Friday, June 22, 2012

French Style Feta with Gayle Starbuck

Gayle Starbuck

Portland, Oregon has all the luck!

At least it has Gayle Starbuck and that's a lot.  Gayle makes cheese, teaches cheese making classes and sells cheese making supplies to lucky folks in Oregon.  (Curds on the Way

Gayle knows her whey around a curd press and she's a fun little red-headed ball of energy, so her classes are wildly popular.  (If you're planning to register, do it soon because some of her fall classes are already filled.)

Recently, Gayle offered to share her recipe for Creamy, French Style Feta with us and we leaped at the opportunity to share it with you.  We asked her a few questions, by way of an introduction:

How did you get started making cheese?

I was raised on a farmstead in California, so helping to milk and watch my mother make cheese and butter was just part of what I always did and still continue to do (no milking anymore).

As time went on and I had a family on a ranch, I began to branch out into making all types of cheese. It really helped to make a more consistent cheese when cultures /rennet's/ additives became more readily available.

I started teaching home preserving / cheese making in about 1970 for the school district.

Where do you teach?

I teach beginning cheese making for: Portland Homestead Supply Co. in Portland, Oregon and a more advanced class in my own Beavercreek, Oregon kitchen.  They are both on a continuing basis.

Creamy Feta Cheese in the French Style
By Gayle Starbuck of Curds on the Way

My French Great-Grandfather had plenty of sheep’s milk available to make his creamy French style Feta in 1900.  Although he was gone long before I could taste some, my mother fondly remembers her stays on his Farmstead and the different types of cheese, wine and preserved olives he taught her to make. The tradition continues, but I rarely have access to sheep's milk, so I have developed this method using cow’s milk from the market dairy case.

Creamy and mild, this is a favorite with my cheese class students. Unlike the salty store bought type, it’s a real treat served in cubes or in a simple herbed marinade with wine preserved olives.

This many years later, I know Grand-Papa would approve of my undertaking!
Grand-Papa with his sheep.

This Feta recipe is made in a small, manageable batch, ideal for the home kitchen. There is no need to use a press, as it firms up under its own weight while hanging, making a great semi-firm cheese.

The only "cheese aging cave" you need is a covered container with a bottom insert and your own refrigerator!

This type of  container is usually available in the home wares section of your local large market. It’s labeled as a Produce/Saver container from the Rubbermaid Co. and has two very small vent holes that allow the cheese some air.  They are also available online from Amazon.

Use non-ultra pasteurized cow's milk (you may substitute goat's milk) and some heavy cream from the dairy case. You may also use Jersey milk, sold as cream top in glass bottles. With it’s high fat content you won’t need to add the extra cream.

The extra ingredients needed are available from:

Gather up everything you need to make this cheese.

Note:  Make sure any milk you use is not ultra-pasteurized.

Using boiling water, sanitize  all of your equipment, pan, slotted spoon, spatula, ladle and a 20" x 20" piece of butter muslin (U2).

1 gallon whole cow's milk (homogenized, but not ultra-pasteurized)
½ pint heavy cream
½  tsp calcium chloride (C14) dissolved in ¼ cup filtered water   
1/6  tsp. lipase powder (L3) dissolved in ¼ cup filtered water. This is where the mini measuring spoons comes in handy ( E20 - a pinch spoon is 1/6th tsp.)
1 packet of direct set mesophilic starter (C101)
½  tsp. liquid rennet (R7) dissolved in ¼ cup filtered water (NOTE: Do not prepare rennet solution any more than ½ hour before using.)
2-4 tablespoons cheese salt (S1)

Keep it clean hint:  Keep your used utensils clean inside of a folded piece of wax paper during cheese making. Also, use some extra pieces of it later to move cheese around. It keeps your bare fingers off of the cheese, because that can lead to mold spots during aging.

Heat the milk.

Use a heavy non-aluminum pan, that will hold 1 gallon of milk. Over very low heat, warm the milk and cream to 86° stirring gently and constantly.

Add the culture.

Add in this order and stir in well:
1.  Lipase mixture
2.  Calcium chloride mixture
3.  Sprinkle the mesopholic culture over the milk and let re-hydrate for 1 minute. Stir into the milk until completely dissolved.

Keep warm.

Cover with a lid and towel to keep in warmth. Periodically check the milk temperature. If it drops, place the pan with milk in a warm water bath. Using a heavy pan and covering the milk will usually hold in the warmth needed.

Allow to culture for 1 hour.

Add the rennet.

Note the culturing time, and then mix your rennet solution. Mix the solution into the milk, stirring with a slotted spoon for 1 minute. Continue to keep the milk at 86.° 

Get a clean break.

Cover as before and keep warm, 86° for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until you get a "clean break".

You can check for a clean break by sticking your cutting/curd knife into the curd and making a small cut. Insert blade of the spatula under the cut and lift up. If the curd breaks cleanly, and whey runs into the crack that is made; you will have a "clean break."

Cut the curds

Cut the curds (see Basic Procedures) into 1/2" pieces, using a long spatula.
Let the curds heal for 10 minutes without disturbing.

Then, stir the curds and cut any larger pieces that you missed when you first cut the squares. Always use a gentle stirring motion.
Hold the curds at 86° for 20 minutes. Stir every few minutes to prevent the curds from sticking together.
This process shrinks the curds as well as releases some of the whey.

Ladle the curds

Place a large colander over a container to catch the whey. Line the colander with the sanitized butter muslin.
Ladle the curds into the colander. Let drain for 20 minutes. Reserve the whey for other cooking uses.
Hint: This is what I do with so much whey generated from my cheese classes. It gets poured around the base of the blueberries. They love the high acid in the liquid.

Let curds hang to drain.

Tie the opposite corners of the cheesecloth together over a wooden spoon and hang the bag to drain.

After 3-4 hours, un-tie the bag and set cheese on a large piece of wax paper. Very carefully turn the cheese over in the cheesecloth. This will create a nicer form when cut into blocks.

Re-wrap the cheese in the muslin, then hang and drain for 24 hours at room temperature. It will start to develop a distinctive Feta odor.

Cut and salt.

Line the bottom of your container with several layers of clean white paper towels.

Remove Feta from the cloth, place on a sheet of wax paper and cut it into usable size blocks (about 2-3 inches).

Sprinkle all the sides of the cubes evenly with cheese salt.  (I like to use a salt shaker for even distribution and then place the blocks in the container.)

Flip container.

Cover with several more layers of paper towels. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours, turning twice a day. To do this, lightly cover with the lid and flip the whole container over.

For storage and aging.

For storage: I like to keep mine dry salted in the covered container under refrigeration. Discard the previously used paper towels and re-line as before. Sprinkle cheese with a little more salt and cover with more paper towels. Turn every 12 hours by turning the container over as before. Do this for an additional 2 days. Keep the same damp, salt infused paper towels in place during refrigeration, as this acts as a preservative.

Hint: Another little cheese keeping hint that you might want to use is this one, after the turning process is finished:
Mix together:
1 teaspoon cheese salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon filtered water

Pour solution under the Feta container shelf and replace with new solution every 7 days.
The ingredients are embossed on my vintage glass cheese keeper.
It really does work.

My vintage cheese preserver

Taste the Feta after 5-8 days, it will be creamy and mild at this stage and become firmer and drier with more aging. Use your own taste as to what aging stage you enjoy it most.

Feta will keep 30 days using this method.

Marinated Feta

Gayle Starbuck
Curds on the Way

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Country Critters in Winchester, New Hampshire

Making cow's and goat's milk cheese in southern New Hampshire 

Son, Jared, Mike and Julie Thibodeau  (This photo comes from their Facebook page because Julie was the only one home when we came for the interview.  Mike works a day job and Jared is still in school)

It all started with a 4H project!  Julie and Mike Thibodeau bought a farm 9 years ago when their 3 kids were relatively young.  Their oldest daughter, 14, had projects going with rabbits.  Then, she got into cows and with the help of a Rural Youth Loan, she acquired 11 milkers!  She was selling raw milk before anybody around there had even thought of it.

Their 12 year old daughter had sheep and alpacas.  She sold wool and freezer lambs.  At age 12, she was very talented working with wool!  Their son, Jared, had a niche business raising poultry for milk and eggs.  One year, there were 300 broilers and 50 turkeys raised on pasture!

Now, their oldest daughter (23) has 3 sons, their second daughter (21) has a girl and their youngest son, Jared (17) is still living at home.  The alpacas, sheep, poultry and oxen are gone, but Mike, Julie and Jared have a new project going with cows and goats - they are making cheese.

The farm has 53 acres and everywhere we looked, there seemed to be another barn:

The farm store is attached to their house.

The building on the right is a portable milking parlor.

This is the barn for the goats, but they spend most of their time on the pastures.

Julie took us out to the fields to see the goats

The number of goats fluctuates because, Julie said, she is always selling the kids, but, the day we were there, she had 26 full grown Alpine Nubians and 26 kids.  She is currently milking 21.  She also has a Holstein cow, a heifer calf and a Jersey bull.

These kids are 1 1/2 months old.

These are the 1 1/2 month old bucks.

The Jersey bull

Their milker and her heifer

The heifer decided to go outside.

Rabbit meat is a big seller for the farm.  Like everything else, it started as a 4H project, but now it's part of the business.

They are just getting started with their cheese business.  They are currently making Feta, Robiola, and several flavors of chevre from their goat's milk.  In the winter, they make Robiola with cow's milk.  (They're hoping to be able to rotate the birthing times so they can have fresh goat's milk cheese all year round.

They are selling their cheese in restaurants, co-ops and farmer's markets, as well as in their farm store.  Julie mentioned that marketing will be easier when they can offer their goat's milk cheeses year round.  (When there's a break in the winter, they have to start over contacting all their customers again in the spring.)

Julie and Mike have been working from "dawn til dusk" and there still isn't enough time to do everything they need to do for the cheese business.  So, they're currently looking for a part time milker (See classified ads).

Their Van Riit vat holds 53 gallons, but Julie typically makes cheese with 30 gallons at a time.

Their Robiola molds (and all their other supplies) come from - where else?- New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.

This bulk tank came from Bob White Systems in Vermont

The self-help farm store may have goat's milk cream, raw goat's milk, raw cow's milk, rabbit meat, grass fed beef and goat's meat, and various cheeses including Feta and Robiola.  (Your best bet is to call first to be sure they have what you need.)

Payment is by the honor system

Country Critters Farm
240 Forest Lake Rd.
Winchester, New Hampshire 03470

Friday, June 15, 2012

Swiss with Terrie Travers

Granny T. with Charlotte
Creating a good life in Butler, Tennessee

We first posted an article called Fromage Blanc with Terrie Travers two years ago when she was a fairly new cheese maker.  Then, recently, she popped up on our Facebook page with fabulous pictures of her Swiss cheese.

There aren't too many folks making Swiss, so we asked Terrie to take pictures of her process and she was happy to oblige.  (As they say- if you want to get something done, ask a busy person...)

So, after a little bit of catch up info about her amazing life as a farmer and an artist, you will find her tutorial below about making Swiss.

From Terrie:

As you may remember, we are just a small farm/homestead; poor dirt farmers/starving artists.  We believe you should always have fun whenever possible.  We tend to be workaholics, so this is a must for us, especially in these hard economic times.

We raise plants and produce which we sell at regional and local markets and our art work is sold in various shops from the East Coast to West Coast (The Appalachian Shed).  Note: Their website is under construction, but you can still see a lot of their work.

Glass piece

Glass bowl - Exotic Mistress

Wood - blue crabs

Trinity, Terrie's granddaughter making a glass plate

Shitake mushrooms

We really enjoy what we do; growing and creating.  But, we also like to have fun with food.  That's really where the cheese making came in.  There is always the component of wanting good wholesome food in a world full of "fake" food.  But really, cheese making is fun!

We are also into fermenting, growing mushrooms, and oddities in the garden.  This year we are giving cotton and quinoa a shot.

We do always, of course, have a huge selection of weeds.  Most of them are unwanted, but some of them, like lambs quarters, are delicious stir fried up with some garlic and balsamic vinegar.  There is some odd sense of revenge and satisfaction in eating your weeds.

Trinity holding garlic and a beet (henhouse in back)

If I'm not in the studio, I prefer to be gardening or in the kitchen.  When I get really stressed out from work or life, I make cheese.  I kick my husband John and our furry son Hudson outside and get lost in the process.  The music is often up loud and the phone goes unheard.

The "boys" usually come begging at the back door around noon for a loaf of bread and the peanut butter knowing that's all they are going to get.  They don't complain because both of them get to reap the rewards of my cheese making.

Hudson gets any failures plus the rinds off most cheeses(he is still enjoying a 5 lb. smoked gouda that went to late acid), and John devours everything else once it hits the kitchen fridge.  His favorite is Asiago Pressato.  I just scaled down Jim Wallace's recipe to a two gallon cheese.  So good!

Terrie's husband, John and Hudson

Another of his favorites is the Caciocavallo.  I add hot peppers and herbs.  I have hung it in the kitchen in the winter months, but not sure how to deal with it now that it is warmer.

We love the fromage blanc as it is so easy and versatile.  Currently in my "cave:" two Traditional Swiss, one Gruyere, one Asiago Pressato, half of a Honey Rubbed Montasio, two Traditional Cheddars, and one Parmesan.

Terrie's Gruyere

Just about all of my cheeses are made from Ricki's book, which I find very easy to follow.  For my Traditional Swiss I used raw whole milk.  Those Jersey cows really give up some cream so I took a good bit of it off and replaced it with milk before starting.  I added some of Ricki's sour cream culture to that extra cream and put it in my old yogurt maker.  Yummy stuff.

Making sour cream in her 1910 (exaggeration) yogurt maker

Bottles of cream for making sour cream

I also made some ricotta from the whey.  Not a bad haul for about  two and a half gallons of milk!  I haven't had a failure in a while now.  The last ones were due to a faulty thermometer.  I kept checking my notes and could not figure out where I went wrong?

I now keep a third (digital) thermometer around to test my cheese making thermometers before starting.  I highly recommend this for new cheese makers.  You get so "into" what you are doing that you overlook the simple stuff.

The waiting is the hard part.  Visions of sinking my teeth into fresh,flavor packed, wholesome cheeses drive me wild while the aging takes place.

Just the same, I resist temptation and let my cheeses come into their fullness of flavor.  And let me tell you, it is so worth the agonyof waiting!  I especially love to see the look on others faces when they bite in.

We both enjoy growing stuff and have quite a collection of "nerdy" plants/trees on the property.  Last year we harvested three of the best tasting pineapples from pots on the back deck! Tropical fruit at 2700 feet-- who would have thought.

Although we lost all but the blueberries and blackberries this year to a late freeze, we have tons of fruit selections on the property.  Sweet cherries, sour cherries, hardy kiwi,plums, plum-cots, apricots, grapes, apples, pears, and oriental persimmons.  Going to miss the fresh fruit and juice this winter, but you just can't let stuff like this get you down.

Trinity, holding Scruffy, is learning the part of a Horizontal Top Bar Hive.

Terrie teaching Trinity the art of natural beekeeping at an active hive

Terrie's youngest son and his wife's first child

When life gives us lumps, we usually just talk about our smiles.  That is our granddaughters Trinity (aka Sweet Pea) and Charlotte (aka Lil Chick-a-pea).  Trinity comes to spend part of her summer with us every year at which time John and I revert back to childhood for unlimited giggles and laughs. We are anxiously waiting for Charlotte to grow old enough to follow the tradition.

Little Miss Charlotte was just born this March, but I can already see her chasing ducks and chickens around the place.  For now I will have to be content with the few trips I manage to steal away to Knoxville to visit her (she is such a HUG-A-MUFFIN).  Who would have ever thought that being a grandparent was so much fun!  Amazing how much younger grands make you feel!

Logan rules the garden

Our current family here on the Homestead:

Myself and husband John, Hudson, our 14 year old Pyrenees-Husky mix; two cats, Logan and Scruffy; one rooster (Blue) and eight hens (Lucy, Butternut, Buttercup, Jentwo, Daisy, Hope, Black Betty, and Maude); and recently acquired 10 Indian Runner ducks (yet to be named) and a pair of Embden goslings who we named Hansel and Gretel.

You never know what might strike our fancy from one day to the next, but one thing is for sure; as long as we are able, we will find a way to have fun!

Making Swiss by Terrie Travers
Recipe from Home Cheese Making, p. 122

Start in the morning so the 12 hour cycles come at the right times (when you're not sound asleep)

Sterilize tools and cheese pot

Keep a detailed log

Bring milk to 90F

Take 1/4 cup milk out, add one packet of C201 thermophilic starter to pot

Add 1/8 tsp. Propionic Shermanii to the 1/4 cup of milk and pour into the pot

Stir well and let rest for 10 minutes

With the temp at 90F ( mine got to 92F- not a problem), add 1/2 tsp rennet diluted in 1/4 cup of cool water

Stir in an up and down motion, and then top stir if using raw milk

Cover and let rest for 30 minutes

Cut the curds with a knife and then a modified whisk to 1/4" size

Keep the temp at 90F and gently stir for 40 minutes (foreworking)

Heat the curds by one degree every minute until the temp is 120F (about 30 minutes)

Maintain that temp for 30 minutes stirring occasionally

While waiting, sterilize mold and cloth

A basket mold on the bottom aids in filling a bottomless mold

Test for proper break

Pour off the whey (I prefer to scoop it out) and place the curds in a cloth lined mold

Terrie scoops it out of the pot, then transfers it to the mold (easier than tipping large pot)

Press at 8 - 10 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes

A brick wrapped in aluminum foil weighs around 8 pounds

Remove from mold, redress the cheese and press at 14 pounds for 30 minutes

Use fresh cheesecloth for each flip

Repeat and press at the same (14 lb.) for 2 hours

Repeat but press at 15 pounds for 12 hours

Remove from mold and cloth and put in a saturation brine soak for 12 hours

Remove from brine and pat dry, set in 50 -55F cave

Turn daily for one week, wiping clean with cloth dampened in salt water (don't wet the cheese)

After one week, place the cheese in a warm place (68 - 74F)

Turn daily and wipe clean with cloth dampened in salt water

Let it set this way for 2 - 3 weeks while the "eyes" form, the cheese will swell and the shape changes

Before swelling (at right), after swelling at left

Now age at 45 - 50F & 80% humidity for at least 3 months (this is the hard part)

Reddish coloration on the surface is normal, don't try to remove it.

Terrie's "cave"

Making Ricotta From the Whey

I always make the whey ricotta when making hard cheese.  Also, I keep a half gallon of the whey (after making ricotta) in the fridge for cooking and baking.  By the way, the recipe for English Muffin Bread with Whey in Ricki's book (Home Cheese Making) is out of this world!

Heating the whey

Scooping out Ricotta

Ricotta drained and ready to eat