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Plein Air in Newmarket and the Art of Cheese

I moved into my new apartment in Newmarket and I knew I had to do some plein air paintings of the town. So this Saturday I went down to the waterside and set up my easel.

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I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to paint at first. There are a lot of interesting things in this little town. I decided to do a couple sketches and work out an idea.

I sketched a boat first.

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And then I looked to my left and sketched out the mill buildings that run along the tidal river.

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I eventually decided to go with the mill buildings because of their blocky shadows. I wanted to be able to get something quick and messy down on my little 8″x8″ canvas, but I also wanted to be able to have something recognizable after just one go through.

I spent about four hours out by the river. Thirty minutes of sketching and three and a half hours of painting. Though I originally intended it to just be a short little oil sketch, I might go back to this piece and see if I can work into it some more.

Now for something a little different…

The last several months I have been spending my late night minutes, the precious time I have before going to sleep, reading about cheese. The history. The chemistry. The cheese family tree. I’ve read through it all in Gianaclis Caldwell’s Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking.

Sorry if that sounds like an advertisement, but I’ve found myself drawn quickly into the cheese world and it’s all very exciting to me.

Last Saturday I finally set aside some time and made my first batch. I started with the easiest recipe. I didn’t have any culture available to use in the process, so I just made simple acid-coagulated cheese.¬†Basically, a ricotta.

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I tried to lay out and photograph all the items used in the process, but I wound up also using a few things not pictured here. The major one being a slotted spoon. I also should have turned a few things so they could be viewed better. The orange liquid is apple cider vinegar and the red capped shaker has salt in it. The square at the bottom is cheese cloth.

And all photo cred goes to my girlfriend.

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I like to make sure that everything is prepped and ready to go before I cook. I measure everything and set it all aside in individual bowls, spoons, and cups.

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And I’m always joined by one or two poodle helpers when I’m in the kitchen.

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Chese cloth is necessary for draining the whey from the curds. I precut mine to fit the colander.

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One whole gallon of milk went in the pot, the heat was turned up, and I was on my way to making cheese.

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I stirred constantly while boiling the milk in order not to burn it.

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Then I got to the exciting part. I added in the apple cider vinegar and the milk started breaking apart into curds and whey! It’s a hard thing to describe. The curds seemed to appear from nothingness. travel-09

The thick chunks were curds and the milky yellow was the whey.

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Once the separation was complete, I drained the contents of the pot through the cheese cloth and colander. Though I scooped the large chunks out first to make it easier

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Then I compressed and mixed the curds.

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A little salt went into the mix.

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Then I ringed it out and formed the cheese into a ball. I could’ve left them loose and served it like it was, but I wanted to attempt to make a solid wheel.

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Because I didn’t have a cheese press, I had to improvise. First I pushed it around into a basic wheel shape.

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Then I folded the cheesecloth tightly, tucking the ends underneath.

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Then I began the stacking process.

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I used whatever I could find for weight.

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An hour later it was all pressed and ready to be wrapped and refrigerated.

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I couldn’t just leave the cheese in the refrigerator and not test it out, so after a quick chill I went about preparing it for a snack.

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I wanted to fry the cheese and make something similar to paneer. This required cutting it into 1 inch cubes.

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I pan fried the cheese with a little olive oil. In fact, I used a little too much oil. Oops. Something to keep in mind next time.

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The oil was popping all over the place, so I used tongs to give myself distance. Oil burns are no fun.

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The final result was a cheese with a crunchy exterior and a soft, smooth interior. It was a good snack and a good recipe for those who are not too into strong cheese. The taste was quite faint.

I’m hoping that since I will have more personal time in the coming months that I’ll be able to post more about both art and cheese.

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