
We then move onto preparing our milk for both the camembert and feta. They are mixed in a vat in the polystyrene box (to keep it warm).
While that is doing it's thing we stop for morning tea. Tea and coffee in hand we sit down to the large 12 seater dining table and munch on these lovely mascarpone and ricotta tarts. Creamy but not very sweet and they delicious.
It's not long and we are back in the kitchen. We are now ready to hoop our ricotta (see I'm learning the lingo) and our 4 litres of milk gives us two decent size hoops. Once the whey is drained away it's ready to eat (roughly 20-30 minutes). Our ricotta is going to be used in our lunch today.
Over to the benches to tend our feta. Here we are cutting the feta into cubes before we start to 'turn' the curd. It's starting to set to a pannacotta consistency. When we start to turn it it will allow the whey to separate more.
We are then given a demo on how to make natural yogurt and then to hang the yogurt to make labne. I get to do the hanging for this one. Labne is sometimes called a yogurt cheese. It's middle eastern in origin and is delicious rolled in dukkah or fresh herbs. I suggest rolling in sumac too, which gives it a lemony taste.
We learn about the different cultures used in the cheeses and get to taste the products at each step to learn the textures and tastes of what the end result should be. There is no waste once you learn what to do with it. Even the by product whey can be used (if you want to).
As an extra element, Sally shows us how to make a quick pullapart bread with feta and olives and homemade butter (and buttermilk) which will be served with our lunch. So easy!
After turning our curd and draining the whey we hoop our camembert. This fills four hoops and I think they are going to be huge wheels. But I can confirm that today (2 days after hooping) the cheese has drained and is more dense and compacted (about 1/3 of the original size).
We break for lunch and the spread is fresh and inviting. Even though we have been picking on cheese and crackers all morning I am still hungry. Alexia, who is in the kitchen today, has cooked up a lovely lunch of baked camambert with caramelised onions, a salad with feta, spinach and ricotta tarts with a capsicum sauce, the pullapart bread and the freshly made butter.
It was delicious and light and refreshing! The communal lunch is full of chatter and laughter as we all get to know each other. Feeling revived and refreshed with food we move onto the afternoon session, we are shown how to make the rich and divine mascarpone (which doesn't have as much cream in it as one thinks!).
We invert our camembert and you can see just how much whey has already come away from the cheese and the cheese is shrinking.
It's time to do one more turn on our feta before hooping it. Our team ended up with loads of curd from our batch and made 4 very full hoops (and then some).
This will show exactly how much it shrinks over time (see photos below).
By the end of the afternoon we are armed with cheese recipes, enough knowledge to make the cheese and we are all eager to go home and experiment. After purchasing kits and cultures we say our thank yous and goodbyes and head off ....
The soft cheese making workshop was a fantastic experience and I learnt quiet alot about cheese and what effort goes into to making it. The camembert and feta are definitely the most time consuming cheeses to make in this course, however in the grand scheme of things it's not really labour intensive. Just needs the TLC to get it to the eating stage!
I hear good things about the advanced cheese making course where you learn to make cheddar, blue vein, havarti and mozzarella to name a few. Now I just need to choose a date to do this one too! I'm hooked....but perhaps I need to perfect some of the soft cheeses first.....
I can highly recommend this day to anybody that is interested in making cheese! I know my head is spinning with possiblities.
Thanks Cheesemaking Workshop for a great experience.
Three days later..........
.....this is what my cheese is starting to look like. The top cheese is camembert and the bottom is my feta. On Sunday morning I gave my camembert its brine bath with added mold spores and is now drying out in it's cool esky (in my garage) for the next 8-10 days. Hopefully little white hairs will start to grow on it and then it will be ready in a few weeks.
Yes I had to colour code my cheeses so they wouldn't get mixed up. They look exactly the same. So to ensure the right step was done to the right cheese I had to have a system. In future it will be easy as I will only do one type of cheese at a time.
The bottom cheese - the feta - is ready for it's briny bath this morning and will be ready to eat tomorrow. I can't wait to try this.