Recently I had the opportunity to visit a small local farm and milk a cow. Now, before you ask, no, it's not on my bucket list of things to do. Honestly, I don't have one. Just get 'er done when you can.
The owner of the farm is fellow foodie. He put out the word that he was offering sessions at his farm, where you would have the opportunity (for a reasonable fee) to milk a cow, then make some fresh cheese. As a parting gift, I also got to bring home a free range chicken (frozen of course).
I arrived early on a Sunday morning - (thankfully it was the morning after the time change, so I got an extra hour of shut-eye) and my host Bruce greeted me at the door. Wearing my Wellingtons, we headed off to the pen where the cows were. There were two Jersey cows in there. One was very friendly and kept licking my jacket, my jeans, my hands - like a big puppy with big brown eyes (above right). Bruce got down and showed me the technique. The udders were warmer than I thought they would be and the skin was softer than I thought it would be (obviously I had all sorts of preconceived notions about cow anatomy). After a couple of dribbling attempts, I got the hang of it and the milk was flowing - success! After a couple of minutes, Bruce rescued me and attached the milking machine, which made quick work of what could have been a 2 hour task, if left to my own devices. No, I don't have a picture of me milking, you'll just have to take my word for it.
We brought the warm milk inside, strained it then passed it through a separator (basically a large centrifuge) to separate the milk from the cream. The cream looked thick and rich. I don't think I have ever seen milk this fresh - I'm sure that cream would make some tasty butter!
|The separator doing its thing|
|Straining milk for the cheese|
Bruce used a recipe he has relied on before, to make the mozzarella (from the book 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes). I have made mozzarella before, but with this milk (different type of cow probably contributed as well) the colour of the cheese was much richer than the almost snow white mozzarella I've made. I did learn a couple of things that I will try in my own attempts next time. One thing I would like to do next time, is to put the mozzarella in a brine to make some bocconcini.
|The curd forming, at the right temperature|
|A little further along, the curd firmer|
|Using the microwave to heat the curd and strain off the whey|
|Heavy duty gloves to handle the hot cheese - in this state, it is easy to manipulate|