First Official Weekend as a Cheese Maker at Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese!

This past weekend I took my first steps on my journey as a “Professional” Cheese Maker, and spent two days making cheese an hour outside of Edmonton at Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese.  Saturday was a semi-firm cheese day and Sunday was a Brie day (thankfully I was not the lead on that make).  All my pictures are from the make on Saturday and a few from Sunday, unfortunately I did not get any pictures from the Brie make as I was the student and I was more focused on learning the Smoky Valley way of making the Brie.  Here is how my weekend went:

Saturday – Edgar, Elizabeth, Cardiff or Bring You Mould To Work Day.

Saturday started early, I made the hour trek out to the farm, music blaring in my Jeep, all the time singing along with the music.  The drive is relatively easy and quiet that early in the morning and the scenery is nice.  I arrived then had a coffee with Leslie and Alex and then got into the cheese room and started the cleaning regiment.  If you think it is a pain to clean up just to make cheese at home, take that and multiply that cleaning by 1000.  We cleaned all the surfaces then moved on to the draining table and all the moulds.   Cleaning is one of the most important parts of the daily routine, one of the things that you could get in trouble with the health inspector.  One that was done we moved on to washing some of the cheese.  The szendi-moon, a honey & lavender rubbed cheese, had to be cleaned up so it could be coated and ready for market.  The Gruyère style cheese that we made on April 7th with the previous cheese making class had to be brushed.   All this was going on while we were brining the milk to temperature and then we had the milk ripening.  Then after we added the rennet it was time to have lunch while the curd set, then we could check for a clean break and begin.

Time to open the lid of the Vat and Check
Time to open the lid of the Vat and Check
Well it looks good, but will there be a "clean break"
Well it looks good, but will there be a “clean break”

So as you can see it was time to put on the cutting harps and then cut the curd

Almost finished cutting the curd
Almost finished cutting the curd

Next I worked the curd by had to get it to the right texture, that took almost an hour as we raised the temperature slowly.  Then came the draining and time to cheddar the curds.  We laid out the curd in the bottom of the vat, then cut it into smaller slabs.

The curd after the first 10 minutes of cheddaring.
The curd after the first 10 minutes of cheddaring.

It was now time to check for the first flip of the curd, eventually the curd will be stacked and then milled after some time and the texture is right.

After all that we divided the   milled curd into 3 batches.  One batch of curd would be soaked in a locally produced red wine (To be named Edgar after Leslie’s Father), One with a locally produced honey mead (Do be called Elizabeth after Leslie’s Mother), the other would get a mix of sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and chives (to be called Cardiff).  Then it was time to clean again, I scrubbed and cleaned the vat and lids while the curd soaked.  I called it “Bring your mould to work day” because I brought one of my cheese moulds from home.  It was one I got for my Birthday, and I have yet to use it so this was a great opportunity.

After we hooped the cheese we then put the moulds in for a long press and called it a day.  Alex would come out in 6 hours to flip the cheese, redress the cheesecloth and then call it a night.  I had to be there again bright an early because Sunday was Brie Day!

Sunday – Birth of Bo Go Double Cream Brie and Un-Moulding the Family.

Traffic was extremely light on the way out to the farm, if it wasn’t for the fact I left a little later than I had wanted to you I would have stopped and taken pictures of the some of the misty scenery.  I arrived and we had to get ready right away.  We transferred the milk to the vat and started to pasteurize the milk.  I know you are say wait I thought you make raw milk cheese?  Yes we do, but by law any cheese that is aged lest than 60 days (which most soft cheeses are) have to be made with pasteurized milk.  It was an education on how to pasteurize and to how to cool down the milk after the process.  While that was going on we had to un-mould yesterday’s cheeses and get them into the ageing rooms.  Then we had to…you guessed it continue cleaning.

This is the "Edgar" which was pressed in my mould.
This is the “Edgar” which was pressed in my mould.
I love the marbling.
I love the marbling.
The Elizabeth does not have  visible marbling, but smells amazing even at this age.
The Elizabeth does not have visible marbling, but smells amazing even at this age.
We also did up some little ones.
We also did up some little ones.
These are Cardiff's, named after Cardiff, Alberta.
These are Cardiff’s, named after Cardiff, Alberta.

After the pasteurising was done we added the extra cream to the Cow and Goat Milk combination and then mixed it thoroughly.  I then learned the Smoky Valley way of making Brie.  It was a lot of waiting to be honest.  We added the culture then the rennet and then waited an hour for the set, it was not a firm as we wanted to we waited another hour.  It was still soft, probably due to the cream.  We then cut the curd and stirred gently for a bit.  The curd did seem to firm up to where we wanted it to be, still soft but not as soft as to run out of the hoops.  We then  hooped the curd and had them on the draining  table draining.  If all works well we should get 75 to 90 Brie out of this batch.  Ihelped Leslie with flipping the Brie two times before I had to leave for the day.  What a weekend, I learned so much that I did not know about producing cheese on a large-scale.

Next weekend I will be at the Edmonton City Hall Market selling Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese, If you are in the area stop by and say hi, try some cheese, buy some cheese.

The next Cheese Making Day will be May 19, which is the Cheese Making Class.  We have had some cancellations, so we do have room for more people.  For more information go to the Cheese Making Classes page

I will have some extra pictures up on Much To Do About Cheese’s Facebook page.

Go make some cheese!

6 Comments on “First Official Weekend as a Cheese Maker at Smoky Valley Artisan Cheese!

    • Thank you Rebecca, we made a test batch a few weeks ago. The Edgar will darken up quite a bit from there. I like the marbling on it, I hope they turn out well as the Edgar and the Elizabeth are tributes to one of the owner’s parents.

  1. The cheeses sound divine! I hope that Smoky Valley will find some cheeses that become regulars and consistent. I am really missing this. I cannot wait to taste both of these. What is in the Cardiff? You didn’t describe that one.How many big rounds did you make (how big were they) from the 300 litre vat?

    • They smell divine, as I mentioned they are Leslie’s personal tribute to her parents who have passed. ” the other would get a mix of sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and chives (to be called Cardiff).” We did one each of Edgar and Elizabeth will come in about 3.5 – 3.9 kg, the smaller Cardiff will be about be about 2 kg a piece. The smaller ones will be about 500g to 750g. There was one Edgar that will be about 1kg.

      The average yield for cows milk on any amount of milk, for semi-firm cheese, is anywhere between 10% (almost always) to 12% (on a good day, moon and stars aligned properly). There is a formula that you can use if you know the protein % and the fat % to get the estimated yield. We can get at least 30kg for every 300L. If you compare that to Sheep Milk, where the cheese yield is between 18% to 25% depending on breed, and Goat which is about 9%-10% yield, again factoring in the breed.

  2. These photos are great-it makes me want to be making more cheese NOW! I’ve often wondered about soaking cheeses in alchol. Do you soak it at the drained curd stage or after pressing (or can both work)?

    • Go make some cheese now, quickly,, Both methods will work. You can soak your cheese after pressing, but it generally only affects the rind and does not go into the paste of the cheese. We soaked the curd, after cheddaring and milling, in warm wine. It gave us great marbling and given our test batch we did a few weeks ago, it should darken up. The key thing is to still salt the curd after milling the curd, then you soak it in the wine.

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