Notes from the farm: July 2018

Notes from the farm: July 2018

July is here and so are the kids! We are thrilled to announce the arrival of the first group of goat babies. Buffy was the first to give birth the morning of June 25th to the twins girls pictured above. We promptly named them Georgie (tiny ears like her mom) and Geronimo (big floppy ears like her dad), and yes you guessed it, “G” names are the theme this year! On average goats give birth to one to three kids at a time and their pregnancy lasts about five months. It’s going to be a busy few weeks for us as the main group of kids will be arriving in the first week of July. This time of year brings so much excitement and anticipation around the farm.

Meanwhile, in the cheese room, we’ve been experimenting with different curd textures and putting a lot of focus on the production of blue cheeses. Blue cheese is often a mystery to many people as it is such a different category of cheese and the types of blues vary greatly within that category. Some are mild and creamy, while others are tangy and crumbly or sharp and salty. I suggest starting off with a mild, creamy and slightly sweet version such as a traditional Gorgonzola from Italy or a Cambozola from Germany. My personal favourite is one called Saint Agur which comes from a mountainous region of France and is very soft, creamy and spreadable yet sharp and tangy. One of my favourite things to eat is a toasted slice of baguette with Saint Agur spread on it, topped with sliced rare steak and some fresh arugula…paired with a nice Okanagan Cabernet Franc of course! I don’t think it’s possible to be a cheesemaker without having a love for food!
Back to the production of blues! Blue cheese is made quite differently than a Tomme or Gouda in that we want to avoid pressing or sealing the cheese in its mould. We need to keep the curds loose with air pockets within the cheese and on the outside. In the last blog I spoke about developing natural rinds on cheese – but blue cheese is one of the odd ones out as we need oxygen to penetrate the cheese to produce that lovely blue mold which is what develops the flavour of blue cheese. The mold used is Penicillium which has many different subspecies – some of these are used in cheesemaking while others are used to produce the drug Penicillin.  We culture our milk with Penicillium Roqueforti before making the cheese then as soon as we see the blue mold show up on the outside of the cheese after about 2 weeks in the ageing room, we pierce the cheese with large knitting needles (dedicated to cheesemaking) at two week intervals to allow oxygen inside the cheese until the blue mold spreads throughout. Just to be clear these molds are not the same as the molds you sometimes find in the back of your fridge and they are carefully cultivated and maintained throughout the ageing process. I hope all that information clears up some of the mysteries!
Notes from the farm: June 2018

Notes from the farm: June 2018

June has turned out to be even more busy than May with lots of cheesemaking and renovations in progress to support our expansion. We have tripled our production capacity thanks to the installation of our new vat. In the future you can expect to see some fresh cheeses too! 

To support this expansion we are also selling at more farmers’ markets than ever! Come see us at the Bowen Road market Wednesday evenings in Nanaimo, the Esquimalt market Thursday evenings, the Duncan Farmer’s market Saturday mornings, the Cedar market Sunday mornings, and the Oak Bay market every third Wednesday evening of the month. 

Our ageing room is officially full of maturing cheeses without a spare shelf to be seen. If you haven’t noticed already, we strongly favour natural rinds on our cheeses. Many large production facilities prefer to wax or vacuum seal their cheeses to keep a pristine rind but this can inhibit flavour and texture development. We choose to control what develops on our rind by choosing different “washes” to encourage certain friendly developmental bacteria. For example we wash our Pennymede in a blonde Belgian-style beer to encourage B. Linens bacteria (the bacteria that makes certain cheeses stinky and turns the rind orange/pink) and Geotrichum Candidum yeast (this breaks down proteins and fats leading to a soft gooey cheese) while the 6% alcohol in the beer prevents any other molds from growing. To be clear, when we “wash” a cheese we dip a large circular brush into a bit of the liquid and gently rub it on the surface of the cheese so that it is just damp. By using a brush versus just dunking the whole wheel helps to develop an even rind on the cheese. Below are three photos of Pennymede at one day old, three weeks old, and eight weeks old. Not only has the rind matured significantly, but you can feel the interior of the cheese getting softer and softer. 

Pennymede on day one.

Pennymede at three weeks.

Pennymede at eight weeks.

On the farm we are still patiently awaiting the arrival of hoards of goat babies. We hope to start welcoming them as early as the end of this month!

Notes from the farm: May 2018

Notes from the farm: May 2018

This spring has been an especially busy one for us on the farm with lots of new and exciting changes we’ve been itching to tell everyone about, and now the curds (too cheesy?) have been spilled! We’ve happily expanded our production to include not only our lovely ladies’ goat milk but cow’s milk as well. This isn’t just any cow’s milk either; it is Ayrshire cow’s milk from Balme Ayr farm in Cobble Hill. We’ve been having a lot of fun coming up with all sorts of new cheeses to make with this beautiful milk and trust me when I say that the results so far have been delicious!

Ayrshire cattle are spotted red and white and originally come from Scotland. They are well known for being excellent dairy cattle as they are resourceful and strong, and produce milk with a rich and creamy texture that has a very pleasant taste. Some even claim that the Ayrshire milk has smaller fat molecules similar to goat’s milk which is what makes certain milks easier to digest than others. Balme Ayr Farm currently hosts about 250 happy and healthy Ayrshires on its 118-year-old farm.

With this new milk comes new recipes and opportunities for us to delve further into the cheese world. With so few ingredients involved in making cheese, changing one component will make a significant difference on the outcome. Since the milk’s arrival in March, we’ve had the opportunity to explore English, French, Italian, Dutch and Swiss styles while putting our own Cowichan spin on them. One of the first to debut will be Pennymede, a soft and gooey washed rind cheese!

Pennymede, one of our first cow’s milk cheeses, will be released this month.

In other news, our goats are ecstatic to be back out in our lush pastures after a cold and rainy spring. Their summer coats have already started to come in and their bellies are extra big right now! We’ll be welcoming plenty of goat babies into the world over the next month, a little later than usual, thanks to our handsome savior of a buck Moose.

Check back for June’s update and the cutest goat baby photos you’ll ever see!