Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair 2013

melton mowbray, cheese fair

 

Last weekend saw the return of the Melton Mowbray Cheese Fair (I’d link to the website but it still only has a list of last year’s exhibitors), it’s actually billed as the “artisan” cheese fair but many of the exhibitors could hardly be called artisan, Long Clawson for example makes over 6,700 tonnes of cheese a year and I’ve worked in one of the other cheese factories that were there and they are about as far from “artisan” as you can get.

Artisan: (from the Oxford English Dictionary)

noun

  • a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand.
  • [as modifier] (of food or drink) made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients: Britain’s artisan cheeses

There were much fewer cheese exhibitors this year, many of the artisan producers that were there last year were absent this time round bar a handful, but with the term “artisan” being used so loosely to include huge cheese manufacturers I don’t really blame them for wanting to distance themselves from something that devalues the true meaning of the word so carelessly.

I went along on the Sunday and was pretty shocked, not by the lack of small producers which I’d kinda expected but by the sheer rudeness of so many of the show’s visitors. It seemed entirely appropriate that it was held in a cattle market as people paid their £1 entrance fee many pushed and shoved and grabbed greedily at samples before just walking off. Everyone I spoke to in the days following the event said the same thing: “we saw people literally grabbing the knives off the tables and hacking lumps of cheese off from the producer’s tables and then just walking away.” It was depressing. Full credit to the traders though who I think must have all taken some super smiley pills because they were all incredible gracious and friendly in the face of such rudeness. I would have had people leaving my stall with toothpicks protruding from their eyes and hands after several hours of this so huge respect to all of them.

I gave up on moving around the stalls after my desire to whip out a cattle prod grew too intense and opted for a pint of Natterjack cider to calm me down, then an ale and watched the Melton Ukelele Orchestra who were absolutely ace, they played Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones and it totally made my day.

Things had quietened down a bit by then (perhaps the morris dancing had something to do with it) so I headed round the stalls to talk cheese. It was great to see David from Sparkenhoe there again (middle left on the picture above), THIS my friends is what Red Leicester is meant to taste like, its nutty, creamy, unpasturised and made on their farm using their own herd. Unsurprisingly the hands down flavour winners of the day were the unpasturised (raw milk) cheeses, of which I bought about 8 different ones (Keens cheddar, Chorlton smoked and unsmoked CheshireLaverstock buffalo mozzarella, Teifi’s Celtic promise, and 2 from the same producer whom I can’t remember the name of) which were all wonderful but my favourite of the day was Kent’s Winterdale Shaw which is Britain’s first carbon neutral cheese. Next time I’m down in Kent I’m going to head over to see them, they are a lovely family making great cheese using their own cows, just the kind of people and cheese that make this country’s food heritage something to be proud of.

There aren’t many photos to accompany this post as I pretty much just wanted to get out of there. It’s a real shame as it has the potential to be a good food fair, just drop the word Artisan or ONLY have true artisan products, get out of the cattle market and into a field with some marquees, have lots of other micro breweries, cider makers, artisan bakers, pie makers and celebrate food that is made with love and care and not forgetting MUCH more of the ukelele orchestra 🙂

Raw Milk – homemade mozzarella, ricotta and lots of other things!

People are divided over raw milk but I am a big fan and I am lucky enough to live near to Lubcloud Organic Dairy who not only sell raw milk but also have chosesn not to homogenise any of their products.  When I was little I had to be quick in the mornings getting to the milk bottles on the doorstep. The birds were wise to the sight of Malcolm, our milkman back on Anglesey, and would peck through the foil lids to get to the cream that had risen to the top of the bottle.  I always used to sneakily pour a glass of that amazing creamy milk before putting it back in the fridge as a reward for being good and bringing the bottles in!

These days milk is homogenised as standard, so the fat is evenly distributed and not only don’t you get that wonderful creamy layer at the top of your pint but you also don’t get those glorious little dots of fat on the inside of your glass.  Personally I think that the taste really suffers as a result of both pasteurisation and homogenisation so it’s no contest for me when it comes to flavour.

tiny dots of loveliness around the inside of the glass

Raw milk from an organic herd really can’t be beaten for flavour so I decided to see how many things I could make from 2 litres of the stuff.  I started with mozzarella…

A quick look around the internet and I found Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe for mozzarella and set to work.

The curds and whey quickly separated once the citric acid and rennet were added and the curds removed and left to drain. I should point out that this really does make your house smell like baby sick and it left me feeling quite dubious that something nice could be made from something that smelt so awful.  Nevertheless the curds were removed with a slotted spoon and left to drain for a bit in a sieve.

I wanted smallish balls of cheese, so the mozzarella curd was thickly sliced, put back into the hot whey then stretched and folded back on itself a few times before being rolled into balls and plunged into ice water.

Mozzarella on whey bread

still can't believe I made mozzarella so easily!

A quick shout out on Twitter for suggestions for the leftover whey brought a resounding call for ricotta.  Another quick look online for a really simple method resulted in me finding this method which seemed by far the easiest.

The remaining whey was strained through a coffee filter and left to drip in the fridge before being turned out onto a board.

I really couldn’t wait to try the ricotta, I wasn’t disappointed. I guess I’m used to bland, mass produced stuff because the flavour really took me by surprise – there was so much of it!  I was now really excited about my bumbling foray into the world of home cheese making.

So now I had my beautiful cheeses I needed some pizza dough to showcase them on.  I made a batch of plain and polenta flour dough using 650ml of the leftover whey.  I hadn’t intended to use polenta flour but I hardly had any other flour so substituted it in and from now on I will always do this as it was amazing!  It was about 1/3 polenta and made for a beautiful golden dough with great texture.  Fingers were crossed whilst the pizzas cooked that the mozzarella behaved as it should…

It worked perfectly! The mozzarella melted and oozed and developed a lovely brown crust and most importantly it tasted wonderful, I was so happy!

I then made a polenta and bread flour whey loaf…

This loaf was eaten almost immediately topped with salsa verde from The Good Fork’s deli box and was seriously good!

So what to do with the rest of the whey? I still had about 2 pints of it left.  Another shout out on Twitter went out.  I was told by @pukkapaki that whey is wonderful for the skin and hair so I made a homemade face pack and added a ladle of whey.

Whey facepack/cleanser or as Glen calls it "that hippy shit in a bowl"

Soothing/moisturising facepack:

  •  porridge oats
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 Detox tea bag (milk thistle, dandelion & green tea – tastes like crap but great in a facepack)
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1 ladle whey

Just mix them all and add more oats until you get a consistency you like then apply to a clean face and leave on for 10 – 15 minutes then remove with a warm cloth.  I’ve been so impressed with the effect that its had on my skin that I’m also using this as a cleanser morning and night as the porridge oats gently exfoliate the skin.  All of these wonderful beauty tips fall on deaf ears for my fella though who just calls it “that hippy shit in a bowl”.

*Update: from this morning (3 days later)

Glen: I wish you’d stop washing your face with porridge the bits get everywhere.

Me: It’s not porridge its a homemade face pack and cleanser dear.

Glen: It’s porridge with tea bags in it, you are essentially washing your face with breakfast.

Well he does have a point there but my skin is so soft and my rosacea is clearing up so breakfast face-washing will continue!*

I still had some more whey left so I decided to try Carl Legge’s suggestion of using it to lacto ferment vegetables and I gave Kimchee making a go.  It’s still fermenting away though so I’ll do a separate post on this when it’s ready.  The final bit of whey has gone to my chickens as a bit of a treat as it helps keep their eggshells hard and is a good all round tonic for poultry.

So from 2 litres of raw milk (which cost £2.40 delivered to my door) I made the most meltingly wonderful mozzarella, the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted, 2 wonderful pizzas, a loaf of delicious bread, lots of face pack/skin cleanser, Kimchee and a special dinner for the chickens, not bad going really.

*Thanks for all the lovely messages on Twitter/Facebook/here about raw milk, I am updating this post with a list of dairies (cow,sheep,goat) that offer raw milk, if you know any please let me know so I can add them*

Raw Milk Dairies:

East Midlands

Lubcloud Orgainic Dairy (cow) www.lubclouddairy.co.uk

The South East

Ellie’s Dairy (goat) www.elliesdairy.blogspot.co.uk