a day when, with so many others, we pause to reflect with gratitude the Few to whom so many, owe so much (albeit that a single life lost in combat, is one life too many). And for Tony & I, also an opportunity to think of those friends of ours whom we’ve lost throughout the passage of the years in military service; all too many, I’m afraid. As I ploughed on with my business card design & a myriad of other paperwork, I watched the London Cenotaph Service on TV, the silence of the fleeting seconds until the echoing boom of the twenty-one gun salute & the playing of the Last Post pouring many emotional memories through my mind.
It was a windy but thankfully dry day, the leaves ripped from the trees & the ridge of the hill on the other side of the valley, exposed starkly against the sky for the first time since the spring. Drifts of rich brown beech leaves crackled underfoot & rustled in the shivering wind, a rich seam of assorted funghi at the foot of the trees’ massive, gnarled roots amongst the scattered shells of beechmast: a feast of Slippery Jacks, Wood Blewits & Hedgehog mushrooms.
Tony kept warm with some energetic chopping of firewood, in hopeful anticipation of a cold, dry Winter. He cut up an entire bay’s worth of well-seasoned oak logs in the old cow byres, forced for much of the time to use his chainsaw as the wood was so dense. Meanwhile I cleaned the woodburners in preparation to light the season’s fires, the plummeting temperature giving realisation that all too soon even Autumn will be over.
I worked on some Welsh revision & decided to have a go at a different type of cheese based on a Crottin de Chavignol recipe. Here’s the recipe, for those of you who fancy having a go yourselves…..
CHEESE RECIPE: CAWS CARN INGLI
This is a cheese with a soft, lactic body & involves pre-draining of the curds prior to mould filling. Originating from the Loire Valley region of France it is a traditional, unpateurized farmhouse cheese made from goat’s milk. From an area abundant in vineyards, goats were kept as the “pauper’s cow” in the poorer wine-growing areas where the milk the agricultural artisans obtained was insufficient to make larger cheeses. A stout, rustic chevre, it generally weighs around 60-100g & is of stocky, cylindrical-shape. It sports a natural, slightly wrinkled rind which in the young cheese is a pale ivory with a slight smattering of white & blue moulds. At about a week old the cheese should have a gentle, yeasty taste with a moist texture, with more softening of the interior over the next few days giving a nuttier, more full-bodied flavour. By the time the cheese has matured to three weeks of age, the texture is more dense & creamy with a fruity tinge to the taste. At this age the flavour intensifies when the cheese is grilled, forming the basis of a delicious salad served throughout France. Allowed further maturation the rind becomes covered with a distinct blue & grey mould, which draws out the internal moisture & gives the chevre an even more fruity, bitter taste. The result of this dessication is a small, solid dark-grey disc; hence the name ‘crottin de chavignol’ which literally means ‘horse droppings’ (charming). There is a wide variety of crottins to be found; including the more unusual, meaty répassees which are ripened for up to three months in earthenware pots. Robust & delicious – but not for the faint-hearted!
To make this cheese I utilise my little Kochstar vat although I find I don’t need to use the heating control, as the ‘cheeseroom’ (aka the kitchen!) is generally at the correct ambient temperature to make it successfully. However, later in the winter I may tweak the vat’s thermostat a little if the room temperature looks like dropping below 20°C.
INGREDIENTS & COAGULATION: Fill the vat with 20 litres of unpasteurized whole goats’ milk. CaC1², if used is added at the rate of 4mls/20 ltrs. Adjust the temperature of the milk, while stirring to 22-24°C (room temperature of 20-22°C). Recommended starter culture (if used; I’ve found that some recipes do not call for starter) is a pinch of MM100 Ezal DVI (each sachet inoculates up to 400 litres of milk so use sparingly, seal the opened sachet with tape, then place it in a plastic bag before returning it to the freezer). Stir for 5 minutes & leave for 30 minutes. Rennet is then added at 2ml/20ltrs, diluted 5x in boiled & cooled water & stirred in for 2 minutes. Leave the vat to ripen for 18-30 hours (as a general guide the process takes around 24 hours). If you have a titration kit, coagulation has been correctly achieved when the acidity of the whey has reached 0.50%.
PRE-DRAINING: Either drain the curds in a cloth bag over a bucket, or on a cloth spread onto a draining table with the ambient temperature of the cheeseroom mantained at 20-22°C. Pre-drain the curds for between 6 & 24 hours, being careful to ensure the curds are still moist & not over-drained; as the resultant body of the cheese will otherwise be full of holes if the curds are unable to knit together effectively in the moulds.
MOULD FILLING/DRAINING/DÉMOULAGE: Place the pre-drained curds into individual moulds, maintaining the ambient cheeseroom temperature at 20-22°C & draining for approximately a further 24 hours. The cheeses should be turned over at mid-point during draining. Once drained, the cheeses should be gently & carefully removed from the moulds.
SALTING: Salt with dry (table) salt at 1-2% of the overall cheese weight, covering the external surfaces of the cheese.
DRYING: Place the cheeses in a well-ventilated drying room for 1-4 days, at a temperature of 16°C. Drying must be slow otherwise the cheeses will become too dry, causing potential problems with later ripening.
AFFINAGE: Ripening should take place in a ‘cave’ (a sealed box will do!) for 2-4 weeks at a temperature of 10-12°C with a relative humidity of 90%.
STORAGE: The resultant cheese should have a full body with no holes, a fine texture & slightly friable body. The rind should be dry & pale yellow in colour, with blue & white moulds on the surface.
I’ll give regular progress reports, over the coming days….!