I spent the wee hours of this morning lugging around 120lbs (x2) of free weights for the final pressing on our goat cheddar. Sometimes it amazes me how far we have come and how many curve balls we have caught with what feels like one hand tied behind our back. There is no "money" behind us, just our money which we never had much of anyway but we have stretched what we had saved (and I mean all of it and then some) over years into this business. Hopefully someday we will see that money again. We started with a loaner pasteurizer from the great state of North Carolina and used restaurant equipment culled from Craigslist which we have tried to steadily upgrade. There are certain critical pieces of equipment we are missing that would make our lives much easier and more importantly our cheese more consistent. One of those at the top of the list is a cheese press.
Some cheeses (like Cheddar) take a significant amount of weight to press the curds together into a solid mass with a closed rind. I was hoping the 85 lbs that rested on each stack overnight would be enough but it wasn't so there I am before the crack of dawn playing Jenga with 40lb dumbells. All the time thinking......"please don't fall over, please....". It's like the military around here, we do more before 6am than most people do all day. Anyway, this is starting to sound a lot like complaining and I don't mean that. Juggling dumbells will only make me stronger and really appreciate that cheese press whenever we get around to making a real one someday.
It is 12 days before Christmas and we have made all the cheese we can possibly make that can potentially go out the door between now and then. Two Christmas season's ago we ran out of aged cheeses before we ran out of time to sell it. I had to call one of our best customers and tell them sorry charlie, the cupboards are bare to which they replied "Well can't you just make more cheese this weekend and ship it on Monday?". Now that is someone who really doesn't understand the concept of aged cheese. "No I can't, unless you have a time machine I can borrow?". I didn't really say that but it sounds good doesn't it?
Anyway, what that means is that it is now officially play time in the cheese room. Which is good because it is insanely busy in every other sector of the business. Due to the time of year and the seasonal nature of goat milk, we are picking up much smaller loads. This Thursday we had 36 gallons to fool around with and we made a batch of goat cheddar, two wheels with sour cherries and 4 plain. We made a prior batch with Cranberries. Seeing the pics will really help you appreciate what 36 gallons of milk looks like when turned into Cheddar curd (not much!). Anyway, the make went great the curd was squeaky and delicious and it hit the PH marks perfectly. Hopefully it turns out well if the weights do their job.
Cheddar is fun to make. You cook it, drain the whey, pile it to form slabs, flip flop em around, and then you get to tear it up, toss it with salt for 20 or 30 minutes and pack it in molds. It is kind of like playing in a sandbox for adults. It really is a fun cheese to kick off our experimentation and winter play time. Look for the goat cheddar to hit the shelves in a few months. Here are pics from the rest of the make. Enjoy.....