Goat milk feta cheese
Bread, wine, and cheese, besides being (collectively and individually) among life’s greatest pleasures, share another bond: They are all produced by a process of fermentation.”
Ricki Carroll, Home Cheese Making *
Milking it for all it’s worth
It’s hanging like a bull’s scrotum. The milky whey oozing out of the spongy curds and dripping into a ten litre stainless steel preserving pan.
At afternoon tea time I open the cupboard door that the muslin bag is suspended from. I gingerly take out the brazil nut jar without touching or getting too much of a swing on the bag. Success! I even manage to get the glass jar back in the cupboard without incident.
Cheese making creates hazards for the unwary. Last December, June made her first feta cheese in years: I removed a tea towel and put away some cutlery that had been covered by the cloth, and in doing so absentmindedly contaminated sterile gear. I’m just too well house-trained. Onto it now though and I keep well away from the cheese making enterprise – unless, of course, I’m writing about it!
It’s feta cheese in the bag, but it’s nice to imagine that full-fat, unpasteurized goodness seeping into my own testicles. It’s quite a stretch, but humour me. I do meander back to the cheese making eventually.
Cut back on the dairy. My cholesterol is 5.1, the nurse says, before specifically mentioning cheese. And June’s is a bit higher than mine. It’s the cheapo test that doesn’t break it down into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Reminds me of a local farmer, after he’d been given his results. The doctor asked him if he used skimmed milk. The farmer said yes: he skimmed the cream off the house cow’s milk and put it on his porridge.
We choose to believe, based on our own research, that we have a healthy good to bad ratio. That the cholesterol in our systems is coursing through as it should and not getting thickly glued to artery walls. Knowing hormones need cholesterol, I like to think that it’s giving my testosterone a tickle up. Now there’s something I didn’t need to sweat over in my younger days!
What’s the Story Morning Glory **
So what is the story, morning glory: all that full fat cheese, butter, yoghurt and milk? And the free range eggs, pasture fed meat (not fatty but not totally lean either), and beef lard? We have a balanced diet, a diet notable for a minimalist approach to processed foods, a varied diet. In my book – good nutrition as part of a healthy lifestyle. And one indicator of a man’s good health? Morning glories.
A bit cheesy, eh? Told you we’d get back to cheese. Still a bit unFetarred though for a few paragraphs.
Chewing the fat
We were in Timaru last Tuesday and ordered a blue vein cheese kit – June’s Xmas present. “June will enjoy making it and I’ll enjoy eating it.” A flippant remark directed at the woman who was ordering the kit for us. Over the course of three years, she’d run cheese workshops all over the South Island.
“I’m now a vegan.” Did I detect a hint of regret in her voice. After all, she had a passion for the stuff – making it, teaching the craft, and bon appetit did she enjoy eating it. My silent thought is, “What went wrong?” Which just goes to show my prejudices when it comes to some dietary choices.
She reckoned it was the dairy foods that were responsible for her health problems. “My health is good now.” Her voice trailed off, like she was trying to convince herself that the walnut milk cheese she was thinking of making could, even in her wildest dreams, still be thought of as cheese.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard some utterly convincing arguments from vegans, backed up by all the relevant medical data, detailing how their health has dramatically improved. I just hope I never end up in vegan heaven myself.
A small garden, figs, a little cheese, and, along with this, three or four good friends – such was luxury to Epicurus.”– Friedrich Nietzsche
Epicureanism was later summed up as a motto: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” I tried, in vane (she was looking for a vein), to impress the nurse with that one while she was preparing to take the blood sample that gave the above cholesterol reading. For me personally, the most pared down illustration of “eat, drink and be merry” is steak, red wine and good company.
I don’t think I’m a dinosaur? It’s easier to defend your politically incorrect food choices when your meals are chocka with home-grown produce.
Years ago, June used to supplement our cheese supply with home-made goat milk feta and cow milk farmhouse cheddar. Now she’s back to making feta, she’s keen to try her hand at making hard cheeses again. She says the blue vein kit will be just the kick start she needs.
Truth is, we’ll still rely on supermarket ‘tasty cheddars’ and mild, melting ‘Colby’ to provide us with most of our cheese. June and I power through a lot of cheese in a year. Offer us any half-decent kind of cheese and we’ll devour it.
As for June’s feta – it’s salty, strong flavoured, quite moist, but firm to the bite. A taste sensation that, with olives, can transport us back to a memorable afternoon spent, many eons ago, with a Greek couple on the island of Sifnos.
Here, in pictures, is shown the making of the miracle that is cheese:
June’s unpasteurized goat milk feta cheese
June already had a couple of books on cheese making, but she was so impressed with Ricki Carroll’s approach that she bought her book before getting back into it. She’s since found it invaluable and is looking forward to using the recipes to make other cheeses. On the back cover there are several commendations, all expressing similar sentiments to this one:
… For anyone interested in learning how to make cheese at home, this book is unquestionably the one they need to have.”
– Ari Weinzweig, Co-Founder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ann Arbor, Michigan
*Carroll, Ricki. Home Cheese Making. Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 3rd Ed. 2002.
**In the chorus of a song written by Noel Gallagher (OASIS)
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.