The Sciapod journey was always going to be a curious one, with maximum opportunity for serendipitous moments. This week my aim was to have my first go at making Bang! – please note the ! my aim is to create the Suffolk cheese before it went wrong. The problem is apart from descriptions of Bang as a cheese so hard the rats on a ship ate grindstones rather than eat the Suffolk cheese and tales of it being set in front of the fire to melt, there really aren’t recipes. The nearest I found so far is Eaton: “SUFFOLK CHEESE. The curd is broken up in the whey, which is poured off as soon as the former has subsided. The remainder, with the curd, is put into a coarse strainer, left to cool, and is then pressed as tightly as possible. After this it is put into the vat, and set in a press to discharge the remaining whey. The curd is then taken out, broken again as finely as possible, salted, and returned to the press”.
I decided to try and use yogurt as a starter, and a vegetarian rennet – things really did not go according to plan. with only half an hour to go before I left Easton I still did not have set curds. The ‘whey’ was still milky in places all in all panic set in. I decided to heat the mix and see how things went, based on the recipe above saying the curds needed to cool, I scooped out the sort of curdy mass and strained in and pressed it (approx 2 hrs). Then I put the mass into a press (enough for one mould but not two) and pressed firmly for 12 hrs then milled, salted and pressed again for another 12 hours. The whey coming off the cheese was best described as mucous-like and sticky to the touch. The odd trimmings I tasted during the process were good and the resultant cheese only about half the depth of the mould. It is now turned out and in its cave, aka cardboard box with cup of water.
In the meantime I had smushed the other curds that did not fit into the mould and added a mix of spices, in an effort to create Suffolk Pink. I want a cream cheese which has the quality of good Suffolk plaster work. When I finished it I used my butter press to make a pattern like pargetting. At first it looked a little curdled but the next day it had a pleasant texture and spread nicely on spelt bread; with an acidic, earth spicy flavour. When I mentioned it on Twitter someone said all they could think of was poor Nigel and Lower Loxley – if you are an Archers fan you will understand the connection. So I went from Bang! to Nigel’s demise…
As for stories, a couple of interesting thoughts from people at Easton. One lady saying how she used to make cheese at school, taking the 1/3 of a pint milk and hiding it in the hedge until it curdled, puncturing the silver foil top and draining the whey then adding salt and eating it. Another chap telling of growing up with goats and the horror of milk that tasted of the last thing the goats ate.
I was focusing on the tale of Tobias Gill and have part written a story, which I hope to tighten up for submission to a short story competition, so I will not print it here yet.