Monday, December 21, 2009

omelette du fromage (cheese and chooks)

Well, I am more or less recovered from cheese and chicken mayhem and B being sick on Friday night. Had her in extreme discomfort and me (watching her, and worrying) trying for the underslept and braindead championships. Yeah, I know, I'm winning anyway. She seems fine now. So let me recap in more detail some of the bits I might want to remember.

Ok cheese – I am very fond of cheese (and spare me the man or a mouse comment ;-). I already know I am a rodent – or at least an ex-rhodent). About the only Australian product we didn't wax lyrical about was the cheese – there probably are good ones, but our small selection of the soft-ripening French-style ones (brie-camenbert sort of thing) consisted of the dull cardboard brick variety. Very useful for cardboard brick houses, not much of a positive addition to a slice of bread. I guess if that is what you are used to, you might like it. I've been told that there are some good Aus cheeses (some from King island I believe), but I need to win the lottery or at least do something more lucrative than write. Ergo – the thought – why can't we make our own? After all, Etruscsan peasants were doing it tens of centuries ago, even before the internet.

Hmm. I am now filled with new respect for those Etruscan peasants and had not been aware that digital watches and thermometers had been around so long. Warm curds (after the addition of rennet and culture-stuff you buy from little boutiques at opera houses and art galleries -- which explains all sorts of things – or if you want to be dull you can buy them freeze dried from the internet. I don't know what those poor Etruscans did.) have the texture of slightly glutinous black dam mud and feels much the same if a different colour. And warm. That creeped me out a bit. I kept expecting leeches. You then cut the curd to help the wey get away. There is way to much wey, and you weight it to waste awey... ahem. Anywey... anyway moving on. What struck me is how similar the early stages of this process are and how varied the end result. And how DULL the stuff in the middle part tastes. Oh and that Cheddar comes from a bloke near Bristol tossing his slabs of off milk into the gorge, and the furious bloke at the bottom hauling it out and tossing it back at him. Ok I made that bit up, but cheddaring is an amazingly labourious process of slapping slabs of curd on top of each other, and then hauling the bottom bit up and putting it on top. Etruscan peasants might have made cheese, but it has become quite precise and requires a lot of attention. Still, I reckon a decent camenbert style cheese is do-able, and Feta too. Don't know about the hard cheeses.

I battled a little (ok a lot) with with the chicken killing. “Pull the neck down and then up...”
Ok so we're doing neck yo-yo. And it's not happening. Bergen stepped in because we're both firm believers in quick clean merciful livestock killing. I will leave to your sordid imaginations the chicken drawing (it's where the cheese culture for art galleries comes from, maybe) except to say that violating a still warm dead chicken's tail end is over-rated. But I can do it. Might have to get an elephant gun for the killing though. As for plucking – is there a Mexican hairless equivalent of chicken? A lot more pragmatic information about chooks, roosters, breeds, and broody hens (look a bit like Lord Byron) which I will probably wish I could remember came my way. I fancy English game hens, I think.

Anyway I got my own back on Bergen with the de-boning (less than usual, he's handy) and we had lunch beside stalag bunny, where we learned to sex ducks by their quacks and curly tails, and how to tell when a chook was going to lay an egg.
B: “is that chicken all right? The one over there, cackling.”
C: “She's fine. Just getting ready to lay an egg.”
D: So that translates out of chicken to ' Give me an epidural, NOW!'
C: 'Medic! You should hear when there's a bunch of them laying. They all get in on the act, encouraging each other. 'Push Muriel, push!'
I wonder if they compare egg sizes?


  1. Ex-Rhodent; Rennet; awey;


    There are some really nice Australian cheeses in the specialty cheese shops and good markets. Just don't expect to find them at your local supermarket.

    And you are right about the King Island cheeses. Well worth the investment in money and health. Particularly the triple cream cheese with peppercorn ... a personal favourite although I haven't seen any for a while.

  2. Margaret River double brie is yummy and melty and has a nice sharpness to it. We tend to alternate it with King Island.
    I do think we tried your cardboard brick-style brie a couple of weeks ago - left it out of the fridge for hours and it still hadn't softened at all. We won't be buying that one again - unless it's on sale and we forget which brand it is!
    I think Tassie has some good cheeses, don't know what you'll have readily available, tho'.

  3. I believe Israeli scientists have created a featherless chicken -- ugliest darned things you ever saw, and prone to sunburns. Maybe you can raise them as well?


  4. Ginger, I'd better not get any - if they're that ugly I'd end up feeling sorry for them. fellow feeling maybe ;-)

  5. webfaery - one of the most difficult bits - besides the fact that relocating with our animals is going to leave the exchequer near empty, is that we have no idea what brands are good (or rather, that we'll like). Besides I suspect the island's two little shops won't be big on variety. But it is good to know good ones do exist.

  6. Ian the odd thing is that even supermarket brie here is really not bad - i suppose we expected that. But i think markets and speciality cheese shops might be a bit rare in place where the 'big' town has a population of 170 ;-)

  7. Dave, we buy King Island and Margaret River cheeses in the supermarket here...lots of other brands as well - good and not-so. As with most things, some supermarkets are better than others and when you live remote you sometimes just have to take what you can get. Been there, done that, know how it feels, though we didn't need to take a boat/plane to get to civilisation - unless it rained a lot!

  8. Heh, Webfaery, I suspect if it rains a lot on us, neither boat nor plane will do us a bit of good. It's inconvenient for the shopping, but we like being in quiet remote places. So we'll put up with the shopping ;-)