Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Say Cheese! (Part Two)

Right…the historical stuff related to this article all appeared in the first half, so if you’re more interested in Gornall and Lancashire cheese standardisation and stuff, you’d be better off reading that.
This section deals with pre-Gornall cheese making techniques. In the last episode we’d left you with a tub full of bacteria filled milk (yummy) to which we’d added some un-weaned calf’s stomach lining (otherwise known as rennet). After several days of that composition stewing away in the corner of your kitchen, you will probably be starting to experience a bit of a pong right about now.
Normally, of course, after about an hour (rather than the three days we left you in the lurch for) the milk would have coagulated. The liquid whey was then drawn off and fed to the pigs or calves…that is, the calves that had survived this far.
Once the whey had been removed the solid ‘Curd’ was left behind.
This was cut into shreds using a ‘Curd Cutter’, such as the one illustrated below (all of the originals of these cheese-making devices are available for viewing at the Fylde Country Life Museum, by the way…bet you never realised what a splendidly informative and educational local treasure you were missing out on by not visiting it, did you?) ensuring that any ‘whey’ left inside was able to drain out.

The particular brand of ‘Curd Knife’ above was designed by Joseph Gornall himself. In fact, Gornall was a dab hand with all sorts of cheese-related inventions, having also designed his own brand of ‘Curd Tins’. (Try saying that quickly after several pints of beer.)
Once the curd had been sliced it was left to solidify once more, sometimes being worked by hand. (Scenes of ‘sperm squashing’ from Moby Dick spring to mind, but as they were revolting enough in Herman Melville’s original long-winded fishing manual, it might be best not to repeat them here.)

When it was as solid as possible it was ground in a ‘Curd Mill’ similar to the one shown in the illustration above. (I’ve gone to a lot of trouble drawing and colouring in this rubbish for you lot…I hope you appreciate it. A bottle of Glen Fiddich in my Christmas stocking wouldn’t go amiss.) The roughly broken curd was tipped into the hopper and passed between sets of rotating teeth…which you can’t see on the picture, but they are there believe me.
At this stage salt was added, the milling process allowing the salt to be evenly distributed.
The process also helped the curd to cool, making it easier to pack, apparently.
Next the cheese was placed in a ‘Cheese Mould’ (shown below) also known as a ‘Vat’…or even a ‘Bucket’ amongst those farms that couldn’t be bothered buying brand label goods, which was probably most of them.

Originally cheese moulds were made from wood, but around the middle of the nineteenth century tinned-metal containers replaced these. Moulds were perforated with small holes, not to allow snorkelling mice to breathe, but to let the very last remnants of whey be drained during the pressing process.
The cloth-lined moulds were then placed on the ‘Cheese Press’.

That’s a cheese-press, look, all brightly painted (probably using lead based paint to give that little extra tweek to the cheese’s flavour). Pressure was applied by a series of weights and the cheese was left for one or two days.
(Any of our readers remember that cheese-weight we dug up on Bourne Hill back in 2003…or whenever it was? No, we didn’t think so. I don’t know why I bother writing this stuff up sometimes, I honestly don’t.)
Once the top was removed the cheese was stitched into a cloth and sealed with wax. This was to ensure that no air could penetrate the product. (No doubt the smell in some of these old Lancashire dairies was best kept to the farmhouse and not exported into customers’ homes.)
Finally the cheese was placed in a store. Lancashire cheese took from one to four months to mature (considerably shorter than most of the kids round here, believe me) before being sold to unsuspecting passers by.
So there you have it. So long as you’ve got all the relevant equipment (there’s probably a cheese press hanging around in your attic somewhere) and know how to slaughter an un-weaned calf correctly, you can now make your own cheese.
To make it Lancashire specific, of course, you’ll have to track down a copy of Gornall’s best-selling booklet “How to Use the Gornall Cheese-maker. Free Gornall Curd Knife and Curd Tin with every edition.”


Anonymous said...

Lancashire cheese took from one to four months to mature (considerably shorter than most of the kids round here, believe me) before being sold to unsuspecting passers by.

Do I detect a hint of ageism there Brian?

there’s probably a cheese press hanging around in your attic somewhere

I don't dare look up there for fear of being molested (by what ever is up there).

Brian Hughes said...


"Do I detect a hint of ageism there Brian?"

It's difficult to be ageist when you've been a kid yourself...even if it was an extremely long time ago. No, it's not an ageist comment - just an observation on some of the retards we get around here.

"I don't dare look up there for fear of being molested..."

This is what happens when you lock the hatch after a student party and then forget about it.

Anonymous said...

You've 'beclowned' me.

Brian Hughes said...

Arise Sir Reuben of the Cairolis.

Jayne said...

Alright, alright, alright!
I'll hunt some Lancashire cheese down in the shops today.
Stop tormenting us :P

John said...

I looked around our shops, but no Lancashire cheese yet. I'll have to go to the fancy upscale shop sometime.

I tried your recipe, sans rennet, but so far I've got a stinky yogurt. Smells like lancashirean cheese, alreet. :0)

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS What cheese weight did you find at Bourne?

Brian Hughes said...

So, let me get this straight. There's no Lancashire cheese in Australia? And none in America? Not even the nasty mass-produced supermarket stuff? I'm disappointed. I could have sworn Lancashire cheese was almost as famous as Chedder.

As for the was a a cheese press...I'll have to dig out a photograph of it at some point, but not right now 'cos I'm coming down with a cold...probably flu...possibly even pneumonia or nose is running anyway so it's bound to develop into something horrible.

John said...


Fear not... we have your cheese! I've even had some, and it were good, but this week the market didn't have any. I'm sure the posh place up the road will have it for a few pounds extra, or I can wait until it turns green and it goes on sale. :0)

Right now Blarney Castle cheese from Ireland is on sale. With a name like that, you know it's for the tourists. :0)

We also have some lovely cheeses from England that must have expired because they're mixing it with blueberries or cranberries or other fine flavor hiding substances... just kidding... that blueberry cheese is yummy.

I also picked up a horseradish cheese, which is helping me with my cold, You should try some!

Achoo, JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


Cheddar and sweet pickle...that's one of the better combination type cheeses. Not sure about the horseradish stuff though. I've got a cold, not a mental illness.

Jayne said...

Yes, we have no bananas...err, yes , we have Lancashire cheese in Oz.
The Spouse just forgot to grab me some in his food forage romp today.
He shall be punished accordingly.

Brian Hughes said...

And forced to eat vegetarian cheese?

Jayne said...

No, he can hang out in the attic amongst the old cheese presses and bits of calf...err...rennet :P

Brian Hughes said...

Ah...Michelle tried to punish me that way once, but I got wedged in the hatch.

Jayne said...

Oh, you should tell her that a bit of beef fat works wonders in getting misbehaving men through hatches...that and a couple of bbq-ed bananas with choc chips and coconut and ice cream and crushed nuts and the odd diabetic coma ;)

Brian Hughes said...

Barbequed bananas? Now pork fat, attached to a bit of string and dangled just above the hatch...yes...I can see that working. But barbequed bananas? They sound almost as revolting as deep fried Mars bars. Besides, all that potasium can't be healthy.

Jayne said...

Tis scrumptious, like a chocolate banana fritter...and helps wash down the bacon buttys and burgers one has just snacked on ;)

Brian Hughes said...


When I was a kid, we used to go out on my Dad's boat, usually for day trips across to Peel Island where us kids would spend all day climbing about in the ruined castle and our parents would spend all their day in the pub. For some reason my Mum always used to take banana-and-sugar sandwiches with her. Banana-and-sugar sandwiches? On a boat? Invariably the crossing was choppy. And I'd get sea sick. And ever since, the thought of bananas has made me feel queazy. The further addition of having them fried...

'scuse me a moment...I can feel something trying excape via my throat...

JahTeh said...

Cheese makers use an artificial enzyme in place of rennet these days.
I eat Nimbin Cheese, lo-salt and yum. It's from very happy cows since Nimbin is our very own 'weed' growing capital much in the way of Amsterdam.

Brian Hughes said...

"It's from very happy cows since Nimbin is our very own 'weed' growing capital..."


Pull the udder one.