Balls of curds hanging in the fridge. is imminent

Because I’m Superwoman, I started an extra dish on Wednesday: cottage cheese. You might ask why anyone would want to learn how to make cottage cheese but when you’re starting out in cheese making, it’s best to begin with something easy rather than launching yourself straight into Stilton.

To make cottage cheese, you just need milk (preferably non-homogenized) and rennet, preferably non-GM because this is and we don’t do quick-fix genetic engineering here. We did ask Eddie The Dairy Man if you could use vegetarian rennet to make cheeses like this and said you can, but with a look on his face that said: “But why wouldn’t you just kill a cow, freeze its stomach and mill it?”

Curds and whey

So, with one cow milked and another slaughtered, I could start my first cheese. Stage 1 is simply gently heating milk, sprinkling it with diluted rennet and then leaving it somewhere warmish until it coagulates into junket. This takes between 2 and 4 hours and if I hadn’t been busy badly icing a layer cake I’d have moved onto stage 2 after 2 hours.

But the cake had my attention, so the cheese impatiently moved itself on to stage 2: separating the curds so there’s a thin film of whey floating over the top of them. I should’ve heated the cheese to make this happen and I’m not sure the cheese doing it itself was a good thing. In fact, I’m fairly certain it resulted it slightly tough curds, but you can’t waste 2 litres of coagulated milk, so I ladled the curds into cheesecloths and hung them in a fridge to drain overnight.

Drained curds

In the morning I had cheese. Or, I had 2 cricket ball sized lumps of white dairy matter. It’s at this stage that I first thought the curds had been a bit tough when I hung them because I don’t remember Eddie The Dairy Man’s cottage cheese looking this solid and leathery when it came out of the cloth. But my memory tends to empty out anything useful at the end of every day, so I can’t be sure, and the key to succeeding at anything is knowing how to cover up when things have gone slightly wrong.

I mashed the cheese with a fork and it immediately looked a lot more like cottage cheese. Then I applied salt and a lot of chopped herbs to the situation. The cheese was transformed from something dubious into a feast, if your idea of a feast is herby low fat cheese. It was fresh and light and considerably less sludgy than commercial cottage cheeses, which only aid weight loss because most people’s stomachs shut down and refuse to let the gloopy white globules in.

Cottage cheese

Still, there is room for improvement in my cottage cheese making and I plan to tackle it again when I have a light workload day. Where there is no room for improvement, because I am The Queen Of Yeast and Empress Of Refined White Flour, is bread making.

I made my first batch of white yeasted bread rolls, a bread plait and breadsticks and my hands had clearly been blessed by St Honoratus. The dough did as it was bid, the bread rose, the crust was chewy and the crumb was an airy blanket of snowy white bliss. If I hadn’t already spent a night at a bakery and discovered what a furnace of work that is, I’d be thinking what a tragic loss to the world it would be if I didn’t become a baker.

I also made a terrible blackcurrant fool because I didn’t read the recipe properly and therefore didn’t sieve the fruit purée – slightly crunchy is not the texture you’re after in a fruit fool, apparently. And I made lamb stew. You can’t go wrong with stew, and I didn’t.

Breads what I made

11 Responses to Day 25, 13th day cooking, Ballymaloe Cookery School

  1. DJ says:

    Wow – bread looks AMAZING!!

  2. The opening shot of the cheese was surprising.

    Yet another thing that is really different when made properly. I’m beginning to think there are two whole sets of food in the world but with only one set of names.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I know. The Man (aka Tesco) has been lying to you for a long time now about how things really look, just to improve his profit margin. Damn him.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Often can’t find rennet but have used lemon juice or yogurt that creates a nice cream cheese lebne used in MiddleEast. Would like more complex recipes. Russian friend only uses organic milk. Thanks, Antoinette Baranov

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Thanks for reading 🙂 I’m going to experiment with more cheese making while I’m here and have access to non-homogenized milk and good rennet, then when I get back to London I’ll be on the hunt for cheese supplies or basically making fresh cheese with yoghurt starters. Either way, there will be more fresh cheese in my life.

  4. lostinthelarder says:

    Wow – I fancy a go at this myself now.

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      The entire course, or just the cottage cheese making? I plan to make it obsessively until I can convince myself and other people that it’s nice.

  5. rotaels says:

    Loving the blog, it’s making me laugh out loud which is probably not good for the non-insane image I’m trying to project.
    Also you’d be surprised just how badly stew can go wrong, never happened personally to me, thankfully the one stew I made on the Jan 2010 course turned out good despite the fact that I was allergic to two of the ingredients and was seasoning by instinct rather than taste. But I have been served stews where the meat is overcooked, the veg under, the sauce both too salty and curdled all at the same time, now that bad a dish is an accomplishment in itself!

  6. Linda says:

    Fell across this blog whilst looking for cookery schools. Hilarious, keep up the good work!

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