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Today I’ll be talking about types of cheese. What I mean by that is things like fresh, aged, hard, soft, semi-soft and so on. Our specialty is semi-hard and hard aged cheeses, but there are many other types of cheese out there. So how are they different and how are they the same?
But first, 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 cannot say how much I appreciate you all. What would I do without you? Thank you so much for being here.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
Fall is arriving in full force right now. The weather has cooled. I expect the leaves to show their glorious colors soon. It is the time of year when tourists come from all over to participate in the magnificent color painted all across the Appalachian Mountains. This year the season began way up in the northeast around the first week of September. As of this podcast in October 2020, we are at near peak color. Between now and the next seven days, the color will reach its height. In two weeks, it will be done and past.
How about a little leaf trivia and 5th grade science review? Without the presence of Chlorophyll in the leaf, the bright golds, reds, yellow, and browns would be the natural colors seen year-round. Chlorophyll is key to a plant turning sunlight into glucose. Trees then feed on the glucose. When the leaves are saturated with Chlorophyll cells, they appear green to the eye.
Orange, Red and Yellow Leaves
There are other compounds in leaves that determine their color. Carotenoids, Anthocyanins, and Flavonols. Beta-Carotene is probably the most common carotenoid present in leaves. While absorbing blue and green light, it them reflects yellow and red light from the sun. These leaves appear orange. These are much more clearly visible as the sunlight and subsequent production of Chlorophyll decrease in the fall.
Anthocyanins actually increase in autumn. They provide the red color. Anthocyanins prolong the life of the leaf on the tree.
Finally, Flavonols are always present in leaves. These are the same flavonols that make egg yolks yellow. While they are always present in the leaves, you won’t see the yellow color until the production of Chlorophyll begins to slow.
The last step with the fall leaves is for the tree to close off the veins that carry water and nutrients to and from leaves. A layer of new cells forms at the base of the leaf stem. Water and nutrients no longer flow to and from the leaf. The leaf becomes brown, dies and eventually falls gracefully to the ground. If left in place, the leaves break down and create a rich humus on the ground. It holds moisture and nutrients for the trees and other plants.
That’s the cycle. Pretty cool isn’t it? Nature at its finest.
Let’s talk about the animals.
I talked about our new heifer, Rosie, last time. She is doing great. What a great addition to our herd.
Buttercup is still not pregnant. At this point, we have given up on her for this season. It’s important in a dairy operation that the cows all give birth within a relatively short window of time. That way they can all be bred back at the same time, give birth near the same time again, and so on. They will be “in milk” at the same time. We need that consistency to be able to plan our milk herd shares and to have enough milk to make larger batches of cheese for our cheese herd shares.
Buttercup is beyond that desired window. At this point, if she bred true today, she could not give birth before the end of June. Ideally, all of the cows are bred in June and July so birthing that late just doesn’t work for us. We will try again next year with our additional knowledge. We are still very much in the learning curve in raising cattle. Who knew it took so much knowledge and experience?
Sheep and Goats
We are not breeding the goats this year. We are down to 14 goat does. And we will be thinning those out over the next few years. Ideally, we will get down to maybe four to six does at the most.
The sheep on the other hand are nearing their peak fertile period and we will be breeding some of them. Currently, we have a dozen ewes and/or ewe lambs. Based on our discussions so far, we have decided to breed the four older ewes. That will give us anywhere from four to eight lambs in the spring. Their breeding cycle will start the first of November. So in about three weeks.
The quail babies are doing really well. They have a few more weeks before we thin them out as well. We will be keeping quite a few extra hens and perhaps a few extra roosters through the winter just to make sure we have enough breeding stock to get started again in the spring. I don’t have a final count on that. There are just too many at the moment to tell which ones we will keep and which not.
The dairy inspector came out and spent a couple of hours with Scott. They went over our proposed processes and mapped out what still needs to be done to be in compliance with USDA inspection requirements.
Scott also added another covered area for storage. I didn’t realize that he planned on this until he started digging new footers. Originally, he was going to do it later. But in the end, he decided to just go ahead and add it on. Otherwise, he would have to redo the roofing on that end of the building. So nearly all of the north wall has a 12-foot (I think that’s right) roof over it. Lots of room to store equipment.
On the west end of the building is the barn. And even farther west is what Scott calls the loafing area. It also has a roof covering. He completed an elaborate fenced in area with multiple gates that will allow for better movement of the animals as well as creating a multipurpose area for collecting, sheltering and working with them outside of the barn and milking parlor.
The garden is definitely winding down. I still have lots of culinary herbs. Many of the plants are still green, but I just need to get in there and clear them out – compost them. The tomato plants, the crowder peas, what’s left of the green beans and so on. The sunflower stalks need to be cleared out as well. I’m going to let the potatoes go for a little longer, though there will not be many of them. Still, there will be a few, I think.
The celery is ready to harvest. I hope to have some of that at the farmer’s market this weekend.
The pepper plants will simply be cut down in the end. When the first frost is predicted, I will pick everything I can and that will be the end. I’m making pepper jelly right now. I’ll have that at the farmer’s market as well. My plan is to have it all ready for the Christmas markets in late November and early December. Some will be red. Some will be yellow and some will be green. The red will be very hot, the yellow medium hot and the green will be made from sweet peppers.
Types of Cheese
I’m going to go over a few different types of cheese and what differentiates them one from another. I’ll go from the one with the most moisture to the one with the least. The moisture content determines texture and type of rind that will develop.
These cheeses will typically be 19-24% fat. They have no rind at all. Fresh cheeses have a very high moisture content. Their texture can be stringy like mozzarella or mousse-like as in cream cheese or ricotta. When pickled in salt as with Feta, the curd is firm but crumbly. There are lots of variations with fresh cheeses that include wrappings such as leaves, coverings of herbs or being rolled in ash. Typically, a fresh cheese will be bright white and quite mild in lemony or lactic flavors.
Soft White Rind Cheese
Think of Camembert, Brie or chevre. These cheeses grow a fine white crusty rind of penicillin candidum mold. This ripens the cheese and prevents it from drying out. The rind is mushroomy and the center paste is very soft. A really good camembert will melt at room temperature. Literally it will ooze out of the rind when you cut it. I love this stuff.
There are also double and triple cream versions.
Examples of semi-soft cheese are edam, reblochon and raclette. Typically, these cheeses develop a fine to thick gray-brown rind or an orange and sticky rind. The curd is lightly pressed to remove whey and create a rubbery, elastic texture. They attract a variety of gray, white and brown molds. The molds are brushed off regularly building a fine leathery rind. Edam has a rind that is barely formed and is generally milky, buttery and sweet. Thicker, denser rinds taste much stronger, more earthy. Think stinky cheese. Sometimes they are “washed” in some type of brine and sometimes wine or beer. This encourages the orange, sticky, bacteria to develop. That produces a much more pungent flavor and aroma.
These are the driest cheeses. The fat content is higher, around 28-34%. They are pressed for hours and hours to remove the whey and compact the curd. They also produce more complex and stronger flavors.
Our traditional cheddar is wrapped in cheesecloth or waxed to prevent it from drying out too much. Our alpine style is soaked in brine to begin the rind. These cheeses are stored for months at least and sometimes years, the flavor deepening and expanding with age. All sorts of molds are attracted; white, blue, gray, pink or yellow. They are brushed off during ripening which results in a thick, smooth and polished rind on our alpine style. The cheddar is also brushed off but ends with a much thinner rind. A parmesan rind can be very thick indeed.
That’s a very brief overview of types of cheese. There is so much more that goes into making one cheese or another, but those are some standard categories you can begin with to better understand the luscious art of cheese.
Heritage and tradition are very important to us so our cheese are based on time-honored European cheesemaking methods that we have adapted to our local conditions in southwestern Virginia. We embrace the changes in the seasons that lead to delicious and discernible variations in our cheeses.
Our cows graze all day on pasture and live a peaceful life. We practice integrity with all of our farming practices and give unending attention to our livestock.
The taste of each of our handcrafted cheeses reflects the animal’s health, diverse pastures, clean water, and soil minerals that go into the milk. All of our cheese is made with raw milk, completely hand made and slowly aged.
I have openings for raw milk cheese herd shares. Let me know if you are interested. You own part of our herd and can receive the benefits of the cheese produced. A half share provides you with about a pound of cheese per month and a full share – two pounds of cheese per month.
That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you learned something about fall leaves. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to get out there and spend some time in God’s creation and soak up the vibes of those fabulous once a year, brief window of time, leaves. It’s truly a magical and glorious time.
The homestead is humming along; the animals are happy and healthy. The creamery gets closer and closer to completion with each passing day. Thank you so much for allowing me to share this adventure with you.
Types of cheeses is a fun topic and I only touched on it in this brief podcast. There is so much more we could talk about. Let me know if you are interested in our raw milk cheese herd shares and pass the info along to anyone else you know that may be interested. We live to share the health benefits of our hand made products. Hope to see you soon.
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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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