Mary Holbrook has been making goats milk cheese for over 30 years having started as a hobby, making feta with the milk of 2 goats on her family’s farm. Before long, she had a few animals and has slowly over the years built up to the 100 strong herd of Saanens, Anglo-Nubians, Alpines, Boers and cross-breeds. Building up the herd was hard work at the start. In the late 1970s and early 80s most goats were kept practically as pets and weren’t really robust enough for the life in a dairy herd. Some became ill from being out in the fields while others pined away unable to adjust to the social structure of a herd after being cosseted family pets.
However she persevered and began to experiment with cheesemaking too, taking courses in France on Coulommiers, buying numerous books on the subject and also attending conferences. The first and indeed most well known of her cheeses is Tymsboro, a truncated pyramid cheese based on a Valencay recipe she found on a trip to Tours, but in the mid 1990s she began to experiment with Portuguese recipes like Queijo Da Serra using cardoon stamen in place of rennet.
When making Cardo, Mary and Juliana use either a big square container or her vat which is filled with a mixture of morning and evening milk. Starter is added, followed by a strained infusion of cardoon stamens. It takes about an hour to set and then she cuts the curd.
Usual cheesemaking practice is to cut curd with knives or a harp-like arrangement of wires, but very unusually, Mary and Julianna the curd with their arms only and very gently at that. It’s a slow, steady and gentle process and leaves her with quite irregular sized curd pieces at the end. Consistency concerned cheesemakers would find this a worry, but Mary enjoys the irregularity and the challenge of how it will develop as the cheese matures.
When the curd is cut, they take off some of the whey with a small container. Removing the whey affects the speed at which the acidity develops. It is very important for Cardo’s acid development that the whey removal is done slowly.
After draining, the curd is then put into moulds and left to drain under their own weight. During draining, the cheeses are turned periodically and then left overnight before brining.
During maturation, the rinds of the cheeses are washed with salt water or just water to encourage a sticky, orange coating of Brevibacterium linens which gives the cheeses their pungency and savoury flavours.
FLAVOUR & TEXTURE
The flavours combine the pungency and savouriness of the washed rind with the more delicate, floral flavours associated with goats milk. It’s both unusual and successful. Textures vary as it can be moist, succulent and melting or firmer and with more of a noticeable curd texture.
Mary does not make a great deal of this cheese so we buy it directly from Neal’s Yard Dairy