Day 8: “And the good news is you don’t even need your own cow”

Butter freshly made and rolled

Wednesday = Lecture day.

Today that meant a morning of all things dairy, followed by our second lecture on wine with Colm and Peter in the afternoon. Read: a day of wine and cheese. What an agenda! A food lovers dream. (I am really going to have to watch myself on the ‘amazings’ in this post. I can feel them coming on already )

All of this was kicked off with an 08:30 lecture on baking. Obviously. As you can imagine, it’s been a tough day.

8:30am = baking o’clock

After Darina whizzed through the quick baking demo of slices, tray bakes and other sweet delights (to be consumed at morning coffee break) we were introduced to Eddie O’Neill, an Artisan Dairy Food Technologist. Basically he seems to know a lot about all things dairy, bacteria, use-by-dates and cheese, cheese, cheese.

Ed pouring the milk into Milky, the cream and milk separator

Kicking off with separating the fresh jersey milk into cream and milk Ed, Darina and Emer (one of the super talented (and patient!) school teacher and demo chefs) took us on a whistle stop tour of how to make pretty much any and every dairy milk product you could possibly make at home. We started with butter and buttermilk, then went to cottage cheese, ricotta, yoghurt, labneh, paneer and gouda. Each of these base products was then turned into one or multiple recipes.

We had sweet deserts like Coeur a la Creme made with cottage cheese and fruit. Ricotta with cherries, olive oil and lemon. Srikhand, a sweet Indian pudding made from yoghurt with saffron and cardamom. Spicy labneh served in salads and preserved in oil. Salads with yoghurt based dressings. The bench in the demo kitchen quickly filled up with plate after delicious plate.

Whilst I eat a lot of cheese and am a self confessed yoghurt fiend, I’ve never made any of it at home. To be honest, I always thought you needed a lot of stuff (e.g. a cow) and didn’t understand pasteurisation, homogenisation, how you get all those million billion good bacteria into yoghurt without getting any of the bad ones in. Basically it just seemed too …hard.

But – it’s really not! Ok, some (like the gouda) were getting into more complicated territory, but the vast majority of what we saw and ate could easily be made at home with no extra equipment and just a few steps. And they tasted so much better! The cottage cheese is nothing (I repeat nothing!) like the watery, lumpy cottage cheese ones buys from the super market.

Unsurprisingly, the most important star of the show and thing to get right is the milk. So while having a herd of 7 jersey cows outside is obviously ideal… it’s not always possible. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t become your own cheese / butter / yoghurt maker. The trick is good quality milk. Ideally raw (as long as it’s from a farmer with a fastidiously clean track record) or if not, milk that has been pasteurised, but ideally not homogenised.

Darina and Tim bought cows because they wanted to bring their children and grandchildren up on raw milk. Unsurprisingly Darina is a huge advocate on the health benefit of raw milk, even though EU laws have made it virtually impossible to buy and sell due to health regulations. Packed with vitamins A, B, C and D, calcium and lots of good bacteria, Darina believes the decrease in raw milk consumption is related to the increase in allergies, asthma and osteoporosis, especially in young people. Not only that, the taste (apparently!) is sweeter and smoother. (I’ll get to find out when I’m on cow milking duty in the next few weeks.)

The demand for raw, unpasteurised milk is on the rise as more and more people want milk in its natural state. Apparently there are now milk bars selling raw milk opening up in Manhattan.

“We’ve had artisan bakers and micro breweries… I believe micro dairy farms are the next big thing” – Darina

Pasteurisation involves heading the milk to 63C for 30 mins to get rid of any harmful bacteria. Pasteurisation also gets rid of a lot of the good bacteria too… but is important if you don’t know the credentials of the farm it’s coming from. Homogenisation does something to the fat molecules: “disperses the cream through the milk by forcing it through small orifices at high pressure.” (Direct from my notes) Sounds unpleasant and very meddlesome. And means not only does the milk then feel different in your mouth but you also can’t use it to effectively make cheese. Boo.

Anyway, milk sussed, all else one seems to need is a big pot, some muslin (and maybe a thermometer) and butter, yoghurt, labneh, halloumi, marscapone, paneer and cottage cheese are all within relatively easy reach! Can’t wait.

The Coeur a la Creme. The highlight of the dairy-fest.

After an amazingly amazing lunch (truly it was and so deserves such a description) we sat down to wine lecture part deux.

Today we learnt a lot more about wine tasting techniques and the attributes of sight, aroma and taste. Did you know there are no taste buds in your throat? Hence why a lot of the most well known wine critiques and tasters use the ‘spittoon’. (Not an item I’m personally overly familiar with 🙂

We learnt about different flavours, acidity, tannin, sweet and dry and some of the common aroma and flavour pointers.  We have exams on wine and be marked for our wine and food pairing in our final exam meals. “It’s nice” or “It’s the bottle I happen to have at home” isn’t going to cut it.

Finally we also learnt a little ‘vine to wine.’ So how wine is made, from small artisan producers to larger scale wine making. Hand picking vs machine picking. Irrigation vs no irrigation. It was interesting again the techniques and attitudes towards these different techniques in the old world and new world wine regions.

Tasting wise we had:

  • A delicious 2014 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Framingham Estate
  • A possibly even more delicious 2014 Bourgogne Pinot Noir from Jean-Claude Regnaudot
  • And a pleasantly surprising 2013 desert wine, a Jurancon, Petit Manseng from Charles Hours. Pleasantly surprising because it was not too sickly, sweet but fresh. Definitely one to look out for again.

What a delicious day of learning, eating and drinking. We had a cosy fire tonight, it’s super cold outside and apparently snowing in Cork. Bring on 07.30am salad duty tomorrow morning. Hip hip!