MARY’S DAIRY DIARY - SEPTEMBER 2011
Blowsy late summer seeps into the richness and edge of early autumn. Field margins are heavy with grass seedheads, hedgerows richly hanging with blackberries, rosehip, haws, sloes. Jack rabbits look fat and prosperous, foxes well covered, the buzzards well grown and lazy - meat is easy to find. They take off heavily from a branch as you walk along, do they get too heavy to take off if they eat to much?
Cutting a field as part of its prescription for wildlife, Simon came across some chicken wire covering some cannabis plants. He cut all but one plant, left it standing alone in a cut circle. We got the police in, not wanting to be complicit in a crime. They were a little disappointed only to have one plant to take away. It felt very cheeky of someone to do that on our field; I hope there are some happy slugs, mice and rabbits on the cut and minced up plants. That’s one harvest that won’t get brought in.
CROPS - We harvest the maize - everyone eyes up the cobs - not sweet, but starchy. They are only sweet while the grain is green and liquid: then it is intensely sweet, almost like chewing sugar cane. The cob sheath and silk get hard and inedible (though more attractive to pests). Slowly, the grains ripen, going from squirting juice, to soft chese to hard cheese to just penetratable by your finger nail on enough plants far enough down the cob. Then, usually around the end of September, we call in the forage harvester, huge machine with great metal fingers dividing the rows, feeding them with ratcheting teeth into the great maw of the machine, its steady high pitched whine audible across the parish. We cut it direct into trailers, and whisk it back to the pit. This year we put it onto top of the whole crop wheat silage, a rich feed for the dead of winter, when the grass has forgotten the sweetness of summer. Sheet it soon enough, and it ferments into a clean, complex, delicious feed. Let the air in, and it becomes that rank stuff that people associate with silage - lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds, as the old saying goes.
GRASS - grazed and cut and grazed again, it forgets it wanted to set seed and starts being leafy again, in the cooler weather and a little rain, giving a welcome autumn flush of grass to feed the autumn calving cows. Late summer sun means it’s not so sweet or rich, but still the best feed we can give the cows, even when night gets longer than day at the end of the month. We have some Breton farmers coming this month to see what we are doing - they have some really interesting ideas about making the best of clover that will be great to catch up with.
COWS - spring cows are milking on, calves now growing, coats shiny, those lines on their flanks to show they are putting on a little cover before the winter (I know that one too). The autumn calvers are nearly finished calving, and everyone settles into milking. We had a shortage of people to milk the cows, so have been training up a number of lively young people to milk, my son Mikey included - great skill, portable all over the world. I had a farm visit from some young secondary school girls, and Mikey came over to say hi after milking; they sent me a thank you card, asking me to tell my son he is fit. There was me thinking they were fascinated by my presentation on farming & cheese.
CHEESE - Back making cheese after ourclosedown, where we do all the checking of equipment, and steam pipes, painting, ceiling repair, floor mending - all the things we can’t do when we’ve got cheese in the dairy. We hope we are set, dairy and people refreshed to go forward for another year. We are sending cheese to America for Thanksgiving & the holiday season there - lovely to think of our cheese making its way into peoples’ home for their special celebrations.
I’m very excited about our ewes’ milk cheese, now 6 months old. We’ve worked hard to get a cheese that’s rich and balanced, without the fleeciness of some sheeps’ milk cheese. We’ve also got our Unpasteurized Cheddar now made with Cornish Sea Salt now 10 months old and getting mature, another subtle twist on that additional complexity of raw milk cheese.
RECIPE - Cheddar rolls
My sister-in-law Gina Quicke showed me this recipe of Dan Lepard’s. She’s trying out recipes for her teas at Sherwood Garden, which is good news for all of us.
550g stone-milled strong white flour
1tsp powdered mustard
300g Quickes Traditional Mature Cheddar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
300g warm water
2tsp fast action yeast
1 medium egg
Oil for kneading
Beaten egg, to finish
Freshly ground black pepper
Put the flour, salt and mustard in a large bowl, add the cheese and onion, and toss together with your fingers.
In a jug, whisk the water, yeast and egg unitl smooth, then pour this into the flour/cheese bowl and mix everything to a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes. Lightly oil a worktop and knead the dough on it for just 10 second. Return to the bowl, cover and leave for an hour. Divide the dough into six equal pieces, shape into long sausages and place into a tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Cover and leave until risen between half again and double.
Brush with beaten egg, grind black pepper over them, put in a pre-heated oven (220°C) for 20-25 minutes until evenly golden all over.
QUICKES TRADITIONAL FARMHOUSE CHEESES
Newton St Cyres
Devon EX5 5AY
Tel: 01392 851222