If our grandmothers and great-grandmother were stranded on a deserted island, participating in the latest season of ‘Survivor’, I think they could win. They had skills! They could chop wood, start a fire, milk a cow, churn the milk into butter and make cheese.
Whipping up a roast chicken dinner was child’s play: all they had to do was catch, kill, pluck and stuff said bird. Easy … for them. They knew how to turn fruit and vegetables into yummy jam and preserves and create delicious terrines and pates without giving everyone salmonella poisoning … unlike me. They were the original domestic goddesses.
Luckily for mere mortals like myself, dedicated modern day domestic goddesses, like Debra Allard, cheese maker, teacher and dairy godmother, are helping others rediscover these lost arts. I first saw Debbie at last year’s Sample Food Festival which was held in Bangalow, just west of Byron Bay.
There she was on stage, demonstrating how hilariously easy it was to make mozzarella cheese in 30 minutes. When the chance to attend one of her classes arose, run by ACE education in Mullumbimby, I couldn’t wait.
I arrived, accompanied by my good friend, Annie Milic. Our ‘dairy’ for the day was all prepared. Taking our positions behind our bain marie’s, we examined our equipment and recipes. We donned head attire, obligatory for health and safety reasons. Suddenly we were transformed into Smurfettes, ready for any challenge.
Our first cheese was goat feta. This was a little complicated, but by carefully following Debbie’s instructions and keeping a close eye on my thermometer, I was able to navigate my way to curds and whey. The curds were ladled into a large hoop and regularly turned and voila, there was my feta!
All I had to do was take my briny whey home and soak my feta for a week. Then it would be ready for consumption. Apparently, it will last up to six months! Will it last that long in my fridge? Probably not!
But the day wasn’t just about making feta. We also made cultured butter which was truly delicious and paneer. I intend making a spinach and paneer curry with it but haven’t got round to it yet.
As well as learning age-old skills, Debbie provided morning tea (scones with jam and cultured butter) and lunch, a ploughman’s feast. There was crusty bread, Bangalow pork roast, home made pickles, salad and a selection of Debbie’s hand crafted cheeses. I particularly liked her take on blue cheese. All in all, it was a great day and Annie and I will be back for more. Perhaps we will graduate to Brie or Jarlsberg. If you are interested in attending one of Debbie’s classes, you can find details on her facebook page.