Monday, December 21, 2009

The Grand Cheese-Eating

Yesterday was the big cheese-eating day. I invited all of the people from work and bridge who had shown interest in my cheese-making experiments, along with my brother and his family and a couple of old family friends. Talk about nervous - I was terrified that none of the cheese would end up being edible, so I made large amounts of other things to eat for lunch, and then I was worried that I'd kill everyone with food poisoning or something. Much of the lunch food was also experimental!

The cheese I was really curious about was the cloth-wrapped Cheddar. It had shown many changes in the four months since I made it, first growing mould on its bandage, then becoming quite soft, and most recently becoming rather concave on top. I was convinced I'd find a nasty rotten mess when I finally unveiled it.

No such thing though. With much trepidation on the morning of the cheese-eating, I unwrapped it:

Then I cut it open:

Then I sliced a little bit off and tasted it. It was delicious!

That gave me a little more confidence in the rest of my cheeses, which I laid out on boards on the coffee table thus:

There were two different seeded Goudas and the Cheddar …

… sage Leicester, provolone and smoked provolone …

… Stilton and a very ripe Camembert …

… a fresh-ish Camembert, white Stilton, and the rescued curds from my first attempt at provolone (the recipe is wrong and caused me to pasteurise the curds) …

There was also a bowl of what I christened "Goodness Knows" aka "cheese soup". It was a cheese that started off being a blue, then it picked up some white mould and started smelling like Camembert, then it started to collapse under its own weight so I wrapped it in foil and parked it in the fridge and crossed my fingers. When I unwrapped it on the morning of the cheese-eating it had also picked up some red bacterial culture typical of a washed-rind cheese and smelled appalling; it also burst its crust. Despite all of this it actually tasted lovely (how brave am I to taste something so disgusting-looking?) so I decided to serve it instead of throwing it away, but I had to serve it in a bowl.

The lunch consisted of Pâté Grandmère (from Charcuterie), jellied pigs' feet, mesclun salad and tomatoes …

… Pâté de Campagne (from Charcuterie), more lettuce and tomatoes …

… beef rump cooked sous vide for four hours at 55°C, with horseradish from the garden …

… several loaves of bread (I was baking bread the evening before and all morning) …

… and some Porchetta di testa (fancy-pants name for rolled pig's head).

I also cooked up some of the sausages I've been making and freezing over the last few weeks.

The half pig's head cost all of $1.75, the pigs' trotters cost $3 for six, the rump was about $10 (on special for $9.99/kg), the pork I used to make the pâtés and sausages was about $20 worth of shoulder (on special again), and there was around $5 worth of chicken livers as well.

All in all, a very economical carnivorous lunch.

I also made some Eccles cakes (I don't like Christmas mince pies, this is what I have instead) …

… some panforte …

… some Christmas Cake …

… and I grabbed some wine from the cellar and beer from the beer fridge:

The verdict

A success. It just couldn't have gone better. The favourite cheeses were the "Goodness Knows" (the smelly almost liquid mess which I did not photograph), the Stilton, and the ripe Camembert, in that order. Everyone took some cheese home with them, as I'm off to Australia in a week and the cheeses wouldn't last until I get back. I had to ration the Stilton, because everyone wanted some of it.

Everyone asked where I got my bread from and was astounded that I made it, so that was a success as well.

I got many complementary comments about the pâtés and other meaty things, although the teenagers asked what everything was before putting it in their mouths (or not putting it in their mouths, in the case of pigs' heads and feet).

Tonight I have my nephew and niece and their three cousins coming to stay so they can make gingerbread men for their Christmas trees. We're cooking pizza for dinner too, it's going to be great fun. There's nothing like a house full of kids at Christmas time.


  1. I foresee Bronwyn a proud owner of a wonderful boutique hotel or restaurant if she ever tires of her day time job!!

    Wow! Wow! Wow! and Wow! again.. what a wonderful feast you laid out for your guests!

    Have a wonderful holiday in Aussie land..

  2. Thanks Emily, but no. I wouldn't like to do this sort of thing for a living. It's fun if you can do it when and as you like, but having to run to a regular schedule would drive me nuts and it'd ruin my cooking fun.