Medieval Cheese-making and Medieval Camp at Sunrise
My favorite time of day at medieval camps is early morning, especially at Abbey Medieval Festival. The sun casting shadows through the towering trees is sheer magic and never fails to stop me in my tracks and make me so happy to be alive to see such things.
I like getting up before everyone and brewing coffee, trying, yet never succeeding, to be quiet enough in our kitchen tent to keep from waking our friend Sue. Soon she’s up too, cute as a button in her elfin hat, spooning in mounds of freshly ground coffee, getting our cups ready “just so” – decaf for Bear, black for Sue and Vincent, white and one sugar for me – keeping water warm for Adam when he wakes up.
Soon enough the fire is blazing, water boiling, the blissful scent of wood smoke wafting through camp.
It is an exquisite way to start the day.
This year I did three demonstrations: medieval folk medicine, medieval Bedouin food, and medieval cheese-making.
Although I’ve made cheese at home plenty of times, I hadn’t done it over a fire yet, so made sure to practice before the crowds arrived to make sure I had the process down pat.
I hung thick yogurt to drain in cheesecloth and set milk on to heat for a simple fresh cheese just as the sun slipped through the tree branches and turned my cheese-making into a veritable fairyland of light and shadow.
I stirred the milk as it steamed into roiling billows of light, watching for telltale bubbles around the edges before drizzling in homemade cider vinegar, then a bit more. Then the magic happened. Whey separated from curds and I poured it into a cheesecloth-lined basket, letting it drain until nothing but lovely, creamy cheese was left.
I gleefully danced through the smoky sunbeams to Bear – “I made cheese!!!” He laughed and we cheered and I tasted and all was well.
While I’d been making cheese, Sue had made breakfast and we happily noshed on toast and eggs and sausages, topping up our coffees to warm our bones.
After washing up I went for a wander, delighting in the play of light and campfire smoke around the tents of our friends.
Sunlight streamed through the market stall of the Templars where our friend Farina would soon be selling her fragrant packets of spices and ripe oranges for mulled wine.
Sunbeams shimmered through the Viking loom near the camp where my friends Paula and Nikolaj were making breakfast. Paula is an amazing weaver, making gorgeous linen out of the finest of threads.
I love the Viking encampment with its forest atmosphere and the welcoming faces and hugs of so many good friends. I wandered from camp to camp, getting in quick talks between building of fires and stirring of pots as everyone got ready for the first day of Abbey.
With promises of pending visits to make me smile, I headed back to camp.