a week in cheese

It all started Saturday night when my husband and I drove across the county to pick up a few five-gallon buckets of leftover milk from a dairy. The next day, the snowstorm. So there I was, snowed in with my family and buckets upon buckets of dreamy, creamy milk.

For a couple hours each morning, it’d be a flurry of activity. Making a new batch of kefir. Washing jars. Skimming cream. Milking Daisy, labeling and chilling the fresh milk, and cleaning up. Playing fridge (both barn and house) tetris with the jars and buckets, brines and creams, yogurts and kefir. Transferring the previous day’s cheese from the press to the salt brine. Vac-packing the cheese from a couple days prior. Researching a new recipe. Doing math. Starting a cheese in my new, big-ass pot. Culturing and incubating. Stirring and stirring and stirring. 

It was the perfect snowy weather activity: I had my husband on tap to help heave the heavy buckets from floor to counter and, when it was time to pour, tip off the whey, and I had my kids to haul the buckets of whey out to the frozen animals for a warm treat, and wash dishes and empty the drainers ad nauseam.

Here’s what I made.

On Sunday: a gouda, and a gallon and a half of yogurt. 
Monday: a Jarlsberg-style.
Tuesday: Colby, butter (both sweet and cultured), and Camemberts.
Wednesday: nothing, except for brining the Colby, cutting and packaging cheeses, and flipping the baby bears (aka the Cams). 
Thursday: Butterkäse, and I brined the baby bears.  

Throughout it all, there was the kefir to keep after, lots of smoothies to make, and batches of pancakes to use up the buttermilks and ricotta.

The butter-making was tedious, since I had to use my (very) loud blender. My husband says our blender is louder than any of his power tools. That’s sayin’ something. (If I ever get a Jersey, I’ll get an electric churn like this one.)

I tried cultured butter by adding a small amount of kefir grains to a gallon of cream for 24 hours. It’s supposed to be easier to make butter that way, and yield more, but I must’ve done it wrong because I only got a little butter and a ton of thick cream that’s more like cream cheese. (What to use the cultured cream cheese in? It’s too strong to eat on bagels.) The cultured butter, though, is delicious. I don’t want to waste it in baking, so we’re using it up first in fresh eating.

The sweet cream butter is fantastic, too:

Guess what I had for lunch that day?

Yeah, you know it. Buttaaaaaah.

Now I’m done with the extra milk, and it’ll be a couple days until I have enough Daisy milk to make another cheese, so today I’m brining the butterkäse, making final notes, and taking stock of my larders.

The cheese fridge is maxxed out, cheeses spilling over on the trunk and atop the dresser.

I’m starting to tuck cheeses in other spots, too, like this wheel of Swiss (below) which is hanging out in the kitchen cupboard for a few weeks. (I may be in real danger of forgetting where I’ve stashed cheeses, not to find them until months later. Just call me the Queso Squirrel.)

Oh! One more thing. When I popped into the thrift store this morning, guess what I found? Two cheese plates! I liked the size of the smaller one and the glass lid of the other, so I bought both.

And now I’m going to be a “cheese on the counter under a see-through dome” sophisticate.

photo credit: my younger son

I kinda feel like I earned it.

This same time, years previous: four fun things, ham and bean soup, salad dressing: a basic formula, lemon cream cake, lazy stuffed cabbage rolls, on the relevancy of growing onions, the good and the bad, multigrain bread.

6 Comments

  • Katie

    Do you remember back when you were anxious about what you would do with alll the milk you were going to get from Daisy?! I love it that you trekked across town for more and now have to „wait a few days“ till you have enough daisy milk!

  • Cheryl

    Wow! Where in the heck do you get your energy…and how come I don’t see an ounce of fat on you with all that cheese and buttah tasting? Not fair! lol.
    I love cheese, but I have to be careful…it constipates me, so I have my cheese and I eat an apple than I have my cheese and I eat an apple…and on and on! 🙂

  • Becky R.

    Make some homemade boursin cheese with your cultured cream cheese? Maybe mixing herbs and garlic with it would be good? Or some dried fruit with it for cracker spread? You certainly deserve to be considered a very sophisticated cheese maker!

    • Jennifer Jo

      The flavor is too strong, I think, to eat fresh. Probably only useable in baking, for recipes that call for butter/milk. I added some to this morning’s pancakes — whirled it in with the eggs and ricotta — and it was perfect like that.

  • KC

    Cheese squirrel!!!

    (may you not actually lose any cheeses. That seems like it would be doubly unfortunate.)

    Could you match up the cultured cream cheese with something inert – a very plain ricotta, perhaps? – add herbs and/or veggies, and make a layered cheese thing a la the pesto torte? Or use it as a thin layer in a luscious ham stromboli/croissant sort of deal?

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