Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

IMG_4421Everything is fluid movement, orchestrated in the silent chaos of stainless steel and curd. The noise is deafening in intervals of transition between space and necessity for more space.IMG_4765I spent two months on a farm in West Cork making cheese, challenging my muscles and my patience with things new and incomprehensible. I could feel this world around me slowly unfold into patterns of routine. I was discovering my temporary place in this well established dichotomy. The curds have made my hands soft. Washing them has made them dry and papery looking. New bruises, scars and scrapes mark their surface with my daily lessons. I look at them now with admiration.IMG_2203Weekends lent themselves to experimenting in the quiet space of the dairy. I wanted to see if I could make my own cheeses using the methods I was learning. Small scale. My friend and co-experimenter, Gemma, tried our hand at this mysterious transition of milk to cheese.

IMG_4764The process of cheese making is a simple function of nature doing its thing. Yet as we know anything nature does that looks simple, is  highly complex and layered with chemistry. We wanted to know about each. How does the simplicity of milk transition into its unique intricacies? Cheese is a lesson in patience and observation.
We begin by pulling milk from the morning, slowing bringing the temperature up to add starters and our rennet.IMG_4857IMG_4859testing the PH levels to make sure our acidity rises a bitIMG_5098

Bubble wrapped for warmth and a rest IMG_4860in the quiet moments of rest we are researching and making notes…lots of notesIMG_5093it’s working. The rennet has solidified the curd and separated from the wheyIMG_4862Now it is time to cut the curd, stir it and test it for consistency…just a little more heat and another restIMG_4863 IMG_4865 IMG_4867filling the mold where it will be turned twice and then left to press overnight.  IMG_4870IMG_5103 IMG_4873next day calls for a nice soak in the brine bathIMG_4771followed by a series of days turning, washing and caring for this little one as the rind slowly turns from white to pale butter yellow. with soft pink rind leading to a final thin coat of white mold…IMG_4951
IMG_5095 IMG_4952IMG_5462 IMG_5469 Now i must confess that although this cheese began as a Gubbeen it very much became a Mooney-Boniface. I am not disappointed. This was such an experience of process and experiment. It is incredible to use the same milk, starters, rennet, brine and wash and come up with a completely unique cheese. The aroma was pungent and mushroomy The texture was delicate and creamy. The flavor was nutty and slightly acidic. I think for my first wash-rind from start to finish it was a lovely cheese. We savored every last bite.

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