Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Through my friends Iva and Kevin, I have recently gotten a source for raw goat's milk. A few months back, I got my first batch and used it to whip up a goat version of Camembert. It turned out fine, and it was very exciting that I finally had the chance to get real curds from goat milk. The goat milk that I had previously used was from the store and ultra-Pasteurized. I could only use it to make soft cheeses, and then only with difficulty.

As happy as I was to be able to use it for making Camembert, the results were not as exciting as I would have liked. The raw bovine milk that I typically use just tastes better in the final product. Late last summer I was reading through one of my cheese cookbooks and found an interesting recipe for a goat cheese called Valençay. About a month ago the opportunity arose to get more raw goat's milk, so I thought I'd give it a try.

There were several features of Valençay that intrigued me. The cheese is made in pyramid-shaped molds (which I had to buy), and uses food-grade ash (which I also had to buy). The rennet is added to the milk at room temperature, so the milk has to incubate for a long time- overnight- before the curds have fully formed. The curds are not cut as they are with most of the other cheeses I have made. Rather, some of the whey is decanted off of the top, then thin slices are cut from the curd and piled into the molds. After two days, the newly-formed cheeses are unmolded and the surface dusted with ash.

The ash serves several purposes. It inhibits the growth of unwanted bacteria, it promotes the growth of the desired white Penicillium mold, and it helps firm the surface of what is otherwise an extremely soft cheese.

The aging process is relatively short for Valençay- just 2 weeks. We opened the first one the other evening, and I was really pleased with the results. It's very different from any of the other cheeses that I have previously tried to make. It had a great flavor, the texture was wonderfully soft and creamy, and it's a very pretty cheese. Leon loved it. I predict that this one will go into my regular cheese-making rotation.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Five Things

I've been shorthanded at work for the last month and a half- hence my lack of posting. In celebration of National Coming Out Day (tomorrow!) I have previously blogged about my own coming out- but I've now told most of that story (the bits of the story are here, here, and here. UrSpo recently did a post that serves nicely as a meme appropriate for a day dedicated to honesty in identity. The question is simple:

What five things would you pick to symbolize yourself?

1. Leon. This should surprise nobody. I have spent over half my life with the man. He has helped me to become the man I am today and my life would be greatly impoverished without him.

2. A butterfly net. Butterflies have at various times of my life been my hobby or my career, but they have always been my passion. Most people who know me strongly associate me with them. My current net has accompanied me across the country, and to many exotic places including Ecuador, Malaysia and Mexico, so it also represents my love of travel.

3. Home made cheese. Although a relatively recent interest, cheese making represents a lot of what I like about food and cooking. The end result is something that I really enjoy sharing with family and friends. For me, cheese making appeals to both head and heart. My heart responds to the nurturing aspects of making something good for people who mean a lot to me. For a while I was teaching the process to a friend and felt similarly about that experience. My head really enjoys the chemistry involved.

4. A Spo-shirt. This object is really about friendship. UrSpo makes fabulous Hawaiian-style shirts, and I am the proud recipient of several of these. A handmade gift such as this (or, for example, jam or tomatillo salsa) is a beautiful expression of friendship. I choose this item both as a specific emblem of my friendship with Spo and as a more general symbol of the importance of friendship in my life.

5. Bluff Spring Fen. I got the Fen at about the same time that I got Leon. It has been a joint project and a labor of love for nearly thirty years now. I would have had no idea when I started volunteering there, but the fen has influenced huge parts of my life: where I live, my job, my marriage. As with all great loves it has been the source of both joy and heartache. My decision to become involved remains one of the most fulfilling transformative experiences of my life.

Happy Coming Out Day to all!

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