This week my focus has been on trying to create an Angelot cheese. Based on Fruitful Endeavours, the 16th century household secrets of Lady Tollemache, which refers to an Angelot cheese being made there. The nearest thing I could find to a recipe for Angleot of a similar period was in The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet (1672). So armed with some tall moats (200mm high moulds) and a recipe for a stinky cheese I decided to proceed.
Lessons learned, as anticipated tall moats are very unstable! The first batch of curds carefully scooped with minimum damage suddenly floated and all the curds poured out. It wasn’t until the third attempt that I had a stable fill, so very broken curds. Next time I will work much more slowly, one scoop, wait etc. Another lesson, using a cheese mat in the base meant the whole lot stuck, when I tried to turn things the cheese and molds hung like stalactites, hence the cross hatching. My 200mm high towers gradually shrank down to about a third their original size and have a pleasingly rubbery quality to them. They are now salted and will be having their faces washed with Aspall cider, I may leave one unwashed to see what happens.
Last week’s Navy surplus grew into a very interesting blue veined paste before my final buttering up – it also smells very strong so has had to be moved to a cake box, I am rubbing it three times a week, it retains a very moist feel with no rind to speak of yet, so watching it with interest, having seen how much blue was already showing I’m not sure if I should wire it later or not…. may do one and not the other to see the difference.
This week I was also able to obtain more goat’s milk. Some from a friend in Suffolk and some from Fielding Cottage in Norfolk. I made chèvre three ways with each batch and asked my tame testers what they thought. The three flavours were chive flowers (second favourite), Suffolk Pink (everyone’s favourite) and chocolate truffle (let’s not bother a second time). The preference was for the Suffolk milk, but not such a strong preference that that need be an issue.
I was also thrilled to receive from Beccles Library a little book called Suffolk Cheese, many thanks to them and to the lady who I met at Suffolk Show who made me aware for the book’s existence. This week’s reminiscence at Easton was a lady who told me that when she was a child her granny used to make cheese. She had a dairy but was too mean to put any electricity into it. One day the little girl saw that granny had gone out to feed the pigs so she decided to sneak down to the pantry. hearing granny come back she panicked and snuck into the dairy, putting her foot into a pail of milk and sending things flying, with granny calling out “who is that” she didn’t dare say.
This week my story was based on the story of the Rendlesham mermaids. There is an S shaped pond in Rendlesham, which is supposed to be inhabited by mermaids.
The S Shaped Pond
The year of the plague changed our lives for ever. Not human deaths, fortunately; though that at least would have weeded out the weak and feckless. It was the loss of the cattle that impacted us all. No more cheese could be made, the land was turned over to sheep, corn and hemp. Meadows were ploughed, water meadows were abandoned as unsuitable for sheep or for cropping. Autumn winds grew to levels never known before, trees fell and famers too feeble to think just left branches blocking the streams and watercourses. By spring the double meander in the river had blocked and the river redirected itself leaving the S shaped pond.
Spring came late, after months of damp, drizzle and overcast skies, every flower burst into life at once. The water-meadows having been ungrazed threw the best show of flowers that had been seen in generations. Ragged robin, campions and parsley aplenty painted the landscape with the iridescence of a malachite beetle’s wing. Eventually there was enough warmth to make minds move to love again. I guess I was no different, Charles having died the previous summer I was flattered when Ethan started to show an interest in me. From late summer we courted and as autumn returned we spent as many hours as we could together arm in arm, waist by waist. As the nights grew longer our feelings were stronger and by the end of October he had proposed.
In the winter life took on a new harshness. Cold easterly winds dropped the temperatures; snow and ice formed and stayed with us for long weeks, you have to realise that winters then were so much colder than you have them now. By the New Year we were tired of staying indoors. Ethan hauled out some old boots, the soles had been built up with extra layers of leather, then hammered smooth and waterproof, a sharp metal blade was added to each boot. He made a pair for me too and on the coldest of days we would make our way to the S Shaped pond to slip and slide our way across the surface.
After all the traumas of the previous year the release of being free to glide across the pond was a huge relief, we circled and spun from east to west. Where in the spring the meadows had been full of colour everything now was in muted tones from white through to pale grey. As we neared the western end of the pond the ice quality changed, at first thrilling as it seemed faster, I turned and spun backwards away from Ethan. Then felt my legs drop quickly through the ice. My skirts floating upwards, initially trapping air and catching the surface of the ice I thought they would save me, but steadily they grew heavy and the drag from them was too great to overcome. As I slid below the surface I saw Ethan’s face, jaw dropped and frozen, no actions, no words just a look that would haunt me forever. Eventually he lay down on the ice and stretched his arms out, grabbing my right hand, so I pulled. I pulled so hard he started to slide towards me, the weight of my skirts grew heavier and eventually he followed me into the S shaped pond.
The strange thing is that as he died my spirit was released to skate once more on the surface of the ice. I was able to spin, drift, glide and slide, totally unfettered, completely released from any restrictions. My clothes were like gossamer, my skates and boots as light as down, I was the colour of the ice and the surrounding fields.
You know, I’m not the only one here though? There are dozens of us; women let go by their men, who have gone under for one reason or another. Now we wait; for if we are to have our winters on the surface of the ice we must take payment in the year of one male soul. Little boys, guileless teenagers, men in their middle years who are in crisis, old men who are easily flattered and wooed, fools looking for the last cheese thrown into the pond by the Sciapod. Come near the edge of our S shaped pond by moonlight, we each have a crome and will drag you in.