Wednesday, June 12:
Another baking day. Not a hot day – it was rather cool, actually – but a day for baking the seven loaves and five dozen buns which provide us with our daily bread for about a week and a half.
There are a lot of us.
Along with the bread and obligatory pizza which must be dinner on bread nights, we made a five-pound paysano, our signature Colby-style cheese. With this project in mind I instructed Shawn the night before to bring up the morning milk, which would otherwise have gone to the pigs. In the summer we seldom have time for making hard cheeses, which are rather time consuming, and the excess milk is put to fatten the pigs, but a look in the dairy refrigerator had revealed only eight remaining hard cheeses – paysano, parmesan, and gouda – and so we had determined to make a few paysano to fill the gap. Hence, when the warm new milk came up from the barn this morning it was taken and added to two gallons of skim milk from Tuesday, inoculated with buttermilk (mesophilic lactobacilli, to us cheese makers) and rennet, and put aside to set.
The curd set rather quickly, and a thin film of whey made a shallow lake on the surface of the curd when I came to cut it. Three-eighth inch cubes are what is called for in paysano, and the curd felt quite firm under the long cheese knife. When all was cut and I reached in to stir with a well-washed right hand and arm I found the curd oddly grainy and exceptionally firm. The curds had a sandy look to them, which with my shortsighted vision I took to be the small bubbles that form in curd made of milk which has been somehow contaminated with yeast, and, disappointed, I thought to throw them to the pigs, when it occurred to me that yeast-riddled curds float, and these were sinking in the proper manner. With some reservation I proceeded with the cheese making, deciding that Shawn must have brought me up Baby’s milk, rather than Isabel’s, and some remaining colostrum in the milk must be responsible for the odd texture. One hundred percent for me; when I asked about it he confirmed that the milk had been from the recently delivered Baby, not the lead cow, Isabel. How the difference in milk quality will affect the cheese remains to be seen; we will label this cheese appropriately.
Funny how firm the curd turned out to be. When we redressed the cheese periodically for turning and pressing under greater weight, we saw that it was knitting poorly. We may have to dip it in boiling water and repress for an hour if it fails to knit in its final, fifty pound pressing.
And just as a warning, if you make cheese on the same day you are baking, you need to be very careful to keep the two projects strictly apart, as yeast in the cheese curds can spoil all your work. Don’t use the same tools in their preparation, and for goodness’ sake don’t use the same cheese cloth or dish towels to cover the dough and drain the curd, as this would certainly lead to contamination. Not deadly, just a needless waste.