This week I'm making some fresh Neufchâtel for my friend Jo's going away wine and cheese evening next weekend. The recipe makes quite a lot, so I'm testing my six-year-old Penicillium candidum and ageing some of it too. I'm also making some Gouda with caraway seeds in it.
The Neufchâtel takes three days, although you are not doing much, just letting nature take its course most of the time. You start by innoculating the milk and cream mix (4 litres of milk and 700ml cream) with starter culture and a very small amount of rennet, then leave it at warm room temperature overnight. It's winter here, so I took the pot of milk into my bedroom on Friday night, put it on the floor by the heater, stuck a couple of hot water bottles beside it, and wrapped it in a towel. In the morning it was thick and yoghurty as it was supposed to be, so I tipped it into a muslin lined colander and nearly lost the lot down the drain! The holes in the muslin were too big. Luckily I had a bit of fine lawn handy, so I quickly put it under the colander and saved 90% of my cheese mix.
Then I hung it up to drain all of Saturday:
After it had drained all day I took it down, tipped it out into a bowl, rinsed the fabric, and re-wrapped the cheese. I put it in a colander and weighted it down with a 2.5 kg weight and a 2 litre milk bottle full of brine - another 2 kg - and left it to drain more overnight.
While all this draining was going on, I got on with the caraway Gouda. I used 6 litres of milk, and the process is very similar to making cheddar, but you wash the curds by replacing some of the whey with hot water, and you don't cheddar it. The caraway seeds are boiled in water, which is added to the milk at the beginning of the process; the seeds are added just prior to moulding.
Here it is with its second lot of weights:
This is the final set of weights:
I had to use one of my 2.5kg dumbbell weights for the Neufchâtel, so I had to get out yet another heavy cast iron Dutch oven to balance on the cheese! What I have here is four 1.25kg weights directly on the cheese mould follower, then the big Lodge Dutch oven, with three 2.5kg weights piled up in it and four 0.5kg weights arranged around the sides. The smaller oval Dutch oven is balanced on the 2.5kg weights, and both oven lids are sitting on top.
This morning (Sunday) I unwrapped the Neufchâtel, mixed it thoroughly, and divided it into two portions. I divided the larger into three equal portions and moulded each of those into a heart shape in my new little heart mould. Then I sprinkled the outsides with a mixture of salt and aged, but hopefully still viable, P. candidum spores and put them in this box, with a little water in the bottom to provide humidity. They're going to sit in the pantry for a couple of weeks and hopefully get all white and fluffy.
I mixed salt into the smaller portion and moulded it into two hearts, which I wrapped in that special cheese paper and put in the fridge ready to give to Jo for her party. It's very similar to cream cheese when it's fresh, but with less fat. It'll be good as a spread for crackers, with maybe some pepper sprinkled on it or maybe in a pool of that old standby, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce!
I emptied the bottle of brine that was helping to squash the Neufchâtel into a bowl, and unmoulded the Gouda and put it in to soak.
And there it still sits, and will do until I take it out and dry it tonight. After that it needs to air dry for a while, then I'll wax it and age it until Christmas.
Well, I had a fair amount of whey from all that cheesemaking, so I made ricotta again. Not so successfully this time - it didn't want to curdle and I had to add twice as much vinegar as usual. Even then the curds didn't mat, it took forever to drain, and the yield was low. But it was very very smooth, so I made a scrummy mixture with it, some brown sugar, some lemon zest, and some Cointreau, for filling crêpes with.
Then I had to make crêpes for my lunch so I could try it out:
See my cool little crêpe spreader? You can buy them in America for a reasonable amount of money. I ran downstairs a couple of weeks ago and made mine out of a bit of dowel and some wood I cut out using my scroll saw.
Here's the finished dish:
I sprinkled icing sugar over the filled and rolled crêpes then squeezed lemon juice over them.
And because the very last crêpe was more of a pancake (I had too much mixture left for one crêpe but not enough for two) I made a savoury pancake as well:
With fried up Mexican chorizo, grated cheese from the freezer, a bit of left over roast kumara, and some cherry tomatoes. And yes, I did roll it up before I ate it.
It really was a deliciously piggy lunch.