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consistent throughout and so the cheese, you ll
find, is a lot smoother and creamier."
"We happen to think it s the tastiest of the
different animal cheeses," adds Jane, "but maybe
that s just the way we make it."
As far as Bruce is concerned, the quality of
the product comes down to the way the sheep
are treated on the farm. He says that depending
on the grain they are fed and the amount of fresh
grass available to them, the flavour of the cheese
will change throughout the season. "At the end
of the day, the cheese is only as good as the sheep
are healthy, and the sheep are only as healthy as
the pastures," says Bruce. "We don t use chemi-
cals where we can avoid it and if we ever have to
drench a sheep, we won t use its milk."
The dairy-farming process is quite similar to
the one used with cows, just on a smaller scale,
with a lot less milk. Generally sheep will produce
one litre of milk a day, compared to 20 or 30 from
their heavier-hoofed counterparts.
The main perk, for Bruce at least, is that they
don t have to be brought in at five o clock in the
morning. Usually he gets up about half-six for the
first milk and the second is at four in the afternoon.
"It s quite amazing how they have their rou-
tine," says Jane. "Usually in summer, they won t
come in until a bit later. It s like they look at their
watches and decide when it s time. In the morning,
if we happen to have a sleep-in, they ll be at the
shed, banging the rails and making a noise."
Once the sheep have been milked (using
machine pumps), the raw liquid is stored in vats,
waiting for the cheese-making to begin. This
usually happens once a week, depending on the
quantity of milk available.
While Jane is careful not to divulge too much
about how the Cambray cheeses are made, she
does fill me in on some of the general processes
and the main difference between producing soft
and hard varieties.
"Normally with the hard cheeses we ll warm the
milk up, add different cultures -- depending on the
desired flavour -- then put in the rennet, which is
the setting agent. The next step is to cut it to cre-
ate the curds and whey. Then we remove the liquid
(that is the whey) and are left with the curd, which
is poured into moulds, hand salted and pressed.
"From start to finish, this usually takes about
five hours, then we have to cure it in a maturing
room for about a year. While they re young, the
cheeses need to be turned daily; as they get older,
it s about once a week."
"The hard cheeses, we find, are a bit like wine:
they peak," adds Emma. "Although some people
like them two or three years old, with ours -- the
Dutch varieties especially -- they re at their best
between 10 to 12 months. After that, they tend to
become dry, more like parmesan."
The soft cheese process is easier in that no turn-
ing or heavy lifting is required. Because the soft
varieties are a lot smaller (200g blocks compared
with their 10kg counterparts), the methods are
much more relaxing. "It s a very similar process
to the hard cheese, with the main differences be-
ing the timing of the various stages, the heating
temperatures and the fact that there s no pressing
involved," says Jane.
"Really, it s what you do with the cheese after
it s cut that s the biggest disparity -- the curd is left
to drain a lot longer in the whey with soft varieties,
for example, and the fact that they re left to mature
for a couple of weeks, rather than a whole year."
To keep things interesting, Jane and Emma
experiment regularly with different flavours and
styles of cheese. They recently put a hard block
to bed with cumin seeds mixed throughout, and
when it s grape-crushing time in the area, they ll
CHEESEY AFFAIR: (From top)
Bruce Wilde feeding his lambs; the
10kg blocks of hard cheese sit in
the curing room for approximately
a year; all the cheeses are individu-
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