After the possums ate the tomatoes last year, it's pretty exciting to have some nearing maturity this summer. It would have been nice to have them for Christmas but we have tasted one tiny specimen that ripened well ahead of the pack.
If the flavour of the sample is an indication of what to expect, mortgage lifter is a tomato variety which will have a permanent place in our garden. Just fabulous. Like I remember Charlie's tomatoes tasting.
I've been using a BFA certified product for fruit fly, which can be seen drippling down in the picture. It's a good thing the garden is well fortified ... don't want the local believers to mistake the gooey mess for some sort of miracle. Although the fact that it's a piece of cladding rather than a statue might help.
(this is pretty much just a transcript from my hand written 'cheese diary')
Day 1 - (time = 0730) Prepared 20% salt brine, cooled and placed cheeses in it for 20 minutes. How cool is cool? I wonder did I get it cold enough? The instructions say to store in the warmest part of the fridge. How warm is warm? Agghhhh. Consult musty cheese book - "Put cheese into a humid environment at 11 to 15 ℃ and store for 8 - 10 days" Ahhhhh precision.... Fridge is too cold, it's on its last legs and making icy sculptures at the back of the cabinet. Put cheese on rack over large pot in esky with 4 blue ice bricks. Put fridge thermometer in with it. (time=1730) 5℃ hmmm
Day 2 - (0820) 8℃ (1515) 8℃ (2118) 8℃
Day 3 - (1000) 8℃ (1348) 8℃ (1812) 9℃ (hot day) (2300) 10℃ or 20℃ according to second identical thermometer bought today!!! Added another ice block and a third thermometer (same as those used to measure milk temp in the workshop)
Day 4 - Now using three thermometers in the esky. (0817) 12/8/10 (1200) 12/9/10℃. Changed out rack... disaster!!! both cheeses have black mould spots. This is probably not good. I'm thinking the rack may not have been clean enough. (1745) 8/4/10℃ (2314) 12/8/14℃
Day 5 - Surface of cheeses is dull (white mould yay!), small amount of clear liquid in pot under the rack so they're still draining. (0850) 8/13/11℃ ... anyway you get the idea, the thermometers don't agree but the temp wobbles around that area until day 8 when I nix the esky.
Day 6 - Turned cheeses.
Day 7 - Moved one cheese to fridge to become camembert (not really planning to eat this stuff, remember the black mould? now just viewing it as a science experiment)
Day 8 - Brushed the (rather nice looking) white mould off the remaining cheese and brushed with Brevi solution. (I was stupid enough to google Brevibacterium, ewwww). Put in fridge.
Day 9 - Using two thermometers in dodgy old fridge. Milk thermometer says 10℃ and coffee frothing thermometer says 7℃ .. I wonder if there are two thermometers on the planet that can agree on a temperature. Turned washed rind cheese, it looks ok, smells cheesy!
Day 10 - Temperature of fridge continues to be imprecise. Turned washed rind cheese. Should the container be open or closed? The instructions say it will make the fridge smell so that must mean it needs air right? Cracked open the lid.
Day 11 - -
Day 12 - Washed rind cheese now looking like a camembert again.
Day 13 - Turned washed rind cheese, checked camembert - paper's a bit damp ... sweaty cheese? Did I say I don't actually know much about cheese? I buy it I eat it.
Day 14 - Did the brevi solution thing again (as per day 8). It had built up quite a thick white mould, feels really nice and velvety. Cheese goes slimy when mould brushed off then real slippery when brushed with the solution, and off course jumps out of my hands onto the bench. Note to self, use sterilised tray under work area if planning to actually eat cheese :-) Put back in fridge.
Day 15 - -
Day 16 - -
Day 17 - -
Day 18 - Washed rind looks ok, I think
Day 19 - -
Day 20 - Turned washed rind , re-wrapped camembert, damp again .. I think the problem may be that it should have been eaten by now and frankly I'm not game to look.
Day 21 - -
Day 22 - -
Day 23 - Yes the washed rind does make the fridge stink.
Day 24 - -
Day 25 - -
Day 26 - Wrapped the washed rind, sealed both containers.
Day 27 - -
Day 28 - the big reveal.... to be continued.......
The good thing about making mozzarella is that it's ready to eat right away. My rustic looking balls of mozzarella were eaten the very next day in a yummy pizza. Much as I like homemade pizza bases, it seemed like too long to wait so we just grabbed a ready to go base from the local deli. In the interests of science I also picked up a mozzarella of the kind we might normally buy.
Tasted raw, the Capricciosa cheese was slightly salty and pretty standard for a shrink wrapped mozzarella. My cheese was lighter in colour and not salty at all (not surprising as none was added during its making).
We put a few pieces of the bought cheese on the pizza to see how they compared when melted.
The finished product! The bought cheese is the more browned section on the left. The bought cheese melted more and my cheese was more like what we buy locally as bocconcini - yummy.
I've got to say that the high school kitchen has come on a bit since I last entered one. Out in the country beyond the range of the gas pipes, we had electric four hob white enamel stoves and laminated bench tops. The room the cheese workshop was held in was a gleaming expanse of stainless steel commercial grade gas stoves and bench tops.
Of course, back in the day, 'hospitality' didn't really exist as a career option. Our classes were all about feeding a family and not much frequented by boys.
Fortunately times have moved on and our class today was pretty well balanced gender-wise and uniformly passionate about the topic at hand.
The guest cheesemakers Giorgio Linguanti from Thats Amore Cheese and Claire Baily from Hunter Belle led the class through the steps in making mozzarella and a white mould soft cheese.
Switching back and forth between the two recipes with some brief interludes in the classroom next door for some theory presented by Claudia of McIntosh & Bowman, it was a pretty fast and furious day. I hope my notes don't result in my ending up with white mould mozzarella and hand pulled camembert back in my own kitchen!
All the milk supplied was of a really high quality however the unpasteurised one seemed to give a nice chunky curd that held together better than the other one. I'll be seeking that one out.
While the camembert curds drained in their cute and economical mounds, Giorgio went around and got everyone started with forming their mozzarella into balls and twists.
A flurry of cleaning up and packing wobbly curds into containers and we were all off home with our precious cargo ready for the next steps in the process.
Ages ago I decided I'd like to learn to make cheese. An internet
search came up with a few places that run cheese-making workshops but
there were none scheduled that didn't involve a road trip and a couple
of nights away.
So I sent off for a book and enough gear to make a camembert.
I think that was around April 2007.
apparent need for fastidious temperature control seemed beyond anything
I was able to manage so it just didn't happen. The bottle of rennet is
in the fridge and mould of some kind lurks in the back of the freezer,
all past its use by.
Then, several weeks ago I spotted an ad for
a cheese-making workshop just across the harbour from me so I rang up
to book in. The fates seemed against me as it was booked out. Just a
few days before the scheduled date, I got a call from the lovely
Claudia to say that there was a space if I wanted it.
So off I went to join a band of enthusiastic budding cheese-makers.
No matter where he was, Charlie always had a garden.
Although he used to plant a bed of poppies and pansies for Nola in the spring, he rather thought growing flowers was a waste. Why grow something you can't eat?
Tomatoes and beans were the mainstay of the vegetable plot, with pumpkins and grammas grown between rows of the corn he used to plant for the cattle.
The garden in this picture was next to the house he 'retired' to. Not as big as some of the previous ones, but still big enough to provide more than he could eat, giving him the excuse to visit his friends: "Just dropping off some beans for you".