Easy way to craft cheesy bite delights
Hennie Fisher explains that making kitchen cheeses doesn’t have to be a taxing exercise
IF ONE also considers that cheeses are rather fickle items to make, it is no wonder that the average home cook would rather visit the nearest deli counter and not even bother to read any further.
Finding unpasteurised “raw” milk; sterilising each and every piece of equipment; and sourcing a curdling agent called rennet (from the fourth stomach or abomasums of milk-fed calves that are less than 30 days old) sounds like too much trouble. It is no wonder the making of these relatively simple little gems is left to country folk or commercial manufacturers.
It was Charles de Gaulle who exclaimed in 1962 (in Les Mots du General) about the impossibility of governing a nation with 246 varieties of cheeses (a number often misquoted). The British Cheese Board proclaims that nation has more than 700 different local cheeses, and a little book published by Dorling Kindersley titled French Cheese claims more than 350 registered cheeses (which at date of publication could easily have gone up to 500 if local, homemade cheeses were taken into account).
SA experienced a surge of artisanal cheeses only over the past 20 to 30 years. Taking into account that white South African culture has strong links to Dutch, German and other European countries known for making cheese, why did that part of our food culture not survive?
Perhaps in the local historical context cows were too important as animals of burden, trade or meat, and milk production lost emphasis. Cheese came into being as a use for excess milk. As a nutritive food source, it is unclear why this tradition died out and was only recently revived, with the result that for many years we were forced to eat yellow Cheddar or Gouda.
Not only does pasteurisation remove some of the flavour-giving elements, but unpasteurised “raw” milk has a tendency to curdle more easily, a crucial event in cheese making.
Pasteurisation kills useful milk bac- teria and makes many of the milk’s enzymes inactive. It is a process mostly employed to eliminate disease and spoilage, especially in large commercial cheese-making facilities where milk from various smaller dairy farmers is combined. Raw milk cheese can be safely consumed provided it is stored for a minimum of 60 days at 2 C, with the result that it excludes all the soft cheeses.
Some European artisanal cheese makers are forbidden from using pasteurised milk to make certain certified cheeses. Pasteurisation is also no guarantee of safety, as many instances of food-borne illnesses were attributable to pasteurised dairy products.
Modern cheese making has three identifiable steps. The first is where lactic acid bacteria convert milk sugar into lactic acid. In stage two the rennet is added while the acidifying bacteria are still at work and the casein proteins are curdled, resulting in a process where the watery whey drains away from the concentrated curds. The last stage is where flavour develops through enzymatic action and the special flavour of each cheese is created.
Making a simple goats’ milk cheese at home does not have to be fraught with technicality and drama. With experience, practice and dedication it can become an accomplished craft.
Source some unpasteurised goats’ milk and make this cheese at home. Goats’ milk does not have the same proportion of casein as cows’ milk (the element that curdles) and produces a crumbly, less cohesive curd. Ingredients 1 litre raw goats’ milk 50ml fresh lemon juice 30ml thick cream 5ml salt Method:
Warm the milk in a double boiler to exactly 76,7 C.
Add the lemon juice to the mixture after removing from the heat source. Leave to settle for 15 minutes, by which time the curds should be relatively solid. Drain into a colander lined with cheesecloth. Stand for a day or two in the refrigerator. The longer it stands the more solid the relatively crumbly cheese will become. Add the salt and whipped cream. Place mixture in a pastry bag without a nozzle, and pipe out pieces the shape and thickness of a sausage roll.
Leave either naked or roll in any of the following: chopped herbs, toasted seeds, toasted nuts, powdered biltong, coarsely ground pepper etc.