Blessed are the cheesemakers. That Monty Python “Life of Brian” line was firmly in my mind as I walked away from a three-hour cheesemaking workshop on the weekend feeling one with nature.
Thanks to Elisabeth Fekonia from Permaculture Produce I now know how to grow my organic produce to make brie cheese which I could then spread over my home-made sourdough bread.
The art of cheesemaking was presented as a simple few steps from start to finish, with tips on the best milk, what utensils to use and the passion of a teacher that is practical and enthusiastic.
Not that cheese making is a quick process. There can be a lot of waiting time for things to happen. But if you are prepared to be patient you can produce delicious brie for a lot less than the $13 I paid at Woolies after the lesson.
With a passion for growing and making everything she consumes Elisabeth’s mantra throughout the morning was “Be your own teacher from nature”.
This is from a woman who is self taught and speaks of food in a scientific way. The depths of her knowledge was enlightening.
Her opening question to the class of over 50s was “What is it like inside your fridge?”, which resulted in head turns and gasps.
You see, we need to be mindful that we are surrounded by bacterias good and bad everywhere.
So after some curdling tips we were advised that it will now be a wait of up to 6 weeks to grow that lovely white mould around your cheese.
Did you know that mould is a natural antibiotic? Well I do now, and maybe that’s why I never need take the pills as I consume too much cheese.
During the mould growing process, Elisabeth told us to “observe and nurture your cheese”. The wait will kill me, but to keep us all focused we were all treated to one of Elisabeth’s home made brie and sourdough. Truly delicious.
The theory that sourdough was made from a starter with a rich history going back to early 1900s France was squashed at the start with Elisabeth encouraging us to just “whip one up yourself with flour and water…what can be easier”. And it was.
Again, the lesson on making sourdough was a science and when told that we are just playing with life and there was nothing to be afraid of I said to myself: “Well of course, easy”.
Volunteers from the group were asked to get their hands dirty kneading dough which looked very therapeutic and made me wish I had put my hand up.
Elizabeth’s quirky personality and contagious laugh was on display throughout the morning and she really made the art of cheese and sourdough making seem very simple.
The best quote of the day was “do you ever wake up at 3am in the morning and ask yourself if you have seeds in my diet?. Well, the answer is “No” but Elizabeth does and that is wonderful.
OTHER THINGS I LEARNT
- Brie is the softness of the hard cheeses,
- Focus on hygiene and responsibility as cheesemakers,
- Use full cream pasteurised milk only (Jersey milk preferably),
- Sheep milk in Australia, particularly our region is not clean enough for consumption. One word ‘worms’,
- No need to spend on expensive utensils and baking bits and pieces. A shopping bag can even become handy for temperature modification in the fridge during the mould growing process,
- Sourdough takes 1 hour to make,
- Carob makes sourdough bread look brown,
- The bacteria in sourdough breaks down gluten,
- I will never make cheese or sourdough at home but wish I had the time and energy.
To book a workshop with Elisabeth visit her website