Thursday, 24 May 2012

Workshop and Meeting Survey

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Monday, 23 April 2012

MSLG Mozzarella Workshops

by Gavin Webber

I find teaching people new skills exciting and very satisfying.  Saturday was no exception.  This workshop was offered to members of the Melton Sustainable Living Group and if we were desperate for numbers, it was going to be open to friends.  However it turned out to be so popular that we had 12 interested members within a week.  I offered my services for free and each student paid $15 to cover organic milk costs and ingredients.

As I mentioned in my last post, I split the workshop participants in half, and I taught two back to back mozzarella cheese making workshops, the first from 10am - 12pm, then a break and the next from 2pm - 4pm.  Both classes were fully booked, however we had a late cancellation for the first class.

You can see the setup below.  This is the undercover area just at the entrance to the house.  Nice and clean and out of the weather.

You can see six small camp stoves, rubber gloves, and clean tea towels to place their utensils onto.  Each potential cheese maker had to bring along a 6 litre pot, a 4 litre microwave proof bowl, a large spoon, an apron, and a vessel to take the finished cheese home in.

The first class of five went off without a hitch.  All class members took home some fresh organic mozzarella made with their own hands.  Not a single problem throughout the workshop.

Here is Amy looking sternly at her pot, making sure she was following her Dad's instructions.

Tammy was having a wow of a time, heating the milk up to the right temperature before we added the citric acid and lipase.

This is the second class that I taught after lunch.  Everyone was really excited during the workshop.  Left to right: Amy, Liz (our newest member), Tammy, Elyssa (out of shot), and back row, Amanda and David (out of shot).

This is after the rennet had been added and making sure the temperature was right.

This is one of the class members cutting their curd.  It looked a bit sloppy.

In fact it was very sloppy curds.  Maybe it was due to all the talking, or I got distracted somehow, but we ended up with one perfect mozzarella, and five bowls of ricotta!  No matter how hard we tried, we could not get the curds to set.  I made the call that we could not save it and just called it ricotta, so we strained it through cheese cloth and called it a day.  It still tasted really nice though and was still their first cheese attempt ever.

Tammy was the only one who ended up with the perfect mozzarella.  I could see that people were disappointed, however I figured out what went wrong.  It was two things really, firstly we did not wait long enough for the curds to set after the rennet was added, and secondly, we heated the cut curds too quickly.  Tammy was successful because she had a very heavy based pot which took ages to heat up, which gave the curds time to set properly.

Anyway, I felt upset that we did not get the correct end product, so I have offered everyone the chance to try again for free over the next few weekends.  If I make a promise that you will walk away with mozzarella, then I will do everything possible to make sure I keep that promise.  It was my fourth ever workshop and I was not going to disappoint them, or tarnish my perfect record.

Promises and results aside, everyone had a great time, an for those who did end up with ricotta, I have had glowing reports of its excellent taste and that it is now mostly consumed.  Amanda even made a baked ricotta following a recipe from!

I had a ball, and from all reports so did all of my budding cheese makers.  It always goes to show that it doesn't matter what happens when you make cheese, you always walk away with something nice to eat!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Autumn Harvest Festival

On Saturday, the Melton Sustainable Living Group had its monthly meeting, which also included a workshop about container gardening for renters, and the yearly harvest festival.  All members were encouraged to bring along stuff they have grown, preserved or made to swap or sell.  I took along this basket of goodies.

It contained 2 dozen home laid eggs, a jar of cherry jam, a jar of feijoa jam, some eggplants, a bunch of spring onions, two bags of grated Parmesan cheese, and 200gms of Komijnekass.  On the way past the garden I threw in 5 green and yellow capsicums (peppers), which filled up the basket.

Suffice to say, the meeting/workshop/harvest festival was good fun, and Stacey put on a great workshop.  Once it was time for tea and scones, the food swap started.  The eggs and cheese when straight away, as did the cherry jam.  I ended selling most of it, but swapped the spring onions for some ying and yang bean seeds, and the feijoa jam for a jar of plum jam with Michael.

Kim bought some tomato relish, and got given some bunches of herbs for drying (marjoram, rosemary, thyme).

We had a great day as did all of the members that came along.  Once again, a big thank you goes out to Stacey for being such a great host!

Gavin Webber
President MSLG Inc.