Camembert Necessities

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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.

 The one that didn't work.


The one that didn’t work.

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.

My cow milk Camembert

My cow milk Camembert

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.

Goat milk Camembert

Goat milk Camembert

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.

 

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Make Friends With Pizza

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Pizza is awesome.

When I was little, my parents would get pizza from the shop down the road and I would get a big bag of soggy chips because I didn’t like pizza.

I don’t remember a specific, catalytic event that changed all that, but by the time I was in high school I had developed what I called a ‘pizza stomach’ that allowed me to eat much more pizza than I could of any other food.

The Pizza Hut ‘five-buck chuck’ became my special occasion dinner of choice, their Super Supreme my favourite flavour.

More recently, with my migration to healthier eating, I developed a taste for ‘gourmet’ pizzas. Smoked salmon in particular.

As I get ever further into my home-grown journey, I have started to appreciate pizza as a medium for showcasing my produce.

My kids love what we call the Barbecue Pig Lovers’. This is much like a barbecue meat lovers’, except that all the meat is derived from pigs. Bacon, ham and salami are the staples.

The Elcarim Farm Special was created from all family-favourite toppings. Ham, pineapple, capsicum, salami and later things like sweet chilli sauce, chopped tomato and baby spinach.

Barbecue Pig Lovers' and Elcarim Farm Special

Barbecue Pig Lovers’ and Elcarim Farm Special

This evolved into the Harvest Special, with as many home-grown toppings as possible. Things like yellow tomatoes, greenhouse capsicum, silverbeet and zucchini. And don’t forget the goat milk mozzarella.

Tonight we have a twist on the ‘surf’n’turf’. Smoked salmon, roast beef, silverbeet and four (yes, count them, four) different home-made cheeses.

pizza

Sure, it’s a vanity pizza, but so what? It was really yum and just a bit decadent.

The base is almost as versatile as the topping. Actually, that’s a lie, but you do have a lot of options when it comes to pizza bases. I usually go a scone dough base, as it is quick and easy. Sometimes I make a yeast dough base in the bread maker. You can also use flour tortillas, mountain bread or sourdough.

You can put pretty much anything on a pizza. No more boring ham and pineapple for me. I am looking forward to experimenting with other toppings.