Easy way to craft cheesy bite de­lights

Hen­nie Fisher ex­plains that mak­ing kitchen cheeses doesn’t have to be a tax­ing ex­er­cise

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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.

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