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Today’s topic is cheddar cheese. That’s right. It’s time for another trivia podcast and this one is all about cheddar cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? I must say that I make a fantastic cheddar cheese and I hope you get to try it one day.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. Before we get started on the cheddar facts, let me give you an update on what’s going on at the homestead.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
If you are listening to this podcast sometime in the future, your date marker is that we are in the middle of June. Almost at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. That the crops are starting to come in already. We are continuing the overwhelmed portion of the year. It starts in spring and continues right on through the fall. Planting, weeding, harvesting, and storing food. Along the way, the animals need additional care. Breeding cycles, milking twice a day, and flies. Always the flies. This year they are particularly high in population. Large dumps of wet rain at the perfect time of year for the propagation of flies is making the animals miserable.
The artificial insemination process has officially begun. The first step is to get all of the cows that are being bred to cycle at nearly the same time. This is especially important for a dairy. Ideally, the calves will be born within days of each other.
In the first few days, the cows produce a thick nutritious milk product called colostrum. It is high in fat and most importantly, it is filled with the antibodies the calves need to survive and thrive. We can save that milk for making cheese or fulfilling herd share obligations. It must all go to the calves. And there is a lot of it. We save it in jars and cans and gradually dole it out to the calves. Once we get into keeping the milk, we get to keep every single drop of it until this backlog of milk/colostrum is consumed. Then we share the awesome milk with the calves and we get less milk for making cheese and herd shares.
The reason that we need the births to be close together is the timing of who is in colostrum and who are we milking. We milk two at a time. If the calves are close together, then it is easy to just milk everybody the same. If that doesn’t happen, then we end up milking out the ones who are in the stage of producing milk we can use and then lastly, we milk out those who are still producing colostrum. Again, ideally everybody produces their colostrum all together and then we can get on with just milking everybody and not worrying about stopping, pouring up the milk and then starting again for colostrum milk for those late birthing cows. This is our second year of AI. So far, it is going well. Tomorrow, the placing of the sperm happens. Then we wait for three weeks to see if anyone comes into heat again. Of course, we hope that everyone takes on the first try. But how often does that actually happen? I don’t know. Again, we are new to this process.
The sheep are still grazing safely right outside my living room window. I think we are past the predator issues for the moment. We are still looking for a dog to add to the homestead. I don’t ever want to go through that kind of predator loss ever again.
Lambert is in there with the girls. Perhaps we will have lambs again in the fall.
I don’t think I said anything about the quail in the last podcast. That’s a first, right? Well, the first batch has been processed – well we kept almost all of the girls. They filled out the breeding groups that were missing a hen, replaced one complete breeding group that was older and the remaining 10 we kept for extra eggs. They are all laying pretty well at this point.
The second group that was a really small hatch, only 19, is now in the penthouse growing. They are growing like weeds. We did lose one and so there are 18 up there on the left side of the grow out cage. Again, the right side of the grow out cage has the extra hens we kept to lay eggs for us.
Now we come to the third batch that are in the incubator. There are 72 eggs in there and they go into lockdown in two days. Two days after that, we will begin to hear some peeping. Let’s pray that we have a better hatch rate this time. We shall see.
The biggest news I have at the moment is the garden. We planted lots and lots and lots of peas. I wanted them for the farmer’s markets. Well, I got my wish. There are soooo many peas out there. Today, instead of trying to pick from each plant (which I did a few days ago), I decided to just pull up the plants, peas and all. I needed to get the plants out because the tomatoes are planted right in front of them and they will need that trellis soon. It was really quick and easy. I now have piles of plants with pea pods hanging off of them. After I finish this podcast, I will be out there pulling the pods off of the plants. And the plants I pulled up today was only half of what is out there.
The beans are doing really well. I would like to get a bit of time to go out there and fill in the blank spaces where a seed here and there did not sprout. But even if I don’t get that accomplished, I’m going to have lots and lots and lots of beans and crowder peas.
There two beds of peppers. One is a wonderful bell pepper called California Wonder. Those plants produce beautiful large green bell peppers like you find in the grocery. If I leave them on the plant, they will eventually turn red. The red ones are really sweet.
The other peppers are Italian pepperoncini. I’m going to pickle them. I’ll probably sell the pickled pepperoncini at the farmer’s market. Oh, and I think there are a few banana peppers out there. I don’t know what I will do with them. Perhaps, pickle them as well. We shall see.
The onions look fabulous. I’m not sure how much longer they have before they are done. It’s easy to tell with onions. The green tops will just fall over, dry out and turn brown. That the indicator for when it is time to dig them up and cure them for storage.
Fruit and the Orchard
The strawberry plants look great and there were lots of strawberries. However, something was eating them and we haven’t gotten very many for ourselves. That’s yet another project that got on to Scott’s “To Do” list. Fix up some kind of barrier to keep out the squirrels, rabbits, birds, etc that are eating the strawberries. He just doesn’t have the time right now. More on that later.
I checked the blueberries a few days ago. There are a lot fewer berries than last year. That is likely due to the bee hive dying off. We really relied on them to pollinate everything. This year we were dependent on the bumble bees for all of our pollination.
One thing I noticed while out checking the blueberries and blackberries was that we finally have a few apples coming on this year. I don’t really know how old these trees are, but we have been anticipating apples and pears for a while. Looks like the apples are coming this year. Yay!!
The creamery is on hold yet again. Scott is off doing other things. Mostly gathering hay. We tried to grow our own hay for a year or two and just found that it was simply not worth it for the small amount we need. Maintaining the equipment is always a challenge. Better to let someone else have those headaches. The person who normally supplies our hay is growing his cow herd and the lack of rain at the appropriate time led to a smaller than usual harvest. So I got on Facebook and found a couple of places where Scott could get hay. Unlike the previous arrangement, which was quite close and the hay was delivered right to us, Scott is having to haul the hay here. These are large round bales. He can handle eight bales at a time. It is a time-consuming task that requires days and days and days to complete.
In between, he is prepping the cows for the AI appointment and doing most of the milking tasks. He helps me on Mondays with making cheese and spends quite a bit of time cleaning up the large cheese vat and the large utensils. I handle the small stuff. On Friday and Saturday morning he does the entire milking routine by himself as I am at the farmer’s market. The creamery will get back on the schedule soon, I’m sure. Speaking of making cheese, It’s time for me to get to the topic of the day. Cheddar cheese.
Let’s start with the basics of describing this great cheese. It is a relatively hard cheese. Ours is off-white and the stuff in the store is usually orange. Cheddar cheese originated in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Now it is produced all over the world.
In the UK, cheddar is the most popular type of cheese, accounting for over half of the country’s annual cheese market. It is the second-most popular cheese in the US. The most popular is mozzarella. In the US the average annual consumption of cheddar cheese is about 10 lbs per person. In 2014, the US produced about 3 billion lbs of cheddar cheese.
The term cheddar cheese is widely used and has no protected designation of origin even when the UK was part of the EU until 2020. Many cheeses have a protected designation of origin name. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is the English name for an identification form used by the EU that is meant to preserve the designations of origin of food-related products. This labeling was created in 1992 and its main purpose is to designate products that have been produced, processed and developed in a specific geographical area, using the recognized know-how of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned.
The characteristics of the products protected are essentially linked to the terroir. That is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a food or crop’s unique environmental contexts, farming practices or growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir refers to this character.
The EU’s regulation is meant to guarantee the reputation of regional products, adapt existing national protections to make them comply with the requirements of the WTO and inform consumers that products bearing the PDO logo respect the conditions of production and origin specified by this designation.
The regulations cover all sorts of foodstuff like wines, cheese, hams, sausages, olives, beers, fruits, vegetables, breads and animal feed.
Foods such as gorgonzola, parmigiano-reggiano, asiago cheese, camembert de Normandie and champagne can be labeled as such only if they come from the designated region. There are other requirements. In the case of camembert de Normandie, not only is it required to be produced in the Normandy region of France, it must also be made with raw milk from Normande cattle.
Cheddar originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, south west England. Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the village contains a number of cheese caves, which provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese.
Cheddar has been produced since at least the 12th century. Financial records of King Henry II from 1170 records the purchase of 10,240 lbs. Charles I also bought cheese from the village of Cheddar.
In the 19th-century Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding was central to the modernization and standardization of cheddar cheese. For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene, and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed “the father of Cheddar cheese”. Harding introduced new equipment to the process of cheese-making, including a device for curd cutting call a “revolving breaker”. The “Joseph Harding method” was the first modern system of Cheddar production based upon scientific principles. Together, Joseph Harding and his wife were behind the introduction of Cheddar cheese into Scotland and North America. His sons, Henry and William, were responsible for introducing the cheese production to Australia and facilitating the establishment of the cheese industry in New Zealand.
According to a USDA researcher, cheddar cheese is the world’s most popular variety of cheese, and it is the most studied type of cheese in scientific publications.
“Cheddaring” refers to an additional step in the production of the cheese. After culturing, cutting, cooking and draining, the cheddaring begins. It is a lengthy process of stacking and turning slabs of curd. The curd is then milled or broken up into small pieces again and salted before being placed in a press. The press forms the final shape of the cheese.
The cheese is kept at a constant temperature and humidity level. Special facilities or a cheese cave as mentioned before are needed to complete this part. And it will mature for anywhere from three months to two years or more.
Character of Cheddar Cheese
The ideal quality of the original Somerset Cheddar was described by Joseph Harding in 1864 as “close and firm in texture, yet mellow in character or quality; it is rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth, the flavor full and fine, approaching to that of a hazelnut”.
Cheddar made in the classical way tends to have a sharp, pungent flavor, often slightly earthy. The texture is firm and can be crumbly. Cheddar cheese aged over one year should also contain large cheese crystals consisting of calcium lactate.
Cheddar can be a deep to pale yellow color, or a yellow-orange color when annatto is added. Annatto is extracted from seeds of a tree. Originally it was added to simulate the color of high-quality milk from grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey cows, but it may also impart a sweet, nutty flavor.
Clau d’ville Cheddar
We don’t use annatto in our cheddar cheese. We produce a beautiful light cream-colored cheddar cheese. Bright, citric flavors at the six-month mark complement a smooth, creamy texture. As each cheese approaches it’s first birthday the pineapple notes give way to a deeper, more savory cheese with a buttery, malty finish, offering a delightful taste sensation.
At six months it is smooth and almost creamy. Aged a year or longer, it becomes deliciously crunchy, crumbly and tangy. Pair it with a fruity Pinot Noir, a strong ale, apple liqueur or cider, or a vintage port.
Our cheddar is currently only available via our Herd Share program. If you are listening to this in 2022, this statement will be out of date. We plan to be in our inspected facility in early 2022.
That’s it for today’s podcast on Cheddar cheese. The homestead is moving along nicely. We are moving into the summer routine. The animals are doing their thing, eating grass out in the fields. The gardens are flourishing. And the work continues to keep us on our toes. It is healthy activity and we appreciate the opportunity to share our journey with all of you.
I hope you enjoyed the Cheddar cheese information and we look forward to serving your cheese needs in the future.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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