Life on a Farm: Milking Sheep, Making Cheese. Part 2

My trip to the farm continued…

Thanks for coming back to read the second part of my blog post about my trip to La Moutonniere. Lets continue with day #3!!

Lucille, Straining fresh Ricotta!

Day 3:
I awoke again, super-early to head over to the Fromagerie to make cheese with Lucille. Today we were going to be finishing off the Ricotta started the night before and making the Fromagerie staple, Bleu de la Moutonniere! When I arrived at the plant, Lucille was busy preparing the milk for cheese making and the vat of ricotta was being rapidly heated. Once the vat reached the desired temperature and bubbled about for a little while, it was time to scoop it out and strain it. It was amazing to see the snow-white curd floating atop the vat of excess whey and it came out smelling warm and salty. We scooped away until the whole vat was emptied and the large cloth bags Lucille held open were full as could be!

Cutting Curd for Bleu de la Moutonniere!

Next up was making Bleu de la Moutonniere. This process started similarly to the day before. We waited for the milk to coagulate and once it was done so, the curd was cut. Then came the first change in cheese making. Today, the curd was cut into small cubes as opposed to tiny, uneven spheres. Making blue cheese requires a few changes from the firm cheese we had produced the day before. The curd is cut into larger cubes, then aerated on a large tray and finally packed loosely into moulds, in order to provide spaces where mould growth would be promoted. Once the whole vat had been dissected, I was privy to a new experiment. A new machine  was being test driven to pipe out the curd cubes, air them out along a conveyor belt and the plop them into waiting moulds. The experiment was mostly successful, however, a few required tweaks made us revert back to the hand-scooped method.

Scooping Curd into Moulds

We hauled out the huge amount of curd onto a cloth-covered table and then scooped the curd into moulds. Once we were done and cleaned I was given the task of turning and salting cheese that was residing in the aging cave. I took a tablespoon of salt and rubbed it all over each of the cheeses ready for a flip over! Once that was complete, all that was left was cleaning up!

Day 4:
On day 4 I worked on the farm with Al. There isn’t too much new information to report about the day other than that I got a bit more proficient at milking sheep! During my stay on the farm, I was waiting to see lambs birthed by any of the very pregnant sheep in the barn. Each morning and night we would check out the pen of ready-to-pop sheep and each time I was disappointed to find that no lambs had arrived. On day 4, I took to observing one sheep that seemed to be showing the signs of labour which Al told me to look out for, such as getting up to turn around, finding an isolated spot and not chewing on hay like the other sheep. Unfortunately the sheep didn’t appease me by popping out a lamb, and so I went to sleep knowing that I would be leaving the next morning and it would be my last chance to see a lamb being birthed.

Mama Sheep and Baby Lamb!

Day 5:
I awoke to the sun, bright and early and went down to the barn. To my excitement, Al let me know that the sheep I had been watching the day earlier really was about to give birth. He went over to the sheep to assist it along and before I knew it, a little lamb (which was admittedly kinda gross looking) had fallen out of the sheep – literally it fell out! Al took a look at the sheep and informed me another lamb was on the way. As Al went back to work, I stayed to watch and saw the sheep give birth to the second lamb all on its own!!! And so I felt my trip was complete.I had made 3 types of cheese, milked sheep, seen a sheep give birth.. what else could I ask for! And so, after saying Au Revoir I headed out on the road to drive the 7 hours home, ready to tell the story of my life on a farm to anyone who would listen!

Thanks to Al and Lucille for graciously hosting me and for really letting me get my hands dirty!

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