Cotswold Cheese


This month we take another look back in time to resurrect a wonderful cheese from the past.

The Cotswold cheese may even predate the cheddaring process, judging by what I have read in many of the older books.

It also gives me the opportunity to incorporate something from my early summer garden into the cheese, as you will see below.


This months cheese was inspired by an older style of cheese that may have been produced in the 16th to 17th century and most likely predates the modern cheddar. It originally was produced in the Cotswold and Gloucestershire areas of Great Britain. As you can see by the pictures here, this is a very beautiful pastoral landscape, but more importantly, it has some perfect soils to support the dairy herds for cheese making.

This cheese was traditionally made on the small farms in the spring when milk quantities were lower. The cheese were small because of this and seemed to be moister than other regional cheese of southwest England at the time and therefore they would ripen earlier. These smaller and moister cheeses were conveniently perfect for the lunches during the coming harvest .

Originally, it was made from the Gloucester Cow, but this is a breed that has almost become extinct (down to less than 75 head by 1975) due to our modern quest for quantity over quality and replacing the traditional cows with higher yielding Holsteins.

The Gloucester Cow was a beast that provided both high butterfat and protein in a balance perfect for cheese making, much as the Ayershire breed does today. The herds today are still very small and in great danger of disappearing.


A Bit of History:

The Cotswold cheese for this month has a history that goes back to the 16th century. This cheese is quite different from the old Gloucester style of cheese (another cheese of the region not likely to be found today). Cotswold has been reported to be most likely evolved from the Gloucester cheese, sharing many of the regional characteristics but definitely a departure since it is a much earlier ripening cheese.

In researching this cheese, I did not find a lot of modern references. Most anything I found was dated back to the early 20th or late 19th century. Most of what I found was in older books and seems to be more a remembrance of past cheeses no longer made. One of my favorite writers from Post War England was Patrick Rance, and in his descriptions for this he refers to the real cheese from Cotswold as a memory from his youth and the modern Cotswold cheeses were nothing more than modified cheddar. Also, another book from 1937 refers to the modified cheddar as being sold instead of the real Cotswold.

Today, you can find an example of Cotswold by Long Clawson (UK) but this seems to be more of the modified cheddar that Rance mentions than the original cheese. Today this dairy has exclusive rights to the name though this should not stop others making the cheese … just don't try to call it a Cotswold. A Guideline from Scott's "Cheesemaking Practice" shows it as being done with the cheddaring step, which is different from what I am showing in the following guideline.


Adding Something Fresh from the Garden:

At this time of year the Cotswold seemed a great choice to me because it was often made on the farm and sometimes had herbs added to it.
Since my garden is already beginning to produce, I am always looking for things to make a cheese unique. One of the older books I read mentioned that wild garlic was added to seasonal Cotswold (actually I have seen it mentioned that it was only produced in the early season). To me wild garlic means the ramps that grow in our woods this time of year. I suppose I could have ventured off some afternoon and found some of these ramps, but closer to home my garlic is growing just fine and beginning to throw off Its scapes (the long curving extensions that become their flowering parts) this time of year. I thought of these and their nice mild garlic flavor and felt these would probably be perfect for this cheese along with a little onion. It sounded great for a rather flavorful Midsummer cheese with a short aging. Also, it fits into my idea of a seasonal specialty as in the Italian tradition.


Love this young calf from the farm where I get my milk,
part of a matched pair to become an oxen team down the road.
Yes, folks around here still use them in the woods..
I know it has nothing to do with the cheese but he is just so good looking.



Not a Cheddar?:

As I mentioned this cheese may well have predated the cheddar process. The big difference between the two are:

  • This cheese is a higher moisture cheese with an earlier ripening than most cheddars.
  • The curds are drained and salted while pH is still high (6.0-6.1) then kept warm in press until the acid develops, even with the salt
  • What takes cheddar 7 hrs to complete takes this cheese 24hrs (Scott says 48hrs) due to salting curds pre-molding at a low level of acid. This longer process time leaves the cheese with more moisture and a different more supple texture. Also it is not as crumbly as cheddar.


A Recipe for Cotswold

This may not be the first cheese you want to try making but with a few cheeses behind you it should be quite easy to make it.

If you would like to make a smaller 2 lb. cheese just divide the ingredients in half but keep the timing the same.

Before you Begin:

You will need:

  • 4 gallon of milk (Not UltraPasteurized)
  • 2 packet of our C101 culture
  • Liquid Rennet (1/4tsp)
  • Herb Additions
    • 2 tablespoon of blanched garlic scapes (or chives)
    • 1 tablespoon of dried onion bits
  • Salt
  • A good thermometer
  • A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to stir the curds with.
  • Molds 2 of our SmallMold-M3 or 1 Stainless-6inch mold
  • A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds
  • Draining mats to allow the whey to run off from the molded curds.
  • A Cheese Press or weights to apply sufficient weight for consolidation of the curds.
  • Calcium Chloride for pasteurized cold stored milk

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.


Preparing the herb additions:

The key to this recipe is the onion and garlic flavor (chives may be substituted).

The dried onion can be added with no worries because the dehydration eliminates bad bacteria (traditional means of preservation). Rehydrate them with about 1/4 cup boiling water before you begin.

The garlic scapes (or chives) need some attention though, since they are fresh from the garden and may harbor some unwanted bacteria. The easiest way to handle these is to get a pot of water boiling and drop the whole scapes into this and hold for 1 minute (blanching) then remove to cold water and they are ready to chop.

Combine these and mix together. Most of the water is absorbed by the dried onion by now. Refrigerate until you are ready to mix these into the drained curds for pressing.

You may find that you can do this during the next step of heating milk and waiting for the culture to work. It is just a better use of your time.


Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 90F . You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats. If you are using pasteurized milk, add about 1/2 tsp of calcium chloride to the milk

Once the milk is at 90F the culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

The milk now needs to be kept at this target temperature until it is time to increase for cooking the curds. Hold the milk with culture added quiet for the next 60 minutes to allow the culture to begin doing its work. It will be very slow initially but will soon kick into its more rapid rate of converting lactose to lactic acid.


Coagulation with rennet:

Then add about 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) of single strength liquid rennet.

The milk now needs to sit quiet for 60 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd . The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period. It is OK if the temp drops a few degrees during this time.

You will notice the milk begins to thicken at about 18-20 minutes, but hold it still for a full 60 minutes for a good curd formation.

Make sure that your draining pan/colander and cloth as well as your molds have all been sanitized and ready because the following steps will be keeping you busy.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

Your next step is to check the curd set. You are looking for a clean split in the curd when it breaks. If it appears soft still wait a few more minutes for a firmer curd and next time add a bit more rennet.
A good cheese can not be made without a good curd.

Once the curd tests well, it is time to cut the curd for the separation of whey.
Begin with a large cross hatch cut of 3/4 to 1inch vertical only then allow this to firm up about 5 min. before continuing with the final cut for this cheese which is about 3/8 inch and shrinking to 1/4 inch when done cooking.

I use a thin wired whisk as shown below for my final cutting on this cheese.

Once the cut is finished allow the curds to settle for about 5 min.
then a very gentle stir for about 10 min.

The curd should have firmed up a bit more during this time and now ready for cooking to dry them even more.


Cooking the curds :

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 102F. The heat needs to be increased slowly by about 3-5F every 5 minutes at the beginning. The total cooking time will be 60 minutes and may be extended by another 15-20 mins if the curds are still soft.


During the coagulation the curds may have dropped a couple of degrees
so bring them back to 90F and then slowly to 102F.

The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.

When this point is reached the curds can be allowed to settle under the whey.
The remove the whey to just about 1" above the settled curds.

Then the curds can then be transferred to a colander lined with butter muslin. They should be allowed to drain for 30 minutes and a gentle stirring of the curds will make sure that the whey drains off.


Salting and adding herbs:

Once the curds are dry about 2% of salt to curd weight can be measured out. I find this to be about 1.4-1.5 oz. (best to measure salt by weight).

Then add this salt in 2-3 doses, waiting for 5 minutes between doses for each dose to be absorbed by the curds.Mix in salt thoroughly after each addition.

Once the salt has been added, the herbs can be added and mixed in.


Forming the cheese:

The mold(s) should be prepared with a draining cloth (use the same one you used for draining after rinsing it in warm water or whey).

The curds can now be transferred to the molds and then the draining cloth folded over the top.


Pressing:

So, for pressing we should begin very light and slowly increase the press weight to a moderate level:

  • 30 minutes at 8lbs.
  • 1 hour at 15 lbs
  • 2 hour at 30 lbs
  • Overnight at 50 lbs.

If using the smaller SmallMold-M3 reduce the weights above by about 20-25%

The rate of whey running off is simply a matter of drops and not a heavy stream of whey being released. This is a good rate of whey removal during pressing and will slow even more as the residual free moisture is released. The form should show tears of whey weeping from the form very slowly. When this stops you can increase the weight slightly. The cheese should be removed from the press, unwrapped, turned, re-wrapped, and put back to the press at the above intervals. To assure an even consolidation. At each turn you will notice the cheese has formed a smoother surface and rests lower in the mold.

At the end of the pressing, wipe the surface with a brine dampened cloth and allow the cheese to surface dry for a day or two before waxing. The surface will darken somewhat during this time. If the drying space is too warm or dry, watch for any cracks appearing. This should be avoided.

The cheese can then be waxed.


Aging:

The cheese can now be placed into your aging space at 52-54F and 80-85% moisture.
The cheese can now be aged for 4-12 weeks and it will ready for your table.


Sept 17-18 __ Beyond the Basics
Oct 1-2 Making __ French Style Cheese
Oct 22-23 __ Beyond the Basics

Jim Wallace has been our technical resource for a number of years now, teaching and answering our technical questions. He is also the person who researches, develops, and writes our recipe pages every month. He is an expert photographer, a great teacher and a wealth of knowledge.

For a more hands on and personalized experience in cheese making, Jim Wallace our Technical Guru offers several workshops at various levels to answer your questions. Each workshop is designed to work through the process of making 3 very different cheeses to explore as many phases of cheese making process as possible in the 2 day sessions. You will gain the knowledge & experience to apply not only to the cheeses made during the session but to many other cheeses in the future. This is because the study approach is the Why and How of the many individual concepts in each process and not just a set of instructions or written recipes.

His years of experience in working with cheese makers both here and in Europe plus his many years at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC) program at University of Vermont will prove to be a helpful resource for you to move your cheese making to the next level

The workshops are kept small to provide time for everyones questions.

Imagine spending the weekend with a group of other cheesemakers from all over having wonderful lunches together w/ plenty of cheese to taste. At the same time immersing yourself in the cheese process while getting all of your questions answered.

Anyone that has been here will agree that it is possible to have 'Uber' Fun while learning a lot.




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Jim Wallace
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