Before our host family left, they introduced us to Joe and Jude, their two dear friends who live on a sustainable, self-sufficient farm and teach two-day organic cheese making courses. We were sold, and quickly signed up for the next weekend’s workshop.
When we received our confirmation email Jude asked us to get there not too early, between 9:30 – 10:45. Wait what? We figured it was some sort of Australian cultural habit, like the loose interpretation of time Italians have, so we choose to shoot for the middle and show up around 10:15. When 10:00 rolled around we got a call from Joe asking if we had lost our way, a clear indication that we were quite late. When we arrived I was mortified to find the three other members waiting for us, but we all had a good laugh as we explained our interpretation of the email and Jude revealed that she had meant to put 9:30-9:45.
On their beautiful porch and over tea and homemade lemon cake Jude explained about different milks, pasteurization, and the bacteria and enzymes that we would use to make quark (Australian cream cheese), feta, ricotta, brie and mozzarella over the next two days. She then split us up into two teams: boys vs. girls. It was somewhat amusing as the boys’ team was made up of an astrophysicist and a chemist while the girls’ team was made up of an internet marketer, a nurse and a midwife.
the temperature you keep the milk at and the size of the curds cut. In each case a variation of the following steps was followed. We mixed in bacteria, a coagulator, and enzymes into milk. The milk was kept at a very specific temperature for some time until it became firm.
Joe had recently purchased a beautiful calf that is apparently used to help the cows “drop” their milk each morning so that they release the milk in their blood as well as the milk stored in their udder.
During a delicious lunch of organic pumpkin soup, split pea soup and homemade bread, we talked about how Joe made their clay oven and sustainability on the farm. I soon had no problem recruiting Erik to one day build me a clay oven and by the end of the afternoon we were buzzing about how we could keep bees in a community hive center, grow all of our own vegetables, and bring homemade brie to dinner parties. It was also an interesting cultural experience as the conversation shifted to include the indigenous aboriginal population and some of the inherent problems involved in the mixed population of Australia.
The second day was almost entirely devoted to finishing steps from the day before and mozzarella, which was probably the most labor intensive of our cheeses.
Throughout the day we had to check the temperature and adjust it accordingly. Hours later, we cut the curds and once they had settled we drained them even more over a few hours until they became a hard mass.