Well first off, apologies for a long absence. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing worth writing about, it’s pure laziness. However to remedy this, it’s time to put pen to paper or rather fingers to keyboard and talk about something I’ve been superstitiously not blogging in case of jinxing the operation…. Nettlebed Creamery.
So what has changed? Well, it’s fast becoming the worst kept secret in my life anyway as I talk about it to everyone I meet and progress is being made, so it’s time to set it out on the world wide web for all to see.
What is Nettlebed Creamery I hear you cry? Well, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
In my cheesemaking experience, I have been able to use both a home made starter, commercial bulk starters and commercial DVI. What are these I hear you ask? On this post I will go back a step and define the differences and what a starter culture is.
A starter is a collection of bacteria that begin a fermentation process. In this case they are lactic acid producing bacteria or lactobacillus. There are many ways of making a starter culture as you are harvesting and using bacteria that are naturally present in raw milk anyway.
I may be biased, but I have to hold my hands up and say that I think that the Crème Fraiche made by Neal’s Yard Creamery is easily the best I have ever tasted. Since leaving London it’s been missing from my life and I had just about kidded myself that I didn’t miss it all that much, until I tried some again and all pretence was gone. Damn that stuff is good. I could sit down with a great big pot and a great big spoon and be one very happy girl. Of course, it does everything a crème fraiche should: accompanies a chocolate tart or apple pie, gives a silky, lovely texture to everything cooked with it. You can cook with it, but hey why not just sit down and stuff your face with it neat.
Finn, an organic, double cream lactic-set cow's milk cheese, made by Charlie and Haydn of Neal’s Yard Creamery, may look a little familiar to any Zingermans Creamery customers as it closely resembles their Manchester cheese. While different pastures, milk, breed of cows, and the natural recipe adjustments all cheesemakers use to personalise their cheeses will set the two apart, they seem to share common ground. This is less of a surprise when you learn that part of the extensive research carried out by John Loomis, Paul Saginaw, and Ari Weinzweig involved a research visit to Neal's Yard Creamery to investigate cheese production.
At the end of June, I spent the best part of a week at Neal's Yard Creamery in Herefordshire learning and making cheese, crème fraiche and yoghurts with them. In the past I’ve made lots of social visits to Herefordshire in general and Neal’s Yard Creamery in particular so it was great to be back and to catch up with Charlie, Grainne, Conan, Holly, Finn and Rags the dog.
Anyone following Martin Gott (@martindongotty) on Twitter will have read that this week they started making St James cheese again and tomorrow, I will be making it again myself. It will be an interesting and challenging day in equal measures balancing the sheeps milk make and the cows milk make. After finishing with sheeps milk in November, I wonder how it will be using it again and how used I will have become to the cows milk texture when it sets. Will I cut the sheeps curd too soon? Will I drain it with enough pressure?
A fortnight ago the first lambs were born on Holker farm. At the moment it’s the youngest sheep, the first time mothers, that are giving birth and this means a higher degree of problems than the more experienced ladies who should start at the end of next week.
It’s a natural part of the cheesemaker and dairy farmer’s year; no young uns, no milk. We tend to consider birth to be an entirely natural part of any animal’s life and especially because we as humans have such ready access to medical advice and support, we forget that it’s a major undertaking. While having lunch up at the farmhouse, I saw Nicola’s notes for the first 2 weeks. The numbers of stillborn lambs to live lambs were pretty much neck and neck and where the lambs were born successfully, the inexperienced mothers didn’t know what to do with them and she’d made notes to bottle feed most of them.
Last April I moved from a life in the bustling capital of the UK, London, to a windswept and rain-lashed hilltop just outside Ulverston in the Southern Lake District in England’s North West. I now make cheese with Martin Gott and Nicola Robinson at Holker Farm, just outside the village of Cartmel. They have a flock of Lacaune sheep and a few Dairy Shorthorn cows, with what must be the only cow/sheep milking parlour in the country.