Alan Grant in Napanee, Ontario, Canada

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Slabbing the loaf (cheddar).

My name is Alan Grant and I’m from Napanee, Ontario, Canada – a vibrant, small town halfway between Toronto and Montreal.

I retired 8 years ago from Queen’s University in nearby Kingston, Ontario where I worked as a lab technician in the Geology Dept. for 25 years.  Prior to that, I worked as a mineral exploration geologist mainly in western and northern Canada.

On a trip to Dublin

Other hobbies have included bee-keeping, which I did for several years, and now our older home keeps me busy with lots of renovation projects.  It’s nice to set aside those projects at times and make a batch of cheese!

I was introduced to cheese making by a good friend, also a geologist, about 4 years ago.  I was especially taken by the wonderful flavour of his goat cheese, which I’d never tried before, and was amazed that you could actually make it at home.  He retired recently and moved to Kingston (near us), so we share many cheese adventures and tastings.

I mainly learned on my own after making a “rookie” batch of goat cheese with my friend’s guidance.  I bought Ricki Carroll’s indispensable book “Home Cheese Making” and jumped right in using her recipes and then some from the New England Cheesemaking website (cheesemaking.com).

Then I bought a small cheese press, then a bar fridge to use as a “cave,” then a temperature controller.  I’ve made everything from simple lemon cheese (love it) to cheddar and brie – seven varieties of cheese so far.  My small press does limit the size of each batch, unfortunately.

Cheddar:

Cheddar curds after setting.

Cheddar loaf getting ready for cheddaring.

When I cheddar the slabs I put them in a 9″x 13″ cake pan, cover with a clean tea towel and float it in a water bath.  As the water bath cools, I carefully add hot water to the bath to maintain the desired temperature. When it’s time to flip the slabs (every 15 min for 2 hours), I remove the tea towel, put a cutting board over the top of the pan, invert it, then slide the slabs back into the pan and start again. The cake pan easily holds the slabs for a 2 lb cheddar which is all my little press can handle.

Slabs after cheddaring.

Cheddar curds ready for salting.

Hot off the press.

Brie:

Brie ready for cave.

Brie ready for aging.  I borrowed some smaller moulds of various sizes.

I use both goat milk and cow milk depending on what I’m making at the time, but mainly goat milk.  There is a water buffalo farm and store within an hour’s drive (Ontario Water Buffalo Co.) so I must give that milk a try!

I do share some cheese with family and friends but, except for lemon cheese which I make in larger amounts (no press needed), I’m pretty stingy with the small batches.

I like the lemon cheese not only because it is quick and easy to make (unlike cheddar which can occupy a full day) but when made with goat milk and garlic and other herbs, the taste is so good!  I haven’t noticed any lemony flavour that you may experience with cow milk.  I drain it for only an hour so that it stays moist and spreadable on crackers – a great summer treat.  A friend used it as a “topping” on spaghetti to rave reviews.  I use the recipe on p. 79 of Ricki Carroll’s book (3rd edition).  (Note – the recipe is in the 3rd edition and not the 4th so we have added it to the end of this interview.)

Lemon cheese with herbs.

Apart from attempting more varieties of cheese, I don’t have big plans. I would like to upgrade my cheese fridge with a humidity controller. And, of course, more cheese!

I would like to make larger batches of cheese too. For example, making a 2 lb cheddar is essentially a full day commitment with my current setup. A second press, or a larger press, would be great. Of course, that means a larger workspace than the kitchen provides!

Lemon cheese:

Milk for lemon cheese, ready to heat up.

After setting 15 minutes.

Draining set-up.

Draining.

Salted and herbed.

Lemon Cheese

From p. 79 in the 3rd edition of “Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll”

This moist cheese has a spreadable consistency and a mild, lemony flavor.

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon whole milk
Juice of 2-3 large lemons or approximately 1/4 cup
Cheese salt (optional)
Herbs (optional)

Directions:

In a large pot, directly heat the milk to 185-200F.  Add the juice from two of the lemons and stir well.

Cover and let the milk set for 15 minutes.  (You are looking for a clear separation of the curds and whey, not milky whey.)  if the milk has not yet set, add more of the remaining lemon juice until it does set.

Pour the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin.  Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 1-2 hours, or until the curds have stopped draining.  (If you drain the curds for only 20 minutes, you can then chill the mixture and add mint leaves for a refreshing summertime drink.)

Remove the cheese from the bag.  Add salt and herbs to taste, if desired.

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

Yield: About 1 pound



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