So the news we’ve all dreaded, but ultimately expected, has finally hit the farming headlines:
on top of current concerns over the FMD outbreak – which it’s now suspected, has spread beyond the Surrey border into Hampshire, with a new (though as yet unconfirmed) case in Petersfield – the first case of the ‘deadly’ Bluetongue virus has been recorded in a cow in Suffolk. Further, it is BTV Serotype 8 – to our knowledge the most virulent & dangerous strain. Thus yea verily, the culling of our dear UK ruminants continues…. yet now, for more than one horrific reason.
The Bluetongue virus does not actually pass directly between animals but via the bite of a specific type of nasty little Culocoides-carrying midge, so you’re not at any personal risk as the virus doesn’t harm humans. The vaguely warm, persistently wet weather which has been suffered across Europe this (ahem) summer, has provided said nasty bug(ger)s with ideal breeding conditions; thus they’ve spread ever-closer to Britain’s sacred shores….however it seems our supposed impregnability as an island nation has not deterred these irritating little blighters from crossing continents – & now, it seems, seas. However not one human – & indeed not all types of animal which are bitten, will die or even become ill. But if a carrier animal is bitten by a non-carrying midge, there is a remote possibility said midge might pick up the virus….& spread it. Liberally. Subsequently the current policy is – yes, you guessed it – cull ‘carrier’ livestock. Shouldn’t we be finding a way to cull the midges, instead?! And the inevitable next question is, what happens if humans can be found to carry the virus?? In the meantime they are hoping to licence a vaccine….by next summer, when there will probably be a resurgence of the problem (Portugal already have a successful vaccination programme). All we can hope for now is a long, hard winter – & soon. Fortunately the temperature is definitely dropping & is set to plummet still further this week with the swing of the wind to the north. Let’s hope a good dose of chilly weather can prevent any further spread – though it will only be for now – at least.
Owing to the unwelcome alarm call of rain lashing the windows, our dog training class with Nanuk was cancelled; so instead we opted to travel to Narberth for the Food Festival. Fellow cheesemaker Sue Jones from Llanboidy Cheese was giving a talk on her perspective of starting a cheesemaking business; so it seemed sensible to pick up some extra hints & tips. It was a bit of a squally afternoon; however as Tony was not feeling well & was in a ‘bit of a mood’ to boot, we missed out on much of the ‘networking’ for which I’d attended the event. We did generate some interest regarding direct sale of our milk to another cheesemaker; however I suspect that by the time they’ll be in a position to use it, so will we! We ended the day purchasing loaves of cider cake, chocolate pudding cake, & the traditional Welsh Bara Brith – which we’re told, goes very well with soft, fresh goats’ cheese (as in fact do warm Welsh cakes – which are in fact, essentially savoury in nature (the sweetness is incorporated by dusting them with sugar, or smearing them liberally with clotted cream & jam (especially delicious on a cold, dreary day!). Here’s a traditional recipe for Picau ar y Maen (modern twists include the addition of 190g/7oz sugar, & a pinch of allspice if you prefer):
CAKE RECIPE: PICAU AR Y MAEN (WELSH CAKES)
450g/1lb flour; 110g/4oz lard; 110g/4oz butter; 50g/2oz dried fruit or currants; 1 tsp salt; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 egg; a little milk.
Sieve the flour, baking powder & salt together in a large bowl (plus pinch of allspice if desired). Rub in the butter & lard until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit (& sugar if included) then beat the egg & pour it in with the milk until you have a fairly firm dough. Roll the dough until it is approx 5mm/¼ inch thick & cut it into discs using a 4-5cm/2 inch pastry cutter. Bake on a medium-hot greased griddle or heavy-based frying pan, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the cakes are golden-brown & soft in the middle. Sprinkle with caster sugar if preferred & serve fresh & warm, smothered with clotted cream & jam; or for a savoury version (without the sugar!) smooth over soft, fresh goats’ cheese sprinkled with herbs or cracked black pepper. Blasus!
Anyway – time I made some more chevre to go with said tasty little cakes….