Last year, while still in Ireland, the Boyfriend and I attended a cheese-making weekend workshop at Rossinver Organic Farm in County Leitrim. My knowledge of cheese-making had previously been limited to a school outing during primary school. A schoolmate’s father, Glenroe’s Matt O’Brien, used to make a wonderful farmhouse cheddar called Glenosheen in the eighties. Sadly, Glenosheen Cheddar no longer exists but that was my first taste of a real cheese and, even to a pre-teen palate, it was quality stuff. I was no less fascinated by the workings of Matt’s little cheese factory and, years later, all I had observed there made sense when I attended the cheese-making course at Rossinver.
Over the course of a fascinating and activity-packed weekend, Hans and Gaby Wieland taught us how to make a hard pressed gouda as well as yoghurt and a soft cheese, which we rolled into little balls and stored in olive oil (there are some pictures of the class in action here). Rossinver Organic Farm is a beautiful setting, we were fed delicious organic food at morning tea and lunchtime and the weekend was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Despite the very best of intentions, my cheese-making exploits since then have been non-existent – I managed to leave my unused rennet, cheesecloth and thermometers in Ireland, of course – but when I came across a simple soft goats cheese recipe in the Zest section of The Press recently I was determined to try it out.
Wandering down to Piko, I had no problem getting my hands on a litre of goat’s milk. There were several choices but, in the interests of Buying Local, I bought the one produced in Canterbury. A few minutes on the cooker with the yoghurt and it had curdled enough to strain. I poured it into a cheesecloth-lined sieve, left it to drain and then salted it. The first time I made this cheese I got distracted during the heating process. As a result, the end product was more crumbly-textured than I would have hoped but a little natural yoghurt stirred through turned it into a more desirable spreadable consistency.
It was a gloriously warm spring day as we sat at the kitchen table with the French doors open to the warm breeze, eating my fresh-made goat’s cheese on some homemade Brown Bread and focaccia (I’m getting creative with the Breadmaker!), accompanied with some freshly picked salad greens from our tiny vegetable garden. I’ve made it several times since then and I’m starting to think that maybe it’s time to dig out the notes I took in Rossinver and start trying to make proper cheese.
Simple Goats’ Cheese
Goat’s milk – 1 litre
Plain natural yoghurt – 120mls
Put the goat’s milk into a saucepan and mix the yoghurt through. Place over a low heat and warm until the mixture separates. Pour into a cheesecloth lined sieve and drain. Mix with sea salt to taste.