Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloumi - the real story

I think it's time I tell the real story of how the halloumi in my last blog post was made.

Step one - I woke up about half an hour later than usual, on my day off, planning to make cheese. "Should take about three hours start to finish". Did morning barn chores and made sure I had all the ingredients.

Made the kid breakfast. Started to make a cup of coffee. Good thing I didn't get far.

Phone alarm - oh, yeah, fasting blood test day. Starting with a cholesterol test seems like a bad omen for cheese making but what the heck. I hurry off to the lab.

Severe caffeine withdrawal. Fasting blood tests always do this to me. One hour coffee break.

Phone alarm goes off - oh, yeah, I was going to help recharter the scout pack today. Two hour meeting. Meet three great dogs, a parrot and the fabulous woman who cares for them and who wants to do a lot of paperwork to help scouts! Bless her heart. Rechartering is well in hand.

I return home and eat the last of the homemade crusty bread. You are not supposed to start bread and make cheese on the same day but I sometimes do anyway. This is a day when I do. The kitchen is warm, and I open the back door.

Meggie, the goat, who is normally very calm, is all of a sudden very loud. I go back to check. She's in heat! She's looking around for a male goat, and freaking out because there aren't any. She is so needy. Lightning is not in heat, but she's needy too.
Meggie and Lightening hoping for some attention

I tear myself away from the needy goats and go inside. Start to warm up milk. It is now 11:30. Check facebook. Oh, everyone is all worked up about some election thing. Get involved. Milk is over-warm. Add a little cool milk and hope that's an OK strategy.

Add calcium chloride and rennet. Eat lunch while the cheese sets. Cut curd right after lunch. Stir. Phone call from work. There are just one or two things I have to do today - they just won't wait till two days from now when I'm back in the office.

Meggie won't stop crying. I go out and check on her. She's fine.

Oh, my the ducks are cute.

Pikachu, the new drake, is such a sweety.

Their water is filthy. Gross. I throw it out and clean all the bowls. Actually, every one's food dish is overdue for a scrub. I gather them all and bring them inside.

The curds have sat at least fifteen minutes too long. I hope this is OK. It's actually going to be closer to thirty minutes too long because I need to clean up after being out in the duck mess.

It is close to two. The kid gets home from school; Fridays are early release day. He is making a costume for Halloween. He says he won't need any help.

I put the curds in a bag to press. Get a weight and - the phone rings, and the name that flashes up is my uncle. He never calls. OMG, maybe someone died!!! No - it's a planning call for a family event. In the long gaps between phone calls, I always forget what a kind gentleman my uncle is. So considerate and mannered. Always fun to chat with. Meanwhile, the curd is sitting there. This is probably not a problem.

Actually, my kid does need help with his costume. He accidentally glued the wrong side of everything. We become a gluey mess. Luckily, I know how to get glue off my hands. You rub them in dirt and it peels right off. Then of course you wash.

I return and put weight on the curd. I decide (randomly) to season all my cast iron, since I happen to be in the kitchen anyway. Heat up all my iron pans. The weight falls off the cheese, about half the whey is spilled on the counter and floor.

Kid needs help with his costume. This time he wants to paint the body and needs help turning the basement into a painting studio.

I clean up the floor. Take out iron pan to oil. Burn hand. I shape the bread loaves, since the oven's already hot.

It is now five o'clock. I check the recipe. I had somehow thought the cheese took a total of 45 minutes press time. Wrong. 6 hours. I realize I will be up till midnight at best.

There is a Halloween party at the school in one hour. The costume is not ready. Briefly we debate whether it can be painted and dry - which is patently ridiculous, but in light of my inability to self-schedule, I am cutting my kid a lot of slack in his own plan-making. We mutually decide not to paint it. It is too late to bake the bread. I turn off the oven and we run out the door.

I preemptively decide the cheese can press for two hours before the event and four hours after we come home, instead of three and three.

It's a great party. I was signed up to run the bouncy house from 6:15 to 7:30 but when I got there, they switched me to 7:30 - 8:30. I lose my voice. We have fun. A guy who lives in the neighborhood has his driveway blocked in by an inconsiderate parent. While we wait for them to move their car, we chat and i get to know another member of my community. A plane flies low over the dark, misty parking lot as we head home. It's later than I expected.
I need to learn how to take nigh time pictures! This was pretty cool in real life.

We come home and I flip cheese, replace weight and go take care of the animals. Eat dinner. It is now a bit after ten. Put kid to bed. Reshape the forgotten bread dough and heat the oven. Sometimes bread is OK when you do this. Ask me how I know.

I can't decide whether to nap or stay up while the cheese poaches for an hour and then cools for 45 minutes before being brined. But if I nap, I will forget to take the bread out and that will definitely ruin it.

I decide to stay up and write blog where I totally fake this ideal cheese making experience. It isn't totally fake because I have made halloumi before and had it go as smoothly as all that. Seriously, there have been times. But today was not one of them. And as I was writing, David said something about a very famous athlete who lied about steroid use, and I heard myself say "Well, there had to be a moment when he knew he had used steroids, and he knew he was lying. And that's wrong".

Then I knew I had to sit down and write a retraction of the "oh, I'm such a perfect urban farmer, here's this epic cheese making day I just had in my perfectly coordinated home" story. I did have a great day, and in a very fragmented way, I accomplished quite a bit. But it was not idyllic, it was real. And, to spare you any undue distress, let me add that the halloumi actually turned out great. That is the real reason it's my favorite cheese. It is very forgiving. It seems to know about days that get out of hand.

Shared on : cheesepalooza, Simple Lives Thursday
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