Smoky Valley Thanksgiving Cheese Adventure

Our Smoky Valley Cheese Making Group with Alex

Well better late than never should be the title of this post or Ian gets to play cheese maker part II, but in reality it is Addie, Diana and my Excellent Cheese Adventure or bringing Callingwood into existence.  It was a cool morning when the three of us met to head out to Smoky Valley to help Leslie and Alex with a day of cheese making and for Diana it was her first time coming out with us so we were excited for her too.  Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese/Goat Cheese is about an hour and 15 minutes from Edmonton and it is a nice drive with some great farm/agriculture scenery along the way.

Leslie and Alex are great hosts, when we arrived the coffee was already on and even though their water heater had gone in the house, they provided a light snack for us, augmented by Addie’s wonderful pumpkin bread and some of my home-made almost 1 year old cheddar.  It was a great time for introductions and cheese talk.  Then it was time to head over to cheese room and make some cheese.

First thing after changing into our cheese making garb, we helped to prep the first batch of Cow’s Milk Brie that they have done to go into the ageing ripening room and await their lovely coats of white to appear.  Next up was to help mould and drain some semi-lactic cheeses that they had ripening for 12 hours.  We loaded up the moulds they normally use for St. Maure’s and Valencay with the curd from the large food safe containers that they have for just such things.  It was a very wet and messy process, but so rewarding to help out with it.  We filled over 100 moulds and left them to drain on the ripening/draining table, we also had enough curd left over to put into two of the draining bags they use for their Chèvre and hung them to drain as well.  I am so excited for Leslie and Alex and hope their clientèle really take to these new takes on their cheese.  They will still be making goat cheese but not as often.

Getting the curd out of the ripening container for the new semi-lactics

Next it was our time to make a new cheese.  I was nervous as I was showing everyone how to make my version of Caerphilly, not only because I sometimes I feel like I know nothing about cheese making and teaching professionals how to make a cheese seemed like I was getting too big for my britches, but if they liked the cheese there was the possibility that something that I created could be sold and I really want Smoky Valley to succeed.  The other issue was that we had to scale my 15 Litre version to 150 Litres.  Luckily Leslie has a cheese that is similar and uses the same cultures so we used that as a basis for the amounts.  It was an interesting and educational day as Addie and I learned how they transfer the milk from the holding tank to the vat as well as the rules that govern how it can be done.  We heated the milk to the correct temperature and added the cultures and waited the almost one hour for ripening.  Then it was time to add rennet, we tried a new type of rennet that they had just purchased so by now it was time to do some cleaning around the make room and flip some of the moulds etc. and go for coffee.  We came back to see that the curd had not set at all.  This was interesting I have never had this happen before, we added a bit more rennet, and Alex said he had the same problem with the Brie make the night before and added rennet as well.  Time will tell what the results will be.  We decided to break for lunch and let the rennet continue working.

After Lunch we came back to a nice clean break, so on went the harps and the curd was cut.  We then raised the temp and we worked the curd by hand for about 30 minutes.  Honestly that is one of the most rewarding feelings.

Diana taking her turn working the curd.
Curds and Whey anyone?

We then let the curd settle for 45 minutes and then drained the whey.  The ripening table was being used for draining the other cheeses so we cheddared in the vat.  I cut the big slab of cheese into smaller sections and then flipped after 10 minutes.  Then after another 10 minutes I stacked 1 half of the slabs on top of the other half.  Then fipped them after ten minutes, then stacked them again and flipped again.  Finally we had two stacks that looked like boiled chicken breasts, it was time to mill or break up the curd.  This sounds like we wasted all the effort we did with the cheddaring, but it is so worth it.  We milled the curd by hand, breaking it into thumb size pieces then we salted the curd. After that it was into the moulds and then pressing.  There were some curd left over and they we divided amongst ourselves as a treat.

The day’s work and some cheese for us to take home with us.

I will have to wait to see the results of our efforts, but Leslie says they are coming along well in the ripening room.  I suggested calling them Callingwood after one of the farmer’s markets they go to every summer.  Leslie thinks she may us ARN on one of the cheeses to develop a nice red rind, I suggested calling that one Redwater, a town just down the road from them.  Both should be ready in December and I can’t wait.

Alex and Leslie are amazing hosts

**Note all pictures are from Diana as I had 3 cameras with me and did not take a single picture.  Yes I know stop looking at me that way.

Leslie and Alex mentioned that they want to do more cheese making sessions , about 8 people max, contact them via email

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