Zamoa Productions - homemade goat cow tomme

Urban Cheesemaking

The Journey Continues

Human survival has a link to fermentation, the process by which yeasts and bacteria degrade organic compounds to by-products such as lactic acid and alcohol and transform perishable foods into preserved products. In the case of cheese, the final fermented product is safe, durable, and, due to a reduced volume, transportable, a feature upon which nomadic cultures depend. Historically, cheese was often reserved for use as a source of protein and fat during periods of low milk production due to lactation cycles of animals or changes in climatic conditions.

REF: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Tales of Mould-Ripened Cheese Sister Noella Marxellino, OSB, and David R Benson Abbey of Regina Laudis, Bethlehem, CT 06751; Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-3125

I’m unashamedly a lay cheese maker. Even after producing (and eating) some 50 various cheeses I would not profess to be a professional, nor do I desire that label. After all, it was artisan cheeses I wanted to make, each one unique in its own way but “of a style”, and all for our own consumption. Surely this would be the historic tradition of the farmhouse cheese-maker with their few sheep, goats or cows.

Cheese making and the necessary research into its ingredients and processes has enlightened me as to the veritable cornucopia of products that are derived from milk: All this ties in with my fascination with fermentation and its importance in our diet.

My non-commercial approach extends to not using (by preference) a hairnet or gloves, though I am fastidious in maintaining clean hands and equipment. And it may interest other amateur cheese-makers that I do not use a thermometer; instead I use my hands, eyes and nose to assess temperatures. My cheese press and “caves” are homemade and I use ice to create both the required coolness and humidity. Cheeses in their various stages of maturation are stored in our pantry, the wash house and our little shed (the coolest place). The refrigerator, while used by us for general storage, is utilised for storing my cultures, cream, butter, yoghurt, sourdough starter and, of course, the fresh milk.

Zamoa Productions - fresh homemade cheese

I source only the freshest unhomogenised full cream milk (raw cow’s milk is unobtainable here) and have developed my own mesophilic and thermophilic cultures for three cheese styles: goat and cow tomme, havarti and a hard cheese we tend to grate and use like parmesan. I regularly make ricotta utilising the cheese whey, and also fresh cheese, as my husband and I enjoy both these less flavoursome styles too. It would be interesting to work with camel’s milk, but as yet I haven’t had access to any. It is reputed to be a super-food:

Zamoa Producions - homemade havarti

Working with my own cultures gives perhaps what could be described as only an approximation of the intended style, but as we do know our cheeses, we know the developing moulds, textures, flavours and aromas are close to the originals.

Zamoa Productions - homemade tomme

Possibly from it not being a commercial operation with all the incumbent stress, I get great enjoyment from the cheeses’ processes and stages of growth: the eating of them, when I deem them mature, or ready, is a bonus. Consuming your own hand-made product, though considered a “retro” and unnecessary chore for most people in this consumerist society of ours, can be likened to the pleasure of picking your own home-grown vegetables from your garden – however small the patch and resulting harvest may be. Also, since my first curing of locally picked olives a few years ago, we have continued this tradition and have a continual, and delicious, supply. Bread (our own wholemeal sourdough), cheese, yogurt and olives – are now our staple foods.

Zamoa Productions - cheese platter

Zamoa Productions - homemade wholemeal sourdough bread

Oh what a friend we have in Cheeses!

Home-made Cheese Press

Home-made Cheese

The Versatility of Milk

Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, buffalo milk, camel milk ….. all nutritious food and a wonderful ingredient for cheese-making.

Soft Cheese
A great stand-by while waiting for our hard cheeses to mature is queso fresco, made with unhomogenised cow’s milk.

Straight forward to make, we use leftover home-made yogurt. This is added to heated milk along with rennet diluted in water, then left for an hour to coagulate. When ready the coagulated milk becomes a firm curd mass and can be cut into small segments, thereby releasing some of the liquid whey within it. The curds are then poured into a muslin-lined colander to drain. Mixing a small amount of salt through the curds also helps to remove some of the moisture content.

Queso Fresco

Home-made Queso Fresco

Hard Cheese
Making farm-style hard cheese requires a bit of patience. Using a similar process to queso fresco, the curds are cooked a bit longer to release as much whey as possible, poured into a muslin cloth where the salt is mixed through it, then all lifted into a cheese mould and placed into a cheese press. After 12 hours it is flipped and then drained for a further 12 hours. After that, the drained curd is removed from the press and muslin cloth to be air-dried. Once dried, the cheese curd is prepared for ageing and then placed in a temperature controlled “cave” to mature. In our case, 3 months.

Homemade Cheese

Farm style cheese in homemade cheese cave

And to accompany our cheese – fresh, home-made sourdough wholemeal bread 🙂

Fresh home-made wholemeal sourdough