Suffolk Show and Venezuelan Cheese

I was delighted to be asked to join Easton Farm Park in the Children’s farm at the Suffolk Show. For me an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the process of making cheese and to talk to people, hoping that they could tell me more about the mystery of the cheese in Suffolk going missing. All the while accompanied by a gorgeous cow (Clara10?) and calf from Peak Hill Farm. I could never have guessed that I would end up in long conversations about the love of paneer, Venezuelan plaited cheese, the potential discovery of a book called ‘Suffolk Cheese’, a discussion on cheese buttons for sailors and the need for a domestic cheese making network. There was plenty of interest in the mozza-yella making process, particularly in the afternoon when I could show the recipe through its different stages; I altered the recipe on day 2 and achieved more stretch. I also made some paneer, my take on what a Womil might have been ie boiled milk cured with an acid, in this case Aspall organic vinegar.

I spoke for a long time with a chap whose family hails from India and he was saying how the paneer available over here just does not have the quality of the cheese on the streets in India. As I have no idea how the original Suffolk Womil was made I am working on the following basis: – Womil is described as cheese made from one meal. I could go one of two ways with this, as a cottage cheese – one milking left to curdle and hang, or an acidulated, rather than cultured curd. So at the moment I’m working on the acidulated curd model. The description given of paneer was of something soft and springy rather than squeaky, unless and until I have another recipe for Womil I will work on perfecting a Suffolk version of a paneer style cheese, using Jonny’s girls milk, Aspall vinegar and lightly pressed.  Fresh, springy and suitable for cooking and taking on new flavours – I made some today and used it in an omelette, it was great, plus it freezes so very versatile.

Over the two days I made two big batches of mozza-yella using Calf at Foot Dairy milk, I had the pleasure of arriving at milking time to collect the milk, you could not find a more relaxed process! – One cow milked at a time and then back to her family immediately afterwards. The first day I followed my speedy mozzarella recipe to the letter but did not get a good stretch, so on day 2 I increased the acidity and reduced the rennet, leading to a longer time to a clean break of the curd.  Day 1 I had about 500g solids from 5 litres on day 2 had just over 600g, despite the resultant whey being milkier looking. I am now convinced though that I would like to find a cultured and longer cooked recipe to really achieve the soft mozzarella clouds I know from Puglia. I had a magical conversation with a chap from Venezuela who was talking about a plaited cheese from his home country, he described something like a girl’s hair plait but made with two strands of sausage like cheese, definitely a pasta filata style cheese but I cannot find a recipe on the internet, just a few illustrations. Part of the problem is that if you type Venezuelan Cheese into your favourite search engine all you get is the Monty Python cheese shop sketch and the line to do with Venezuelan Beaver Cheese (did they really get away with that!) – hence its appearance above.

I’m hoping that the lady who thought she had a book called Suffolk Cheese at home gets in touch soon. I will be researching cheese buttons for sailors thanks to the young man who obviously has digested the whole of horrible histories and I suspect quite a few of his own studies too. Having heard a lot in the last few days about the new Mary Rose exhibition I do wonder if they found any cheese there. A couple of other amateur cheese makers spoke about cheese networks, I have three recommendations to start the process; 1) most of those I follow on twitter, in my Sciapod Dairy account are turophiles, 2) I recommend Much to do about cheese on Facebook too, 3) For those with Linkdin there is a Cheese Lovers Group.

It was a wonderful two days – I am now hoarse, but very happy, next time at Easton I’m attempting my first blue cheese, so crossing everything…

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