Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fromage Blanc from Soul Flower Farm

As a cheese maker, Maya Blow is getting off to a great start!

Maya and her family have created their own little slice of heaven called Soul Flower Farm.  This is the introduction at their inspirational website:

We are a small urban farm located in the East Bay Area of California, striving to incorporate biodynamic farming methods and permaculture design to be self sustaining. Raising goats, chickens, ducks, bees, and boys, homeschooling, sustainable building, and practicing holistic medicine keeps us busy.

I was looking for an article about making Fromage Blanc and I found Maya's.  I asked her how she became a cheese maker:

I got started making cheese several months ago when my husband and I added two lactating does to our herd of goats.  We had a lot of extra milk to play around with.  The first cheese I made was paneer, then fromage blanc and chevre.  I recently took a wonderful cheese making class and learned to make feta, St. Maure, and Camembert.  It is becoming a wonderful hobby.

Goat Cheese and Whey Bread
By Maya Blow at Soul Flower Farm 

Cheese making is a whole world of it's own as I am beginning to discover.  I've been making cheese weekly with our goat's milk.  Two out of the four of us in our home are enjoying it.  I suppose there are many ways you can use fresh goat cheese but the only way it has been consumed at our house thus far is spread on freshly baked bread, lightly toasted with olive oil.  It almost makes your taste buds explode.

I have mainly been making chevre and fromage blanc, although I did try mozzarella, which did not turn out aesthetically pleasing but tasted good and melted successfully on our pizza.  We are very interested in trying the harder, aged cheeses in the near future.   A great resource for supplies, recipes, etc. is New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.

If you want to try a soft, fresh cheese yourself, it is pretty easy.  There are basically only four steps involved.

Start with at least a gallon of unhomogenized milk of any kind (cow, goat, sheep, yak, whatever you have)...

1)  In a large non-aluminum pot, heat your milk to between 86-92 degrees.  You don't even really have to use a thermometer - if you don't have one, just heat the milk until warm but not so hot it burns your finger (in the old days this was called blood warm).

2)  Either add your packet of culture for the cheese you want to make (fromage blanc, chevre, etc.) or add 1/2 cup of white vinegar per gallon of milk.  Stir for about a minute or two, cover and set in a warm place overnight or for half of the day.

3)  Uncover the pot and you should see that the curds and whey have separated.  Strain the curds into a cheese cloth (I always use a cloth napkin or a piece of clean cotton fabric).  Catch and save the whey to use later.  Hang your cheese to drain in a clean place for another day or so depending on how hard/dry you want your cheese to be.

4)  Unwrap the cheese and turn it into a large bowl.  Add cheese salt or sea salt to taste and whatever herbs you prefer, our favorite is with lots of dill.  Mix well with a fork and refrigerate, eat right away, or label and give to friends as a homemade holiday treat.

As for the by product, I have been very satisfied using the whey we have left over after hanging the cheese.  I usually get quite a lot from each batch and have been either mixing it into the chicken feed or using it to make bread.  The chicken's egg production goes up significantly when they are fed whey and the bread comes out moist, as well as with a higher protein content.

Both of these jars of whey are from the same batch of cheese.
The milkier jar is from the first 12 hours of straining, the clearish jar is the second 12 hours.

I finally found a great bread recipe using 100% whole wheat flour.  I know lots of you out there are going gluten free so this is obviously not for you, but for those of us that like to grind our own wheat berries into flour or are just adverse to using white flour, this bread comes out surprisingly moist and light.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison)

The sponge                                                                   The bread
2 1/4 c whey, warmed                                                    1/3 c olive oil
1 tbls. active dry yeast                                                    2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c unsulfured molasses                                               3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c gluten flour
2 c whole wheat flour

Stir warm whey, yeast, molasses, gluten flour, and 2 c. whole wheat flour until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, cover, set aside in warm place for an hour until foamy and double in volume.

You can buy yeast in bulk and store in the refrigerator.

Gently stir down sponge, add oil, salt, and one cup of the flour and beat until smooth.  Add the remaining flour in one cup increments until you have a shaggy, heavy dough.  Turn out onto floured counter and knead in flour, a few tbls at a time, until dough is smooth but still a little tacky.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn it to coat the top, cover and set in warm place until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  Punch dough down, divide into two loaves, shape and place into greased bread pans, cover again and set aside until dough has risen to edge of pan, about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 and bake in center of oven until browned, 45-50 minutes.  Cool completely before slicing.



Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

lovely woman, and she sounds like someone I would be friends with. Great post, once again!

Alan said...

How do you hang the cheese? Do you have special equipment for that?

Also, how long does the finished cheese last in the frig?