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Today is the third annual “Real” Food Symposium, held this year at the Sheraton in Pasadena, California. The host is Elaina Luther of Culture Club 101, a tireless advocate of—and educator about—the Real Food Movement.

This is Part Five of live coverage of the event.

While Kombucha Kamp’s Hannah Crum was in one room teaching a thirsty crowd about bubbly and beneficial kombucha, a session on cheesemaking with Steve Rudicel and Gloria Putnam from Mariposa Creamery (at Altadena’s Zane Grey Estate) was also a popular draw in another room. Steve spoke of milk from the viewpoint of a cheesemaker and animal keeper. And he clearly loves his little herd.

From a home cheesemaker’s perspective, it’s hard to find the raw material.

Steve and Gloria wanted whole, raw milk for their cheese. After some research, they acquired a small herd of goats. The fell in love with the goats and their personalities—they each have names and nicknames. This, of course, is radically different from a CAFO dairy. “Don’t buy their products,” he urges. The practice of mixing all the milks from all the farmers makes for no individual responsibility. Pasteurization and standardization is a problem—removing the fats to reach a standard fat content and then adding whey proteins to boost the milk is, of course, also a problem. (This is actually “disassembly and reassembly of milk,” as Steve eloquently put it.) Pasteurization (especially UHT) and other processing denatures calcium, which makes for too-soft cheese. Calcium chloride is often added to make up for this.

He referred to Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy, who is also speaking at this event. OPD is the largest certified raw milk dairy in the country (and most likely in the world), and has a lot to say about the benefits of treating the animals well, keeping a clean facility, and the amazing benefits of raw milk. We’ve toured OPD and blogged about it, and you can see the blog post about his talk today and an interview with him here.

Clear glass bottles were originally clear just to show off the cream layer, but then standardization changed that. Milk fat is protected with a sheath that prevents it from going rancid, but homogenization changes that. So one sours nicely (raw, unprocessed) while the other goes rancid (processed).

Cheesemaking is important from a preservation standpoint. Steve is a member of the LA County Master Food Preservers, a volunteer outreach program. This got him thinking about cheese as a preservation technique. Fluid milk is volatile, even in this age of refrigeration. Until now, very few people had fresh milk—just the shepherds—everyone else had it preserved in one form or another.

Eight gallons of milk from an animal yields four pounds of Gouda cheese that can live at cave temperature for a very long time.

He then got to the nitty-gritty: how to make cheese.

Institute of Domestic Technology has these recipes—ask for Joseph. They have a Facebook page where you can find links to more information.

Chevre: goat cheese. Goats are browsers. Fromage blanc: cow cheese.  Cows are grazers. Different flavors.

You can use either raw goat’s milk or raw cow’s milk for this cheese, but of course you will get different results. For one gallon of milk, expect about two pounds of fresh cheese. Begin 24 hours before you need the milk. Steve uses 1/12 of a teaspoon from a packet of MM100 freeze-dried bacterial culture from The Dairy Connection in Wisconsin (commercial cheesemakers would just keep some from the previous batch and add it to the new one.) Mesophilic cultures—medium temperature—80 degrees and below. Gouda (102) or Parmesan (higher yet) are thermophillic, taking higher temperatures. Match the culture to the type of cheese.

Stir the culture into warmed milk (72 degrees in a non-aluminum pan) with about 20 strokes, avoiding the bottom of the pan. Next comes three drops of rennet, in about ¼ cup of distilled water (NO chloringe It kills bacteria.) a set of enzymes that coagulates milk under the right curcumstances. He uses animal sources, although there are plant-based sources (that are not quite as reliable) from fig leaves and other plants. But most vegetable rennets come from a GMO—eColi spliced with a cow gene that then produces a coagulant. Ick.

A newborn ruminant has one stomach working: stomach number three. Here the milk coagulates and the calcium releases from the milk. Traditionally, strips of this stomach were dried and used in the milk mixture as a coagulant.

So back to the pot—stir in the rennet/water mixture. Let it sit for 12 hours at room temperature, at which time the milk will have acidified, coagulated and formed a gel or curd. Whey will begin to separate at this time. When it looks like “a cheesecake floating in lemonade, “check for a “clean break.” Dip your finger in, looking for a “clean crack” in a soft, silken substance. The crack will not “heal”—you will still see the crack. If it’s not there yet (if it feels like yogurt), wait another hour and try again. Gloria added that once it releases from the sides of the pan, it’s usually ready.

Next you need to drain it in cheesecloth. Cheesecloth as sold in stores is too gauze-y so use muslin with an 80 or 90 thread count. You can use it over and over as long as you keep it clean—don’t let the cheese dry on it or get moldy. Rinse it, wash it and dry it in the sun. Take the whole mass of cheese and tie it into a “hobo bundle” or bindle and hang it off something (like a spoon handle) and make sure it clears the level of the liquid to drain. A little bit of cloth in the liquid will act like a wick and will not allow the cheese to drain properly.

Wait anywhere from 6-24 hours, depending on what texture you want. Smooth and spreadable? Wait maybe 8-12 hours. Dry and crumbly? More like 24. You can add flavors—chopped chives, jalapeno, whatever you would like. Go easy on the salt, and make sure the crystals aren’t too big. Salt has a slight preservative effect but this cheese should last only about a week in the fridge. (Probably less in my fridge. It would be devoured long before then.)

Time for questions. Gloria discussed the differences between fast coagulation and slow: lots of rennet vs. little makes for different flavor development. No “second cook” or “cheddaring” for this cheese. This can’t be sold in the US because raw cheese must be aged at least 60 days, but you can make your own for your own consumption from raw milk—goat milk from your own goats or what you can buy from Claravale.

I will be doing this at home one day soon, but for now—while were having a break—I’m going to visit the wonderful vendors that are here.

I’ll keep you posted as the day progresses!