Sunday, 20 May 2012

I go to Gubbeen

As some of you know, I have been staying at Gubbeen farmhouse where I've been working and learning about cheese.  This estate in Schull is owned by Tom and Giana Ferguson who were extremely kind in taking me on (without knowing or meeting me!) for the first 2 weeks of experience and now having me back to work for 2 months.  It's one of those magical places where there's always something going on - or someone visiting, or an event coming up... Everyone here is very friendly and has many interests and skills and if I pay attention I may pick up a few more tricks.  Tom and Giana have 3 children - Fingle, Clovisse and Rosie.  Fingle runs the Smokehouse nextdoor and butchers the pigs and makes sausages, salamis, chorizos etc and Clovisse runs the vegie/herb gardens (amazing salads available here!!!) and Rosie runs the packing and distribution of the cheeses and helps out on the farm if needs be.  This is an amazing family.

Getting back to me :-)
My days are made up of:
cleaning cheese moulds, and helping arrange them ready for filling
lifting the curd out of the vat to fill the smaller moulds
turning the cheeses in their moulds
putting them into their brine baths
taking them out
lipping the cheese
cleaning up afterwards
waxing the cheese and sometimes even packing it

The lipping is simply scraping off the 'lip' which forms on some of the cheeses from the moulds - like an edge sticking up when it shouldn't, so we scrape it off.
Waxing is simply waxing the smoked cheeses to keep in that flavour.

I've been following Rose around - Rose is the cheese-maker here and is responsible for actually making sure the cheese is made correctly (ie. the right culture is added and right measure of rennet and the curd is removed to the moulds at the correct time).

Vat 1 filled with milk, culture and rennet and is setting

Cheese in their salty brine baths

This is used to scoop out the curds from the vats and fill the moulds

Rose checking up on the temperature of the milk

The moulds are set up for efficient filling
 Each day's work is slightly different and I've found that Monday and Tuesday are the busiest cheese-making days.  My first few days here were exhausting and I found it very hard to pull myself out of bed!  My head spun from the information overload, I wasn't used to a physical job and then suddenly bam! there I was faced with making over 400 moulds of cheese!  I found that things started to make a lot more sense in my second week - for instance why they counted the moulds and set them up on the tables as they do, why Rose keeps checking the temperature of the cheese and why it was necessary to rinse the curd with hot water (temperature control is a very important aspect of cheese-making as a type of fermentation is used here and with all fermentation temperature is a big factor).

There is also a very scientific side to cheese-making which I have yet to read up on - sorry if you were hoping for a cheese recipe here, maybe next time as Giana's just offered to do an afternoon of cheese-making including ricotta and yoghurt!

If you'd like to check out their website it's and it has more information about the farm-side of things as well as a bit about the history of Gubbeen.

Ps. I've been out to drinks once in the local pub when there was a local jazz festival - heaps of fun and very busy!  This week there's a film festival in Schull so we'll be heading down to check it out, and a few birthdays so it will be busy.