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.
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: camel4milk.wordpress.com.
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.
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.
Oh what a friend we have in Cheeses!