The art of cheese making at Cow Close Farm

The innovative Stanage Millstone Cheese by Cow Close Farm

The innovative Stanage Millstone Cheese by Cow Close Farm

Nestled beneath the majestic Stanage Edge at Cow Close farm, Sophie and James Summerlin are doing something wonderful. They are making great cheese from high quality local milk pouring all their passion and energy into the mix.

The PJ taste chef team visited on the 6th of November to learn more about the process and to witness a batch of cheese making in progress.

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Arriving at the farm it was clear that the family are making all round improvements to the farm.  It was great to see the new tree planting, the activity around the duck pond, and the developing orchard.  Careful driving skills were also needed to nudge past the sheep guarding the car parking area!

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After donning protective coats and hats and using the hand washing facilities we entered the purpose built production area.  James was an excellent guide and over the next 2 hours he gave us a fasinating insight into the art and science of their cheese making.  The science is based around the alchemy of fermentation governed by the bacterial yeast and cutlures used combined with time, temperature and humidity.  However, as James explained not every batch reacts in the same way even thought the scientific variables appear to be identical.  I guess this is where the art of the cheesemaker comes in.  Over the course of the afternoon it became apparent that the art involves the sum of lots of actions and decisions that the cheese maker takes.  Many of these are I guess made subconciously based on their experience and intuition.

But back to the science James outlined how a typical day in the creamery goes.  With an early start of around 7am, 550lt of fresh milk is collected from a neighbouring farm. This is transported back in the purpose made stainless tank and immediately transferred to the creamery ready to be put through the continuous pasteurising machine. This is designed to bring any bacterial counts down to way below any prescribed limits and samples are taken and calibration checks made to ensure this is happening. 

The milk is now held in the temperature controlled creamery, a warm and humid atmospher with the particular aroma of fermenting milk a heady mix of rich cream with a lactic tang.  James then runs of batches of milk into mobile tanks and adds the important cultures of bacteria and rennet.  Incredibly small amounts are used (as small as 3g in the entire 550lt batch) but this given these conditions rapidly multiples and starts to form the milk into curds.

Ever watchful of the time James then cuts the curds to start the process of separating them from the whey which is a clear liquid which although a by product still contains some nutrition.  This goes to the hungry on site pigs which are a cross between Ironage and Glousters.  On our visit we nominated Adam as the whey taster - he was not too keen on its already acidic flavour!

When James was happy with the consistency of the curd the next crucial stage was filling the moulds.  He expained that these had been designed and made specifically for their trademark Stanage Millstone Cheese by Sophie.  Quite an ingenious design which allows the central tube to be removed later in the process to leave the millstone effect.  Whilst on the moulding table excess whey is still being dispensed with through the open mesh floor, a process which is further encouraged by a mid way turn of the moulds.  Quite a skilled operation and repetitive given the volumn being made.

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On to another table to free up the moulding table for the next batch we got our opportunity to help with a further turn.  This operation was not as easy as it looked given that the cheese was still in a semi set form and a dextorous touch was needed.

When James and Sophie are happy with the consistency of the cheese they are transfered to the "hastener", a humidity and temperature controlled space which gives them an overnight opportunity to continue the crucial formative fermentation.  The following day the cheese are transfered to a special maturing refrigerator which is set to maintain a constant 13C at a very high level of humidity.  It is here that the flora of penicillin and yeasts from previous batches work their magic and start to build up the distinctive white bloom of mould on the surface.  This is the Penicillium bacteria and is perfectly space to eat unless you are unlucky enough to have a specific allergy to this mould.

Over the next week this process continues with some sweeps through the shelves to hand pat down the mould to ensure that it is evenly spread over the cheeses.  It is during this time that the cheese is ripening from the outside in, the initially chalky white interior being turned in to the more liquid and distinctive great tasting cheese.  After 5-6 days the cheeses are wrapped and tranfered to a larger walk in fridge where further maturing for around 3 weeks takes place.  Again conditions of storage are crucial and the humidity levels have to be kept at around 70%.

At this point in the day James brought out a number of cheeses at different stages of ripeness and we were able to sample them to see how the flavours were developing.  We also got the chance for a sneak tasting of a blue cheese version which was a pleasant and interesting development of the original flavour.  Whilst the couple were not happy with the level of blue mould that had built at the time of our visit,  I am sure they will work hard to bring this new cheese to market at some point soon. 

With our day drawing to a close we made our way back to Sheffield, enjoying the sunset from Stanage Edge and full of admiration for the dedication and hard work which James and Sophie put into every cheese.  We thank them for their generous hospitality and for sharing so much of this fasinating process.

Beautifully ripe stanage millstone cheese with pj taste sourdough and red onion marmalade

Beautifully ripe stanage millstone cheese with pj taste sourdough and red onion marmalade

Stanage Millstone Cheese is available at these stockists and you can often catch James and Sophie at Sheffield and surrounding area Farmers Markets.  There is some additional slightly more technical explnations of the science in this Guardian article and here from the Reluctant Gourmand.

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting, Dining and Event Venue - Our Launch Party - Upstairs@PJtaste

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We were proud that on the 3rd November Sheffield's Lord Mayor, Councillor Anne Murphy, took the time to help us officially mark the opening of our refurbished meeting, dining and event space. 

With an audience of invited local Sheffield people representing the people who had worked on the project, past staff and customers we enjoyed a PJ taste afternoon tea and a sparkling toast made with local foraged cherry vodka.

Guests included Chris Wade from Architects Burnell Biercliffe, Stephen Thompson from Moss Valley Fine Foods, Jill White from Andy Hanselman Consulting and Ollie Allen the talented young carpenter who designed and installed the ash stair rail.  Paul and Rob Rogers the main builders were also present and without their dedication many of the clever design features would not have been included.  Indeed the Lord Major commented on how impressed she was that the refurbishment had embraced all things Sheffield which extended to the Daniels Bros who made the tables from reused pallets at the Portland Works and even the sound system which was made by Cloud Electronics based 200 yards from the premises on Staniforth Road!

Peter Moulam who along with John Fitzpatrick formed the company in 2006 said “After many years providing creative locally sourced food at venues throughout the city its great to be planning events in our own space. Having full control of the food, service and venue we can really push the boundaries to showcase our trademark locally sourced and increasingly own grown produce. We are looking forward to hosting a range of local business meetings, training events and presentations as well as private dining, weddings and parties. Our full liquour and entertainment license along with our flexible and individual approach will give our guests the great choice.

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The final detail of the whole project was the bespoke ash handrail made to complete the new staircase. Sourcing most of the wood from PJ taste's own plot and from a forest garden in Doncaster and Ollie Allen a talented local tradesman designed and installed this impressive feature. Using this project as part of his portfolio it was great to see him winning the Carpenter of the Year 2017.

 

Our Meeting, Dining and Event Space is now open

We are please to announce that the first customers have now experienced our newly refurbished meeting, dining and event space at 54 Staniforth Road, Attercliffe and have pronounced it "superb".

For bookings please ring 0330 0431954

For bookings please ring 0330 0431954

The ash handrail was from locally sourced wood and flows up the stairs in a sculptural fashion

The ash handrail was from locally sourced wood and flows up the stairs in a sculptural fashion

A corporate thank you day was organised by a major retailer, treating their staff to a champagne reception and delicious afternoon tea.  We received many comments about the comfort of the space, the exciting visual appearance of elements like the bespoke ash handrail and the restored old roof trusses.

We are currently taking bookings for a range of events from business training sessions, wedding receptions, private dining parties and corporate meetings.  We have a very bespoke service and offer unique menus for each event to ensure our locally sourced catering meets individual needs.

More information here and here

Chef Lee and the Chatsworth Country Fair

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Lee Mangles, PJ taste's new Head Chef is this year once again in action at the Chatsworth Country Fair.  He will be found on Friday and Saturday "sandwiched" between Mary Berry and Paul Holywood in the Cookery Theatre.  There is a synopsis of all chefs here and here is the full schedule.

This year Lee will be demonstrating two PJ taste classics, The Sheffield Egg and our infusions of local herbs and fruits, Citrus HIts.  The Sheffield Egg has an interesting story - although we say it ourselves! 

The Sheffield Egg recipe as it appears in The Sheffield Cookbook, Second Helpings is here.

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The seasonal flavours of Citrus Hits Lee will be demonstrating are Rosehip with Hibiscus and Orange and Blackberry with Orange.  So this seems as good as any time to relook at the labels of all the flavours which feature some iconic Sheffield scenes.  Here they are!

Best of luck Lee.

Our Meeting and Dining Venue - finishing touches

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This week Ollie Allen has been cutting the Ash from the plot they look after near Doncaster to create the bespoke handrails for our new staircase. Not only is it exciting to be collaborating with such a creative guy but it will be the last element before we can officially open our new venue!  We are looking forward to welcoming the first guests who will be enjoying the unique space to hold a traning session.  Our Chefs table for lunch promises to be a highlight!

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I am also pleased to be contributing so some ash poles cut from our own plot last year.  These have some great natural kinks as well as angles from their original grafting joints so will help navigate around the contours of the staircase.

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Looking forward to sharing pictures of the finished creation.

Swarming Times - our local honey bees

It was action stations this morning as on my usual morning round in the garden I spotted a large swarm of honey bees in the old oak tree.

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In all probability these are from one of my two hives, which if so are indicative of a novice bee keeper having not be aware of its imminence or taken suitable preventative action. Actually I had observed that the hive from the swarm I caught in Heeley in May was going through strange times. I had seen a number of what I felt were supercedure cells being made in it. These are contructed by the female worker bees when they sense their current queen is starting to fail, that is her egg laying performace is deterioating and so threatens the future survival of the colony.

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Further than this eight days ago I had actually spotted what I assumed was a newly hatched queen and heared her “piping”. The video below has a small segment of this amazing vocal performace right at the beginning – its actually just two hoots from what was a quite prolonged and loud experience - you have to listen hard in the first two seconds!  My thought at this time was to leave well alone feeling that it was late in the year for a swarm ,the numbers of bees in this hive was not huge and that this new queen would take over in a perfect supercedure. This is a term bee keepers use for the situation where the new and old queen can actually live together for a period.  Its perfect as it reduces the gap between the old queen stopping laying and the new starting to lay new eggs.

I managed to catch the swarm by cutting down the branch to which they were attached attempting to drop this into a large cardborad box I positioned below. This did not go quite to plan with most of the branch missing the box meaning there was a lot of extra scooping to do in the undergrowth. I transferred the bees from the box into a “nuc” hive (a smaller specially designed bee hive for new colonies). Meanwhile “loose” bees were forming another smaller swarm on a branch close to the one I cut meaning another adventure up the ladder.

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I hope that I have got the queen and that the bees are happy to settle in this new home. If so there is a chance that I will increase my colony number to 3, giving more beneficial pollinators for the garden and beyond and the possibility of a local honey crop next year.

Our Meeting and Dining Venue Refurbishment Update #5

Our refurbishment of Upstairs@PJtaste is very nearly complete and we are taking bookings for September!  We have taken time to ensure that we respect the heritage of the building (dating back to 1850) but also wanted to add some interesting and bespoke new features of our own. 

The final task has been to construct and fit the handrails for the new entrance and staircase.  I am excited to have teamed up with talented local craftsman, Ollie Allen, and together we have designed a solution using local Ash (in fact some of it grown on our own plot).  This will have a sculptural feel and will hopefully appear to grow from the wall!

Ollie with an early sample of local Ash

Ollie with an early sample of local Ash

We are very happy with the warm feeling that we have created in the main room.  The natural colours in the grain of the wood from the handmade tables matching the original wooden trusses and working well with the Caligaris chairs. 

Roger Greensit provided all our plumbing input and made an excellent job despite being challenged with 10 inch concrete floors and very demanding clients!

Roger Greensit provided all our plumbing input and made an excellent job despite being challenged with 10 inch concrete floors and very demanding clients!

We're recruiting...

The growth in demand for our catering both at corporate and private events as well as within our new venue at Staniforth Road means we are looking for people to join us.

The positions are for the moment on a part time basis and we are looking for enthusiastic individuals for both customer service and kitchen work.  Experience can be useful but a desire to give amazing service and an interest in excellent local food is essential.

For more information call us on 0330 0431954 or email: ask@pjtaste.co.uk

Our Meeting and Dining Venue Refurbishment Update #4

Work continues on our major refurbishment to give a unique meeting, dining and event space at our base at 54 Stanifoth Road, Sheffield.  On the building work front it has been been great to see the faster progress now as Farlwoods, our excellent construction contractors from Sheffield,  complete plastering in the main room and tackle heavy concrete work removing the old staircase.  This will make way for a much more open and pleasant entrance and staircase.  This area will be completed with a kitchen, toilets and circulation into the main room.

With an opening date in May we are now working on the detail for the interior.  We have been fortunate to discover a talented Sheffield based lighting designer.  Diala Dajani has worked with our plans to advise how we can achieve flexible and stylish lighting solutions.  Flexible as the space will need to accommodate a range of events from business style events to more intimate dining.  And stylish in the sense that we enhance the buildings features particularly its industrial heritage and to show off the beautiful roof trusses.

A proposed layout for pendant and spot lights

A proposed layout for pendant and spot lights

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Working with local furniture suppliers, Ponsford, we have selected some contemporary Italian designer chairs.  We hope these will provide an interesting contrast to the very organic tables being made from reused pallets by the Daniel Bros.  Finally tiling for the toilets has been sourced from Nick Firth just down the road from us and vertical radiators in an anthracite colour are being fitted.  Can't wait until we can show you all around!

Our Meeting and Dining Venue Refurbishment Update #3

Having stripped the building back to the brickwork the excellent builders from Farlwood have progressed really well in the last week fitting thick insulated boards in the roof and all the walls.  Its amazing to see the skill of the plasterers as they complete a perfectly smooth finish to these surfaces.

Richard Hewins finishing the plastering

Richard Hewins finishing the plastering

A really interesting discovery has been a set of mermaid like gargoyles found embedded in the concrete running up the side of the staircase.  These have only been discovered as this old staircase is being removed.  Five of the cast iron figures were found behind a couple of layers of plaster mounted every foot or so onto a timber backing board.  At least a further three appear to be fixed behind a steel beam across the head of the stairs.  As this part is to be removed too we shall see if we can recover any more.  We would love to hear from anyone with any thoughts about what or why these were here.  In the meantime we are going to have a go at refurbishing them - some are missing various parts and all need a good clean.

Aside from the building work we have been planning the interior details.  Its great to have skilled suppliers so close on hand.  Aries Lighting in Darnall is working with us on some feature large hanging pendants, Full Volume looking at the AV installation with speakers made at Cloud Electronics (both based 2 minutes walk away) and the Daniel Bros are working on tables, curved feature walls and window sills!

Our Meeting and Dining Venue Refurbishment Update

Work has continued over the Christmas break taking the space on the first floor of our base at 54 Staniforth Road, Sheffield, back to its bare shell.  We will soon be ready to start the re-building to create our 100 seat meeting, dining and event venue.  Excitingly we have revealed the large roof trusses and the layers of paint added over many years are being stripped away.  The natural wood below has a lovely grain and should work well with the tables we are making from re-used pallets.  See our previous post for pictures.

The next job will be to remove the old plaster from the walls so that we can add thick layers of insulation both to the walls and the roof space to ensure our guests are toasty warm but also to minimise heating inputs and their environmental impacts.

Our electricians have already been busy and have actually completed their first fix to the first floor.  Theres over a mile of cable already gone in across the electrical, lighting, fire, security, audio, data and phone cables!  Great that they still look so happy!

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So progress but still lots to do!  Although its hard to imagine at the moment we are very confident that the result will be a unique venue reflecting our values of local sourcing, sustainability and innovative cooking with brilliant care for our guests.  So still very much on track to deliver the vision.

Our Fun with Christmas Menus

Lamb in a Manger, Rudolph and His Red Nose, Jerky Turkey.  Can you can see where we are going?  Its our Christmas themed BBQ.  This year we have put together a range of menus for a number of our corporate clients in Sheffield with the emphasis on Christmas fun.  So from Christmas pizza with Moss Valley slow cooked pork and a Christmas stuffing, to a generously filled Turkey Poblano burrito we have deliciously locally sourced food served with a twist.

See some menu ideas here.

Sheffield Cookbook

We are excited to announce that the sequel to the Sheffield Cookbook, The Sheffield Cookbook Second Helpings will be available from 14 November 2016.  Available to pre-order now at £14.95 this 320 page full colour book will make a brilliant Christmas present for any Sheffield food lover.  Order here

Sheffield and Yorkshire gift hampers

Our carefully selected hampers contain delicious foods sourced within Sheffield, South Yokshire and they are ideal for Christmas presents, birthday presents or simply gifts at any time of the year.

The PJ taste Sheffield Favourites Hamper

The PJ taste Sheffield Favourites Hamper

This year we have some of our own handmade preserves as well as an artisan chocolate bar which we have made using Barry Callebaut chocolate and chillies grown by John in Killamarsh.  The jams are made with fruit grown on our own plots and made with fairttrade sugar by our chefs.  Our Sheffield Favourite hamper is priced at just £19.95 and can be simply ordered on our web site.

We have added a lovely Christmas Chutney made by Matthew at Just Preserves based in Chippinghouse Road in Sheffield.  Matthew shares the same ethos as us when it comes to the care with which he sources his ingredients.

We have added a lovely Christmas Chutney made by Matthew at Just Preserves based in Chippinghouse Road in Sheffield.  Matthew shares the same ethos as us when it comes to the care with which he sources his ingredients.

Ther coffee is from another Sheffield company.  Cafeology buy extremely sustainably and it is seven years since they imported their first consignment of coffee from Asoapia in Colombia, buying direct from the cooperative.  The quality of this Columbian blend suitable for filter or cafetieres is amazing.

Other favourites of ours are Sheffield Honey and Hendersons Relish which complete the Sherffield Favourites hamper.

We are excited to be including within the Premium Hamper (at just £39.95) the SHeffield Cookbook - Second Helpings.  This is a bumper tome featuring the best of the Sheffield dining out scene.

Edible Chrysanthemum - preserving seasonal produce #3

Edible Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum coronarium, is an easy to grow annual plant which has thrived in the garden this year.  It is a member of the Asteraceae/Daisy family and otherwise known as garland chrysanthemum or chop suy greens.  Originally from the Mediterranean the plant has spead over Asia and the American continent

Simply grown from seed in the polytunnel with successional sowings over April, May and June the seedlings were hardy and grew quickly in a variety of soils and positions once planted out.

The stems and leaves are used in stir frys and steamed as a green and if you want to encourage this kind of growth then pinching out the top growth to prevent early flowering is useful.  However, having a ready supply of flowers has been brilliant for adding colourful garnishes to our delivered and event catering and these plants willingly started to flower and have kept flowering well into the Autumn, producing the lovely yellow and white and pure yellow blooms.

Chrysanthemum tea - a simple infusion of the flowers gives a golden brew

Chrysanthemum tea - a simple infusion of the flowers gives a golden brew

To preserve the flowers for use over the winter we have been drying them and crystallising them.  The dried flowers will make a lovely golden tea and the sugared ones will give an extra month or two on the garnishing front.

Taking preservation to its logical conclusion I am now collecting the drying seed heads ready for planting next year.  I suspect that there will also be a lot of self seeding going on and it will be useful to be able to recognise the seedlings in case they start to take over large parts of the garden!

Marigolds - preserving seasonal produce #2

I am always getting confused about which plants are being referred to when people talk about Marigolds so as always before consuming plants from the garden its vital that we know for sure which plants we are using.

Edible Marigold - Calendula officinalis

Edible Marigold - Calendula officinalis

The picture above is of Calendula officinalis or Pot Marigold.  It is a very easy to grow annual plant in the large Asteraceae family, the Sunflower family.  Also in this family is the Tagetes genus which are also called Marigolds!  Confusing but important as its really only the Calendula's which can be eaten in any quantity with Tagetes being potentially dangerous in any quantity.

Marigold from the Tegetes genus, edible but only in small quantities so care is required to separate from the above.

Marigold from the Tegetes genus, edible but only in small quantities so care is required to separate from the above.

Marigolds from the Calendula genus at varoius stages of growth

Marigolds from the Calendula genus at varoius stages of growth

Calendula officinalis has been used a an important medicinal herb for many centuries, to heal wounds and boost the immune system.  Officinalis refers to its use as an official plant in herbal law and Calendula is from the latin Calendae referring to how it can bloom almost right through the calendar.

Importantly for the caterer the flowers look amazing used fresh to decorate a whole range of dishes and can be used for sweet and savoury food.  The whole flowers can be used or the individual petals (technically "ray florets") pulled off and scattered.

Whole Marigolds decorating this cake of cheese

Whole Marigolds decorating this cake of cheese

Sunny scrambled eggs with garden vegetables and salad and Marigold "petals"

Sunny scrambled eggs with garden vegetables and salad and Marigold "petals"

Even though the season for flowers is long, here in Sheffield as September passes there are signs that blooming is waning.  Certainly the first frost will signal the end of harvesting so we need to preserve them to allow use over the other months of the year.  Luckily the flowers dried very well, either as whole flowers or individual petals.  We have been drying the petals and bottling into spice jars to add colour and tonic over the winter months.  We will be adding these to our hampers at Christmas.

References

There is an excellent article on the medicinal benefits of Marigolds here.

Pickled Nasturtium Seeds - preserving seasonal produce #1

We are learning more about growing our own food crops in a sustainable and productive way.  In this series of blog posts I will be picking one plant that I have grown this year and showing one simple and interesting way to preserve it.  The focus is on great taste and methods to store seasonal harvests into food which can be utilised in the coming months.

In this first post I look at Nasturtiums ,Tropaeolum minus, and how its simple to pickle the seeds to produce a caper like substitute.

Nasturium seed which has formed after the flower has finished (remanants of the brown and dried flower attached)

Nasturium seed which has formed after the flower has finished (remanants of the brown and dried flower attached)

Nasturiums are an easy to grow plant producing edible leaves, flowers and seeds.  In our new garden the rabbits seemed to love the young plants so after raising from seed in the polytunnel they were very vulnerable when initially planted out.  Tree guards worked well and from just a few plants we harvested dozens of flowers, followed by loads of seeds.  The dilema was how many to dry and save to plant for next year and how many to pickle!

Tree guards used to protect young nasturim plants - amazingly they plants grew to the top and flourished

Tree guards used to protect young nasturim plants - amazingly they plants grew to the top and flourished

As the flowers die back you will notice the distinctive seed pods forming.  These can be collected whilst still green straight from the plant (you may also notice that some will have already fallen to the ground - judicious selection will determine whether these too are collectable).

Pickling the seeds is simplicity itself and an excellent recipe and method can be found on the Decorators Notebook Blog

The distinctive seed pods still green and picked straight from the plant

The distinctive seed pods still green and picked straight from the plant