Wednesday, June 6, 2012

(DF) SOLAR POWERED CHEESE: alternative energy at it's tastiest

As those of you who raise goats will no doubt agree, when the goat isn't giving milk, you wish she was, but when she is giving milk, there is often more than can be readily used.  This is where cheese comes in.  Making cheese isn't difficult, though some would say it requires close attention to details and precise monitoring of  temperature, and of course, a good cheese press.  I must say I agree with the consideration of temperature control  and I do enjoy a good press, at least I agree when it comes to making specific types of cheese.  Lets face it, if the temperature and method aren't correct, cheddar might turn out to be almost anything, though it would still be something resembling cheese.  The fact is that all that is required to make cheese (at least in theory) is milk, rennet to make it curd, and a source of heat to get it to the right temperature for the rennet to do its work.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your view, I tend to be more inclined to experiment than to follow a set procedure, though there is usually some thought of what the general goal is.  Sunday morning, the goal was simply to turn the five quarts of goat milk into something resembling cheese so it wouldn't become chicken feed. 

Another major factor for the day was time constraints.  Working overtime during the past week left me with one day off to catch up on all the work around the farm, and honestly, one day isn't even time enough to maintain what has already been done, much less make progress.  I know this post is getting a bit scattered at this point, but if you will bear with me, I will scatter it a bit farther before bringing it all together.

Solar energy seems to be a big topic right now, and I do plan to set up a solar electric system as soon as possible.  However, farmers have always used solar power.  Technically, green leaves are solar panels and roots, fruits, seeds and vegetation are the storage batteries that power life on the farm.  Solar power is also used for heat (some times a bit too much heat, in fact).

Now back to the cheese.  On this particular day, due to time constraints and work load, I needed it to be simple.  How simple?  Simple enough that it would do the work itself and leave me to planting yet more tomatoes, among other chores.  With that in mind, I took the five quarts of milk I had stored in the refrigerator, poured them in a stainless steel stock pot, added rennet and placed the pot on the pump slab in the sun to heat up.  My thought was that the sun would warm the milk, allowing the curds to set, and all I would have to do was squeeze out the whey, add a little salt and eat fresh cheese for supper.  Having never tried this method (or even knowing of anyone who had) my consideration was that if it didn't work out, the chickens would eat well.

Three hours later, when I stopped planting to cool off a bit, I found that the curds had set beautifully.  The curds were quickly cut, placed in a cloth lined drainer and most of the whey gently squeezed out.  A little natural salt was added and a bit more whey squeezed out.  As a side note, my hands are large and strong, making it hard for me not to squeeze out too much whey when making fresh cheese.  This time, however, I restrained myself and the result was the absolute best fresh cheese I have ever made, dry enough but not rubbery. 


You can bet in the future, I will be making use of solar power for cheese making on a regular basis, saving the fire for cold weather.

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