I overslept this morning,
having eventually dragged myself to bed at around 0130am, as I’d been carrying out a deep-clean & sanitisation of all my cheesemaking & ice-cream equipment. I did this, in preparation not only for more fresh batches & because I’m feeling buoyed up with the excitement of experimentation; but also as Samhain dictates, because it’s a good time for clearing out the old & carefully evaluating the successes, failures, strengths & weaknesses of the previous ‘year’; as well using the winter months to plan for the year ahead.
And of course, I’d lit my candles & put out my offerings of food for the Spirits….even including a little dish of tuna just in case Shaui, Clyde, Jasmine or all our other much-loved, never-forgotten feline friends should be visiting their living moggy mates during the course of the night. Mysteriously, I discovered the tuna had been consumed by dawn’s early light….but then again, Moriarty was smacking his lips with a wicked gleam in those piercing green eyes….!
So I’d carefully evaluated the past, & considered & acknowledged my weaknesses whilst munching thoughtfully on one of the excellent, juicy apples from our orchard; I feel rejuvented, my enthusiasm renewed. Whilst it was a generally overcast day, the odd patch of blue sky put in a tentative appearance, so the goats enjoyed another day outside; much to their relief no doubt, as they clearly do not appreciate the new hay as much as our 2006 crop – this so far has been something of a disappointment; but relatively speaking it’s not that bad; they’ve just been spoiled until now.
I spent a fair bit of time catching up on emails & telephone calls, as well as trying to evaluate the thorny problem of ordering ear tags for the latest livestock; the laws are so transient & indeed set to change again next year, that it’s sometimes hard to know whether you’ve ordered the right thing at the right time – & tagging an animal is something you only ever want to do once if possible, as it causes so much more pain & distress than applying a simple ear tattoo. However, with goats, the type of tag with the best longevity, seems to be the button variety; which unfortunately is far too cumbersome & bulky to fit in the ears of six- to nine-month-old kids, as the law dictates. So we have to identify them with a smaller, more flimsy tag; & hope that it isn’t torn out in play, or whilst browsing or whatever – which unfortunately, does happen all too often. It’s a shame the button tag cannot be adapted so it can be applied to the ears of younger animals without causing damage, but would also readily remain in the ear for the duration of the goat’s life. Anyway things are only set to get worse, where goats & indeed livestock in general, are concerned: double tagging is soon to be introduced, with all the additional stress & potential for infection & shredded ears that will doubtless result. Thanks for that, EU bureaucrats.
I’ve recently been in discussion with another aspiring cheesemaker – Sue – who is just starting out on the long & rocky road to setting up her own artisan business – where we were indeed, not very long ago (& we still have such a distance to travel on that journey, ooerr!!). I certainly gain inspiration from the shared experience of fellow artisan cheesemakers, on any scale – & was delighted to read of Nora’s latest success on her ‘Chicken Dumpling’ blog, making mozzarella in her kitchen at home – good for her! Even though personally I’m not fond of plasticized curd as it’s known, having lived round the corner from a mozzarella factory in Italy for a while (ironically things have now come full circle as there is also a mozzarella factory in our local town!) Nora’s efforts have inspired me to have a small-scale go, myself. I must admit, whilst eating it isn’t my thing, a fresh cheese made from good-quality milk can have a mouth-watering appeal; besides which, making the stuff has an almost irresistible appeal as it is strangely therapeutic. But there again, I was originally schooled in the craft by the diva of mozzarella – Val Bines – whose teaching was not only fun but also an inspiration.
So good luck, Sue; you’ll find cheesemaking is a fascinating marriage of art & science – when the goats aren’t giving you the run-around, that is! After yesterday’s slipping & sliding on the (essentially dry) yard, Tony has suggested I get myself either fitted up with 4×4 wellies (surely it should be 2×2, though?!) or alternatively strap a pillow to my bum every time I venture outside – although as he sleepily chuckled before turning out the light, the goats would certainly enjoy that as a new plaything! The Milkforce have been having a great time, today; with Woody & Morganna in season & driving poor Merson mad with their teasing, fluttering their eyelashes at him through the gate. It won’t be long either, before they can be reunited with Assie & Frog, as Assie’s leg is getting stronger all the time as she gains in confidence.
Continuing my clearout of the freezer, I decided to attempt another unusual supper dish this evening: called a Canterbury Casserole, it again uses offal (this time lambs’ hearts) & is a good, warming dish for winter nights ahead without the messy need to stuff the hearts & fiddle around with skewers etc. It goes something like this:
OFFAL RECIPE: CARDIGANSHIRE CASSEROLE
For the Casserole:
4 x lambs’ hearts; 25g/1oz flour; salt & freshly-ground pepper; ½ tsp mustard powder; 75g/3oz butter; splash of oil, for frying; 2 x organic carrots, scrubbed & sliced; 3 x sticks of crunchy celery, chopped; 1 x great big fine Welsh leek, sliced; 2 x chunky potatoes, roughly diced; 2 x large onions, finely chopped; 2 x fresh bay leaves; a few sprigs of fresh garden parsley; 3 x juicy tomatoes, skinned & diced; 300ml/10floz lamb, chicken or vegetable stock.
To top with Herb Dumplings:
4oz/100g self-raising flour; generous pinch of salt; 2oz/50g shredded suet; 1 x level tbsp of your favourite fresh, chopped mixed herbs; 6 x tbsp water.
Wash the hearts, cut them into slices & remove any white tube materiel. Dry thoroughly. Mix the flour with the salt, pepper & mustard powder & then coat the hearts in the seasoned flour. Melt 25g/1oz of the butter along wth a small splash of oil in a deep pan, & lightly fry the hearts on all sides for a couple of minutes; after which, remove them from the pan & set aside. Melt the remaining butter in the pan, & add the carrots, celery, leek, onions, & potatoes & fry them together for about 5 minutes, turning them frequently. Add the skinned tomatoes, seasoning, bay leaves & parsley, & stir thoroughly. Return the hearts to the pan; pour the stock over the meat & vegetables, stir them together then cover the pan & simmer the casserole in the oven very gently for a total of 1½ hours.
Whilst the dish is gently bubbling away, filling the kitchen with appetizing aromas, prepare the herby dumplings by mixing the flour, herbs, salt & suet together in a bowl, aftr which add sufficient water to make a soft dough & form it into eight balls. After the casserole has been simmering for about an hour, retrieve it briefly from the oven, fish out the bayleaves if you can find them easily, & place the dough balls on top of the casserole, recovering it with the lid & continuing the cooking very gently for a further thirty minutes, or until the dumplings have risen well & look nice & plump with a delicious golden crust. Serve this literally hearty dish immediately (designed to feed four people as a satisfying supper dish).
I worked late into the night again, helping Tony with some important correspondence before doing some research on traditional, old-fashioned ice cream recipes & learning something of the fascinating history of ice cream. Compared with cheese, which has fortuitously been with us for many thousands of years, ice cream is still in its relative infancy, with the first recorded example being consumed by the Roman Emperor, Nero, who ate ice mixed with fruits & spices. So it’s high time I did a bit more fiddling with some flavours, methinks….!!