Ok, oh kay. Just a little behind in what I insisted was a vital part of the sharing process so, with good intentions, I’m starting back up on the adventure of a batch from dairy to finished. Or, at least what we have available now.
Here we go.
Unable to procure any more of the beautiful hops product we had used in the past, we started searching for a replacement. Batch 169 tested out such a product. At 7 months, it was ghastly, at 9, still no good. This was December and we had run out of aged cheese on the 26th so we decided, to heck with it, left it alone and only thought of it when it was in the way of all the new batches we were making.
Mid March of this year we finally tried it again and, at 13 months, it was finally ready!
Now it’s mid June and we are down to the last few pieces. Such a beautiful cheese. Needless to say, we have moved onto a different, hopefully more cooperative hops product. Let’s hope the wait isn’t as long!
This August schedual is pretty rough and again finds Joe alone making cheese while I’m at the Polson Farmer’s Market. Happily though, curds and Notz are a faster make day than when you have to hoop the cheeses.
There is a heavy pall of smoke in the air – what with Washington, Idaho and our own Montana sporting far too many fires – and it can’t make for happy cows as it doesn’t make for happy cheese makers either! Outside at the market, it’s hard to breath deeply and you wonder just how much oxygen intake is going on! By the second day out at the Missoula Farmer’s Market, I can tell it’s not much. Pretty lightheaded and loopy adding another layer of empathy for those who fight fires for a living!!
The smoke is too much for Horatio, our Vanguard. Happy to report he has sense recovered. You can barely see the Mission Mountain range up ahead.
The fresh cheeses have their own schedual of demands and with the curds that includes smoking. I have to say it was a bit hard to deliberately go out and add to the smoke in the air when I lit our tiny fire used in the process!
On our way up to Whitefish for their Tuesday Farmer’s Market about a week before the smoke overtook us, we witnessed the start of one of the many fires in Glacier National Park this year. Frightening to watch it grow in the 30-45 minutes it took for us to drive north on Hwy 2 from Kalispell to Whitefish.
We are experiencing an onslaught of fires throughout the Pacific Northwest along with our area, hence this batch’s name. BUT, two days before the scent of the smoke was in the air, we made cheese.
This was an especially memorable make for me as I got to tag along with Joe as he went to the dairy to collect milk. I’ve wanted to join the fairly exclusive club of licensed Milk Haulers – you get a cool card and everything! Imagine being asked for identification and you pull that baby out – impressive!! Uh, back to the story – I’ve wanted to be trained to collect milk for quite some time now and so Thursday was the day. Still fairly clear out, it was a lovely day for both us and the cows. Still warm out but it is summer.
Now the collection process isn’t the difficult portion of the program, it’s backing up the trailer attached truck – at least for me. So the next week, we had a training session.
Driving around town doing errands pulling an empty 300 gallon milk tank wasn’t too bad and the way that big 18 wheeler trucks turn left comes makes more sense but backing up when you can’t really see what is going on is another thing. Dave, the truck, (named after the friend we got him from) is stick shift so there is a LOT of neutral, emergency brake, open the door, get out and looking. Training ended with me backing the trailer up to the Creamery in order to sanitize for our make the next day. Somehow – it went right after just a few attempts. Feeling pretty good about it and am looking forward to my next go at Dave driving.
Holy Cow (no pun intended) it’s been hot and we usually don’t start next year’s production this soon but, as it turns out, we’re already running out of Doorstop so it’s time to get ourselves in gear and start the process.
Our summer schedules are such that sometimes that we can’t both be present when we have the opportunity to make cheese. This was one of those days. So while I was off at the Polson Farmer’s Market, Joe got to cheese alone. With just the two of us, this makes for a long hot day.
It starts at 5 am down in the Creamery, getting the hot water from the Solar storage tank into the base of the vat. A drive down the valley to the Dairy to collect milk and back brings the clock to just after 9 am. Pasteurization and cool down move us into early afternoon when we finally get to start making cheese! While all this is going on, the traveling tank gets cleaned, customers are cheesed, and there is an attempt to do other odd tasks on the ‘to do’ list. Once the cheese process is complete and the vat is cleaned, it’s somewhere around 6 to 8 pm, depending on the type of cheese made. And that is just the first day in the life of the cheeses.
Much like our lovely friend Izzy, cheese needs to be nurtured and tended to regularly to come out to be something to be proud of. She’s a grand lady and a perfect metaphor for how much time and attention we give our cheeses.
Here’s to a new season of cheese making. While this post is a bit behind (stressing how life is around here) the goal is to keep up with all the makes this season. Hope they’re worth reading!
Cheers, Wendi and Joe
From well before we had a website, one of our goals was to blog about the process of each of the batches of cheese that we make. Those darned good intentions always seem to be put on the back burner while more pressing tasks (such as making the cheese, or cutting and packaging, or you get the idea, you’ve got such lists) take precedent. Well since we’re at the beginning of next year’s cheese makes, it’s high time I jump in and start the process!
While I have absolutely no idea if anyone will read these or, indeed, be interested in learning the minutiae of their recently purchased cheese, I will, regardless, begin the endeavor.
Let’s start with some background. Around this time last year, we began naming each batch of cheese either with the name of an event, say, our youngest daughter’s birthday or just what was summing up the week. That would be the first one named, ‘OW’, for when Joe tweaked his back and really didn’t want to be a cheese maker that day.
So the plan of this blog is to give you, lovely reader and cheese fancier, an idea of the entire process of said cheese from the weather the cows enjoyed/endured/ignored in the days prior to milking, to the process of the make and beyond to the curing room and anything interesting or odd that happens along the way till it is brought up from the vault, packaged and finds it’s way into your hand. Each blog title will begin with the batch number which you can find in a couple different places on your cheese, the easiest being on the center bottom of the bag.
We look forward to any suggestions, questions or ideas you might have to make this a more helpful page!
Cheers, Wendi and Joe