Monday, October 3, 2011

Cheese Making in Dingle

Ireland is famous for its Artisan Farmhouse Cheeses and as I love cheese, always wanted to know how to make cheese. I have made cottage cheese, cream cheese and Paneer but the 'proper' cheese was a mystery to me - until yesterday. Dingle had their annual Food & Wine Festival and The Little Cheese Shop in Dingle offered a cheese making workshop. Maya Binder - owner of the cheese shop and cheese maker - invited us to her farmhouse in Ballydavid and showed us how she makes cheese. Maya learned her trade in Germany and Switzerland and brought it to Dingle. Her cheeses are not available anywhere but in her cheese shop and some local farmer's markets. She makes Kilcummin (plain, with peppercorns or fenucreek), Dilliskus, Beenoskee, Mozzarella and Dingle Truffle Cheese. All cheeses are made with raw milk (hopefully the sale of raw milk will not be banned as planned by the current government) and are truly handmade and a labour of love.

She heats the milk and adds culture, the milk is than stirred (o
nly if the has 'kettle' is full does she uses a mechanic stirrer, otherwise it is a manual whisk. The rennet is added at certain temperature and the milk is left to settle. After about 30 mins the rennet started to set the milk and the 'cutting' begins. Depending on the size of the 'nuggets' the texture of the cheese will be decided. Any flavouring will be added at this stage. You have to keep the cheese moving to avoid it 'growing' together. The whey is separated and can be removed. The cheese (that looks very much like cottage cheese at this stage) is then poured into the moulds. The whey can be used for different uses actually (the Swiss make drinks from it) and one of the ladies attending the workshop says you can even add it to soups. So nothing is thrown out.

After a few minutes in the moulds we started to turn the cheese and it has to be done several times. The next day the lo
af of cheese is put into a salt bath for about an hour and then put on the shelf. Turned daily and brushed with the brine for the next few weeks.

This is a process that is almost relaxing and the result is your own homemade cheese. Searching the net now for
suppliers of rennet and culture and my home kitchen will be transformed into a cheese making empire (ok, I will stick to the self-use quantities LOL).

I had a wonderful day, met great people and tasted amazing cheese. Next year, I will make sure that I stay the entire we
ekend in Dingle as I missed the Taste Trail (didn't have the time), the Blas na hEireann Food award, Martin Shanahan's cooking demo, the foraging walk and the chocolate making workshop with Benoit hope they are all coming back next year.

Congratulations to the organisers, a
great event - just a small note, the farmer's market was wonderful but too squashed into a small space.

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