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The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Camembert

by Suzanne Lupien of Thetford Center, VT

Making Camembert — Making A Milk Stool From A Forked Tree — A description of English cloth binding of hard cheeses using muslin and lard.

The hay is all in the barn, the firewood is mostly in the woodshed, the heifers are down off the hill pasture as winter is now coming on. Most of the bins in the cellar are loaded with potatoes, beets and carrots, the wild apples have been pressed into cider, most of which made it into the barrel round the corner from the potato bins, and one can breathe a sigh of relief for coming through another harvest with gratitude, good nature and just a little bit of a sore back. Milking in the field has given way to milking in the old snug tie up and the cows themselves seem to enjoy the cozy convenient quarters as much as I do.

To me, it’s a relief to switch from summer butter making to fall cheesemaking and with the cows now on dry hay I find the milk somewhat easier to handle in the cheesemaking process than the milk made on grass. The solids tend to be higher and the chances of gassing from pollen in the atmosphere and other wild and crazy summer pasture plants all but disappear.

Camembert

France, home of camembert, before industrial cheese production overcame sensible traditions, made raw milk camembert typically from October to May. My sense is that it was because of reasons of forage quality stated above. If you’re pasteurizing the milk its sensitivities and exuberances fade away and the milk goes dead – devotees of this style of cheesemaking there re-introduce specific controlled bacteria to achieve their goal. (Have you read Pasteur? He invented his heat treatment for the wine industry and is reputed to have said, upon learning of its application in the dairies “Oh! Look what they have done to my beautiful milk!”) Yes, there’s something about control and efficiency which rub me the wrong way! Give me a winding footpath through the forest over a straight open highway any day.

Years and years ago before the supermarkets started making the rules, and the emergence of the E.U., lively and superb mold-ripened camembert and similar cheeses were highly prized and sought after delicacies. Patrick Rance speaks of French connoisseurs who knew which cows on which forage produced the best cheese. To know this depth of experience in a very local environment is one of my cherished goals. To know so much of one’s own village or region, or soil must be rich knowledge indeed!

I have no interest in pasteurized milk products but I will say that as camembert is typically a 30 day cheese it does not cut it with dairy regulations, 60 days being the acceptable current minimum age for a legal cheese. Do with this what you will. As far as I know raw milk camembert under 60 days can be made for home consumption. Strict observance of milk health and milk handling are always needed, especially so with short aged cheeses such as this one.

Camembert is wonderful to make, even easy to make once the meaning of the steps is known and the rhythm established. Your exceptionally well fed, housed and loved home cow will make just the best and cleanest milk for this method. And no matter how many modern scientific precautions are taken on large farms, the contentment factor which is directly connected to intrinsic health and cleanliness of the milk is, and always will be the domain of the small farm.

Now a brief description of the process, and an itemization of needed equipment and conditions, then on to cheesemaking. We’ll be coming into the kitchen directly from milking with anywhere from 1-3 gallons of just milked milk which we will strain through a sanitized strainer into a wide sanitized stainless container. (Another milk pail is best.) Even if the phone’s ringing or the pea soup is catching down, strain that milk first!

Have an accurate way to judge the amount of milk you have (which is why a milk pail is the best cheesemaking receptacle in this instance – you get to know where one gallon, two gallons, etc. are) and immediately add the correct amount of starter, stirring it well with your sanitized spoon or ladle. Cover with clean cheesecloth, and let it stand for 15-20 minutes for the milk ripening to commence. You’ll stir it again after 4 minutes, add the rennet after 20 and be cutting and ladling your firm beautiful curd into hoops within 40 minutes or so. Halfway through the day you’ll flip the cheeses over to drain on the other side, and flip and drain a couple more times in the next 24 hour period at which point the hoops will come off. The now firm little cheese cakes will be dry salted, sprayed with a mist of penicillium candidum and tucked into either a moist clay tile in your cheese aging room, or perhaps in a plastic storage box with the lid ajar, where the little babies will stay in a cool but not cold atmosphere, turned daily until the mold has bloomed on all surfaces. The cheese will then be patted all over to retard the mold growth, be wrapped loosely in wax paper and proceed on to a somewhat cooler environment (say 40-45 ? F) to be tended, loved, and cared for as they age. At the appointed time, and in accordance with your own special ritual, they will be borne to the dining room on the prettiest surviving plate from great-grandmother’s service and enjoyed with a glass of wine and a few neutral crisp crackers. I’d steer clear of garlic and herb strewn rustic crackers or hard tack, delicious as they may be and stick with bland table water crackers to showcase the buttery pungent cheese.

What you will need:

• beautiful clean warm creamy milk

• milk strainer and 2nd milk pail

• stainless steel perforated ladle

• your own fresh starter culture (see article in Winter 2012 SFJ)

• Camembert hoops – either homemade or purchased. Ideally they will be the real McCoy: 2 piece perforated stainless steel, approximately 3 1/2” across. For 1 1/2 gallons of milk you will need 2 sets. Molds can be improvised but I will give you the exact measurements and descriptions of the genuine French ones.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The smaller, unperforated hoop fits into the slightly larger perforated one and is prevented from going further in than 3/8” by bosses or buttons which protrude about as much as a 20p nail head and which are placed round the form at 2” intervals for a total of 6 bosses.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Assembled, the form stands 7 5/8” tall. It goes together easily, slips apart easily which is absolutely necessary to avoid upsetting or damaging the fragile draining curd, and the perforated hoop constitutes the bottom of the hoop. This way it will drain freely and readily aided in the first stage of draining by the pressure from the top level of curd, causing the whey to almost spurt out in the very beginning.

The drainage holes on the perforated hoop are approximately 1/16” in diameter and are placed in rows of alternating 3’s and 4’s for a total of 5 holes per square inch. They need to be very cleanly drilled in order to be thoroughly cleaned.

The ladle with which the curd will enter the mold must be small enough to easily descend to the bottom of the mold, and have therefore a handle that is perpendicular to the bowl. The bowl of this ladle must also be perforated and shallow in order that the layer of cured is about an inch or inch and a half thick and no thicker. The cut size of the ladleful and the number of perforations in the hoop are critical to the rate of draining which in turn is critical to the nature and character of the finished cheese.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Once upon a time I was teaching a camembert class and discovered I’d lent my special ladle to a friend and therefore lacked a perforated ladle just when I needed one. In haste I grabbed a standard stainless soup ladle and my 22 caliber rifle, dashed out on the porch and shot a hole through it. It both startled and amused the class so that we all experienced a rush of energy and attention to last us the afternoon! I’m not, however advocating this method because the hole was pretty big and kind of rough on the bottom side. I must have come up with the idea remembering old Dune Fraser shooting a hole through a section of stove pipe for the damper pin a long time ago. It was perfect.

• 2 bamboo mats (not much bigger than the diameter of the hoop) per hoop. These can be bought of course, generally available in health food stores as sushi mats but you can easily and inexpensively make your own with cotton butcher’s string and neatly sawn hardwood strips, preferably maple, of even thickness, and not exceeding 1/4” in width. Make sure you sew them together in 3 or 4 places:

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The nicest ones I ever made were made of strips of wood from a wood shop and they were rounded at their edges. They made beautiful indentations in the cheese, they peeled off neatly – very important – and they were very easy to clean. The bamboo ones sometimes stick to the curd causing tearing when they’re peeled off. You will use these mats in the initial curd draining phase and then again in the mold blooming phase. Prepare to become a frequent scrubber and boiler of mats. To scrub them, designate a new nail brush, used only for this purpose. Keep it out of reach of hand washers headed for the kitchen sink.

• New nail brush

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

• small smooth squares of maple wood will go under the mat during the draining process so the whole thing is rigid enough to wiggle your hand under when it’s time to flip your cheese:

• a simple drain table is required, see article in Spring 2012 SFJ.

• coarse salt

• a packet of fresh penicillium candid from your cheese makers supply, and a new cheap $2.00 spray bottle which you will store (with the liquid in it) in the fridge, for a maximum of 2 months, and with foil or plastic wrap tightly wound over the nozzle to keep it clean. Replace this wrap each time you use the spray.

• a long bladed curd cutting knife

• a wide stainless steel frying pan is best as a boiling pan for the mats and the woodblocks which must be boiled for a minimum of 5 minutes prior to being used.

• a good sized colander to drain these things in and cool them sufficiently to be handled.

• a blooming box for the first stage of ripening that can be kept clean and sanitized and the correct temperature for this 3 day process: around 50 F

• lots of waxed paper and an aging atmosphere, be it a plastic box or a wooden box or a ceramic flue tile and the correct temperature – around 40 F

One more word about the hoops:

If you are unable to obtain 2 piece hoops or make them you can of course use one piece hoops. You could even use baked bean cans with the ends removed. The beauty of the 2 piece hoop is that, once the level of curd has shrunk down by half in the initial stage of draining, the top piece comes off and the hoop can be inverted without the fragile curd having to slide through a shaft of space to stand on its head. One must always treat curd and cows gently, gently.

Making Camembert

We will use 1 1/2 – 2 gallons fresh warm rich milk, enough for 2 camembert. Strain your milk into a sanitized milk pail or similar wide container or pot. Set on side of cook stove to stay slightly warm. We do not mean to raise the temperature, just maintain it.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Add 2 oz starter per gallon of milk and stir well until incorporated. Stir a second time after 5 minutes. Lay your slotted spoon over rim of pail and cover with clean, dry cheesecloth. 20 minutes after adding starter add 1/4 tsp rennet, which has been diluted in a sanitized stainless steel measuring cup or such like. Remember to be as accurate as possible in measuring rennet. To over rennet this cheese would spell doom. It must not drain too quickly, or a dry, hopeless, exceedingly un-camembert like hockey puck cheese will result. Always the least amount of rennet possible to make a firm curd-set is best. And after sanitizing your little rennet cup take care that the diluting water is cold before adding your rennet. Remember that rennet is extremely heat sensitive.

Stir in your rennet using a few gentle up and down strokes with the ladle, then mark the time, cover milk again with the cheesecloth. After 8 minutes exactly fold back the cloth, touch your clean finger to the surface of the milk and check for that initial thickening, coagulating. If your finger is well coated, indicating definite thickening taking place multiply those 8 minutes x 3, cover your milk until 16 minutes later, or 24 minutes from your renneting time. If your finger is not well coated at 8 minutes, try again at 10, or 12.

In the interim, boil a kettle of water, set up your drain table and sanitize it. Set your hoops and your curd knife in a colander in the clean sink to be sanitized and boil your mats and blocks.

Assemble everything in order so it appears like this:

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

You want a slight pitch to your drain, but only slight.

When the hoops are just filled with curd they are very wobbly. Any jostling or imbalance will likely result in toppled molds and lost curd. Occasionally one must lay an inverted saucer over the tops of the hoops for the first hour or so to give them more stability.

After the 24 minutes has elapsed, or whatever your number of estimated minutes have elapsed, remove the cheesecloth, take your curd knife, and cut a cross a few inches deep in the center of the curd. Dip your finger into the center of the cross, lift it out and determine whether you’ve got a good “clean break”, a good set. If you do, your finger will come out clean, no ragged curd sticking to it. The incision will be clean and crisp and the curd will have begun to whey off. If this is the case proceed to the next step and cut the curd to the bottom of your pail in a simple pattern making three or four cuts in each direction resulting in this:

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

If your curd is just right the knife lines will remain clear, and greenish whey will begin to collect in the incisions.

If your curd is not yet firm, give it a little more time. Be patient and watchful. Achieving the optimum moment is the key to making the best and most consistent cheese possible.

Having let your cut curd stand 10-15 minutes, it is now time to begin ladling your curd into the hoops. The ladle method, indicating traditional handmade camembert would be noted perhaps, on the label of the cheese. It would say “a la louche” a seal of quality in itself.

Carefully and evenly cut your ladle into the curd a good inch below the surface and lift your ladleful off, and let it down as low as possible into the first hoop before gently sliding it off. It is important not to break or crush the curd. So actually you are making a crisp horizontal cut with your ladle movements in the bucket of curd, taking great care not to injure the integrity of the curd in the filling of the ladle, nor in the filling of the hoops.

Alternate ladlefuls one hoop and then the other until the hoops are full. If a little curd remains, you may take your ladle and press it down lightly on the top of the hoop. This will raise the whey level, helping to spill some whey out over the top which will make a bit more room for curd. Take care to steady the mold with the edge of your thumb so it does not topple, as warned earlier. If you still have a few ladlefuls left, just let the hoops drain for a 1/2 hour, and then top them up again.

The French have closely fitting discs of metal which they insert in the top of the hoops on top of the curd to create a little down pressure to encourage draining, but I don’t use them. I suppose I might if I had them…

Because this is quite a slow draining cheese it is especially critical that we understand the factors involved in ideal draining conditions and do our best to create them. They are: 1. firm curd above 80 F, 2. curd cut in 1-2” squares pre-drained for 10-15 minutes in the pail, 3. fresh clean mesophilic starter added to the milk in the correct proportion of 2 oz. per gallon of milk, 4. exactly the right amount of rennet to achieve a firm curd in 24-30 minutes ideally, and, 5. a warm room to house the draining curd for the 24-36 hours required to complete the drainage. If your cheese drains down to the 1 1/2 – 2 1/2” level much sooner than that, it is most likely that you’ve over renneted it. If it fails to drain down in 36 hours, you may have under renneted it, or your starter was weak, or your kitchen was too cool, or a combination of those factors. However, you can tell if your starter is good by smelling the drained curd. After developing for a day or so the curd should have a delicious, creamy sweet smell, as the acidity develops.

So let’s say you got the curd in the hoops by midmorning. By tea time, very likely, the curd will have drained down to the half-way mark in the hoops. This is what we hope for. If you do have 2 piece hoops, remove the top sections and wash them. Now you will boil 2 mats and 2 blocks for 5 minutes, let them cool slightly, and drape the mats and blocks over the curd in the bottom hoops. Carefully lift them by insinuating your hand under the bottom block and turn the whole thing over onto the newly sanitized mat and block. Really it wouldn’t hurt to practice this move with an empty hoop. You will discover how much pressure is required to keep the whole kit sandwiched together while in flight. It’s been known to get free on occasion which certainly pleases the dog and cat.

Once it’s inverted, remove the block and peel back the mat, taking care to free it bit by bit from the curd. Wash the used mats and blocks and set them in an airy place to dry, such as the warming shelf of the range.

In the morning the curd will have shrunk again significantly, and you will repeat this flipping process. Chances are the curd will begin to give off a heavenly odor. If the curd smells unpleasant or exhibits large gas bubbles or isn’t shrinking and feels downright spongy to the touch, toss it in the hen yard. But if all’s well and it’s getting firmer and smelling good, you’re on the right track.

By mid-day of the second day, if the curd has shrunk away from the sides of the hoop as well as shrunk down to 2” or so, and if it feels quite firm to the touch, it might be time to remove the hoop. The object here is to remove the hoop as soon as the cheese is firm enough to retain its shape: too early and it will bulge and likely split, too late and it will have lost essential moisture, and never ripen to the desired consistency. You get the picture; you just have to watch it closely until you establish your rhythm.

When they are ready, remove the hoops and put them directly in the dishpan in tepid water, to soak.

Sprinkle coarse salt on the top surface of your cheese, and by pouring salt into your cupped hand gently cover the sides of the cheese by running your hand around it. After an interval of a quarter hour your cheese is ready to be misted with your penicillium mix.

In advance of this moment you will have prepared the spray as follows:

You’ve got a new foil packet of penicillium candidum and you have a new cheapie spray bottle. You need to sanitize the spray bottle then sterilize the water that you’ll add the powder to – (after the water has cooled down completely). So boil a kettle of water, unscrew the nozzle off the spray bottle and pour boiling water into the spray bottle in the sink. Set the nozzle apparatus back onto the bottle but don’t screw it on, and pump the very hot water through the spray mechanism to sanitize it. Lift the nozzle unit off and pour out the very hot water. Then pour about a 1/4 cup of your kettle into the bottom of the bottle, set the nozzle part back on and let it cool all the way down. Carefully snip the top of your foil packet open and pour 1/2 tsp of the powder into the bottle, screw the nozzle on and shake well. Package your leftover packet in a new plastic bag and put it in the freezer. After a few shakes your penicillium solution is ready to use. When not in use store in the fridge for a maximum of 60 days with the nozzle covered to ward off bacteria.

Back to the cheese…

You’ve got trim firm yellowy, creamy smelling cheeses with salted tops and sides sitting on mats and blocks. You’ve got your spray ready so go ahead and mist them once over with the spray. Meanwhile sanitize enough mats – one per cheese – let them cool down in the colander, then drape them over the cheeses, flip them and set them on sanitized boards or set them in a sanitized plastic box that is dry. Proceed to salt the tops and spray the tops. Clean up the dishes and then carry your cheeses to their blooming place which is cool, in the 40-50 F range. Cover the box but leave it ajar. The needed atmosphere will be moist, but not wet with as much movement of air as possible.

Now you are entering a 3 or 4 day period of care for the blooming phase, which will simply require once a day flipping onto clean mats and checking for black cats fur mold an indication that the box is too moist, or drying cheeses indicating that you need more moisture. While flipping the cheeses, do not touch them with your hands, just hold onto the mats. And when the bloom begins, great care needs to be taken to change mats before the mold growth spreads to the mats, resulting in torn mold patches on the cheese. And take care that at least 1/2” of space between cheeses is kept. Once the mold starts to appear – first in an almost opaque, slightly granular film over the surface of the cheese, it progresses very rapidly. Unchecked it will grow up to 1/8” thick – way too much! Ideally you will take up the cheeses when they are just white, in your hand, pat the mold down to slow it, and wrap them lightly, loosely, in wax paper. Now they go perhaps into another plastic box with the lid ajar, to a cool aging spot, upper thirties to low forties. Periodically check them – re-wrap every couple of days as moisture tends to collect on their bottoms and if unchecked the wax paper sticks to them.

Basically you’ve set the conditions for halted mold growth and for the mold to begin to ripen the cheese. If the temp is too warm at this point, the mold will separate from the cheese leaving a liquid layer around the cheese. Take care that this does not happen.

After a couple of weeks, your camembert will change in external character from neat white cakes to slightly more relaxed, softer shapes, a bit more hassock or pillow like but still retaining more or less vertical sides and mostly flat top. They will tend to sink a bit in the middle and they may even sport little brown or red streaks on the ridges. All good. If they give off an intense ammonia smell they are too tightly wrapped and need air, watch that.

Since these cheeses ripen from the outside in — mold-ripened cheeses that they are — you will get the most accurate reading of thorough ripeness by pressing down lightly on the middle, rather than pushing against the side.

It’s true, not surprisingly, that different people have different preferences regarding degrees of ripeness. Some prefer young; a week after the mold has formed whereupon the interior is “chalky.” Others like the almost caramel-textured ripeness all the way through. And still others like it somewhere in between. The older, the riper, the more pungent. A perfect camembert is a marvelous marriage of flavor and texture. The ripening process is only a matter of a few weeks and when they’re ripe they’re ripe and do not keep long. As a general rule the higher moisture mold ripened cheeses have a very short shelf life.

In terms of the classic ideal of camembert ripeness I would say that buttery, caramel velvet, not runny but so smooth! is it. Liquid runny not right for this cheese although there are mold ripened cheeses in the world that must be eaten with a spoon. But this is not one of them. It’s meant to be sliced in wedges and keep its shape.

Explore the world of mold ripened cheeses and you will begin to understand how the shape and proportion of the cheese is related to optimizing or minimizing the mold ripening process. The most disc-like shape, a brie, or the more cubic, brique de Fore?t, etc. All interesting process / result discoveries will deepen your understanding of how and why, cause and effect.

3 points to stress

See to it that everything is clean, clean, clean, and in the midst of all the details you focus on the quality of the milk, the quality of your starter and very good observation of the draining cheese, developing it’s acidity, and the perfect time to salt/spray and age. You see, the salt is the acidity arrestor; you bring the acidity along over a day or two, reaching just the right moment when both the acidity and the firmness of the cheese allow you to go right to the salting/spraying. Watching and understanding and repeating – that is how we learn.

Keep the cheeses from losing moisture in the aging box and remove any liquid that you might find on the floor of the box. Really there shouldn’t be any. If there is then something needs to be corrected in the starter – renneting – draining process.

Once the cheeses are ripe, eat them. Share them. Put the excess in the fridge and consume within a week. I think they look best on a white plate.

Making a milking stool from a tree.

A sturdy and comfortable milking stool can be made with no expense, using only a chainsaw and a good tree fork. Sitting on an overturned plastic bucket is not only disappointing, really, but it’s always unhygienic. Actually milk stools should be kept clean. It stands to reason that anything your hands were in contact with at milking time will affect milk cleanliness. You can’t pick up a plastic pail very easily without getting your hands dirty.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Time is always of the essence, and if you’re skilled with a chainsaw you can carve out a stool from the right piece of wood in a 1/2 hour. Then your degree of finish is up to you! Oak trees have an especially nice bow shape to their forks and very often 3 even branches stemming from the fork.

The legs can be refined and still retain tremendous strength. They can be beveled or chamfered to please the eye, and be readily gotten hold of and stored on a shelf or straddling a convenient beam in your barn. Best of all they are a product of your initiative, resourcefulness and vision. And they’re free!

Traditional Cloth Binding Method for Hard Cheese

In the next issue I will devote myself to making Wensleydale cheese for the main focus of the article, and so I’ve deemed it appropriate to cover the traditional method of clothbinding a hard cheese in this issue. So you will learn what’s involved, whether or not you wish to take it on, and what it requires:

You will need:

  • Lard, of second quality. But still pure and not rancid.
  • The cheapest unbleached muslin you can buy at the fabric store.
  • A pan to melt the lard in
  • Scissors
  • A wooden table, bench or plank as a work surface

We strive for smooth, clean crisp forms in our cheeses coming out of the press. First, because it’s such an act of skill and beauty, and second, because it eliminates waste and spoilage. A clean, unbroken skin is the best insurance against mold incursion and losses.

The cloth binding method of protection for your aging wheel of cheese is my choice because cheap muslin is the only expense, and you’ve got the perfect use for the old sow’s back fat. And the cloth is an excellent deterrent for vermin. Bear in mind that these long-aging cheeses we’re making here will have to weather months of varying conditions and challenges in the farm cellar. And the fact of the matter is, ideal and time and money consuming conditions are not necessarily available or appropriate in so far as a proportionate relationship to our modest resources. In other words, for stability’s sake we would tend to lean towards modest and simple solutions rather than complicated, expensive and technical ones. My notion is that if we really understand what we’re about, and we develop our hand skills and in turn our resourcefulness then we retain our stability and expand upon it.

In this particular case where we need a cool place to age our hard cheese we may well be faced with a farmhouse cellar which may leave a few things to be desired. We probably have flies. We probably have cobwebs and dirt. We very well may have mice.

  • coolness = good.
  • moisture = good.
  • darkness = good.
  • flies = no problem with cloth bound cheeses, plus fly paper works.
  • dirt = ok. Clean it up. Build rough plank shelving.
  • mice = not good! Will chew through cloth binding. Must build screen aging box and set traps.

Please! Do not get swept away with costly store-bought solutions if you are of modest means, especially. Just take the time to think it through, solve the problem before it happens, and be satisfied. (Martha, are you reading this?)

Back to the cloth binding:

Your wheel is out of the press standing on a clean board. Melt your lard – might as well melt a pound, although you won’t need that much – melt it at the lowest possible temperature and take it off the heat as soon as it’s liquid. Hot lard will not only deep fry the muslin (I speak from experience) but it runs too thin to coat the cloth and you will burn yourself on it.

From your muslin you will cut a circle for the top and one for the bottom with enough of a margin to hang over the sides of the cheese by an inch or two.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Dip the pieces in the just melted lard and apply to the cheese.

Now measure and cut a piece of muslin that will wrap around your cheese with a couple of inches of overlap, and will be wider than the cheese is tall by quite a margin. Dip this in the lard, and laying your cheese on its side, drape the muslin over it and carefully and tightly roll it up. Keep the cloth plastered well to your cheese and smooth out wrinkles.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Now gather the whole thing up and prepare to set it back down on its bottom by simply tucking the loose ends of the fabric under the cheese to set it down.

Begin to lay the top of the fabric over towards the center of the cheese, giving it a second covering and smoothing it down, fold by fold.

From the top, it should look like this:

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

Smooth it well, drive out the air and wrinkles. Make a pretty pattern.

Now flip it over and do the same with the bottom. All ready to go back in the hoop and back in the press for another 6 hours (minimum).

It’s a little like a greased pig contest (yeah a greased pig in a dress!) To slide it back into he hoop without it slipping out of your hands and/or slipping out of its dress! Patience and care – they do it every time!

Put the wooden follower back on, slide it into the press and exert a good amount of pressure for half a day or so.

After pressing, take the hoop, lay it on its side in the sink, pour enough hot water over it to heat up the hoop and then bang the cheese out of the hoop, onto a board. Use it as a centerpiece for supper tonight, then carry it off to the aging place. If the cloth has hitched up anywhere, pull it straight and pat it back down. Even 1 wheel per week all winter will produce plenty of cheese, all you’re likely to need in a year, and then some. What an achievement, what a monument to your cow, her milk, your hard work and care, and best of all, Mother Nature’s perfect bounty. That cheese will be nourishing, delicious and be the sum of soil, grass, sunshine, cow, calf, milk and you.

In the next issue I’ll focus on Wensleydale, a delicious hard cheese made with rich milk. Also how to build a screen box to keep the mice out. How to cut a hard cheese and how to care for a cut cheese in storage.

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

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Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Littlefield Notes Fall 2012

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Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

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The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

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The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

The First Year

The First Year

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Prior to last year, I had felt I knew the nuances of the land quite well and fancied myself as knowledgeable about the course of the natural world. Outdoors was where I felt the most comfortable. The fresh air and endless views of fields, hills and valleys renewed my spirit and refreshed my mind. I didn’t think there was much that could fluster me when it came to the land. Until I became an organic farmer.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

Useful Birds

Useful Birds

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Whether a bird is beneficial or injurious depends almost entirely upon what it eats. Birds are often accused of eating this or that product of cultivation, when an examination of the stomachs shows the accusation to be unfounded. Accordingly, the Biological Survey has conducted for some years past a systematic investigation of the food of those species which are most common about the farm and garden.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

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After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

English Sheaf Knots

English Sheaf Knots

Long ago when grain was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’ and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

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Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Small Farmer's Journal

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