Small Farmer's Journal

or Subscribe
The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

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

by Suzanne Lupien of Thetford Center, VT

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:

SmallFarmersJournal.com is a live, ever-changing subscription website. To gain access to all the content on this site, subscribe for just $5 per month. If you are not completely satisfied, cancel at any time. Here at your own convenience you can access past articles from Small Farmer's Journal's first forty years and all of the brand new content of new issues. You will also find posts of complete equipment manuals, a wide assortment of valuable ads, a vibrant events calendar, and up to the minute small farm news bulletins. The site features weather forecasts for your own area, moon phase calendaring for farm decisions, recipes, and loads of miscellaneous information.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

by:
from issue:

Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

by:
from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Beautiful Grasses

What follow are a series of magnificent hundred-year old botanist’s watercolors depicting several useful grass varieties. Artworks such as this are found on the pages of Small Farmer’s Journal quite regularly and may be part of the reason that the small farm world considers this unusual magazine to be one of the world’s periodical gold standards.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

by:
from issue:

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.

What We've Learned From Compost

What We’ve Learned From Compost

by:
from issue:

Our compost piles will age for at least a year before being added to the garden. We have learned that the slow aging is more beneficial to the decomposition process as well as not losing nearly as much nitrogen to off-gassing as happens with the hot and fast methods. Another benefit is the decomposition is much more thorough, destroying weed seeds, pathogens and any unwanted chemicals much better in a slower composting setup.

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by:
from issue:

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.

Walki Biodegradable Mulching Paper

New Biodegradable Mulching Paper

Views of any and all modern farming stir questions for me. The most common wonder for me has been ‘how come we haven’t come up with a something to replace plastic?’ It’s used for cold frames, hotbeds, greenhouses, silage and haylage bagging and it is used for mulch. That’s why when I read of this new Swedish innovation in specialized paper mulching I got the itch to scratch and learn more. What follows is what we know. We’d like to know more. LRM

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

by:
from issue:

The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Peach

Peach

by:
from issue:

The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

by:
from issue:

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.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Journal Guide