I have finally done it. Kind of.
I have produced what seems to be an edible cheese made in the style of Camembert, from goat milk.
As a gung-ho amateur cheesemaker, I set about making my favourite cheese, that being Brie. Brie and Camembert are pretty much the same thing these days, although they were once distinguished by the district of France that produced them and the particular climate in that area. Basically, they are a mould-ripened cheese, with a gooey centre.
Armed with an instruction book, a few successful attempts at basic cheddar, and my kick-ass new cheese fridge, I set to work. First time round my poor cheese was kept too cold for the mould to grow properly, and it took nearly three weeks, rather than the prescribed ten days, for the mould to cover the whole cheese. Further aging led to a nasty case of slip skin, where the outer casing of the cheese hides a nasty, slimy liquefaction. This is not edible. Camembert attempt #1 went in the bin.
Online advice suggested that the cheese was kept too cold and too wet. I tried again. Now, this is not a quick cheese like chevre or cheddar. Camembert requires a full afternoon of work, with hourly turning of the cheese baskets and later daily attention as it serves its time in the cheese fridge. Failures were not cheap.
The second time around I pressed the cheese a little to remove some excess whey. I set the fridge a little higher for the mould to grow happily. And, as if by magic, somewhere between days nine and ten a lovely coating of white fuzz appeared.
You can see already here the bulging sides, evidence of slip skin brewing again. When I cut this cheese open it had a layer of ooze, the consistency of unthickened cream. The solid cheese in the middle tasted pretty good, but on the whole the cheese was another disaster. It went in the bin as well.
I consulted the ladies from Cheeselinks while I was at the Ballarat Rural Lifestyle Expo. They had some ideas, but the main culprit seemed to be that I was letting the Camembert mature for too long in the cheese fridge. If I put it in the cold fridge a bit earlier, it would mature more slowly and more evenly.
Then the Ballarat Permaculture Guild announced a cheesemaking workshop featuring… Camembert! I signed up, and I was very excited to get some first-hand advice in making cheese. I learned a lot, and came home with my own little cow milk Camembert to tend until it was ready to eat.
That Camembert may be the best cheese I have ever eaten. It was perfect. Salty, buttery, nutty and mushroomy, but also mild and milky. My confidence bolstered, I put aside a day to have another crack at making it with my goat milk.
Thanks to the high butterfat in Sienna’s milk now that she is eleven months into her lactation, I got oodles of curd and two very chubby cheeses. But I stuck to the plan, and at day ten in the cheese cave they looked like they should have. I wrapped them and put them in the cold fridge.
I read in the interim that sometimes the mould used for Camembert does not agree with goat milk, and this can be the cause of slip skin. Because of this I decided I was better off checking my cheese early. So on day 14, I cut one open.
No evidence of slip skin. Clearly not quite as mature as it should be, but starting to develop that creamy texture around the edges.
You can see that the texture is not right, it is a bit crumbly, but this is changing from the outside in. Even a few days later this cheese has improved in texture and taste. To begin with it was very sharp and strong, almost like a blue. It tasted like a sophisticated cheese, but almost completely devoid of Camembert characteristics. Tonight it seems to be softening, again in taste as well as texture, and a smoothness is starting to show through. Hopefully it just needs a little more time. I still have the other round, unopened, in the fridge.
I am pretty pleased to finally have an edible product, and now it should just take a bit of fine tuning to get the timing right. What will be my next cheese challenge? I have managed to make a mozzarella that my pro-pizza but anti-goat cheese 10yo actually enjoyed. I really need to revisit feta now that I have the secret ingredient lipase to add to it.
I think next I will try Gouda, a washed-curd hard cheese that can be aged for several months. So stay tuned for my next cheese adventure.