Issue No. 7

August 28th, 2010

Vagabond Cheese Enthusiast: Report from Scotland

by Porter White

To the traveler with a taste for British cheeses, a trip to the UK requires certain pit stops and pilgrimages. Surely the experimental Neil’s Yard Dairy would rank high on the list of places to see, as would one or more of the six farms licensed to make Stilton. And add to the itinerary an acquisitive visit to a cheesemonger selling a range of cheeses from Scotland. Artisanal cheese production in Scotland has expanded vastly in the past decade and a half—since 1994, the number of Scottish cheeses entered in the British Cheese Awards has more than tripled, with the 2009 show judging 95 varieties.

Marc Duarte: Tantalized by the Technology

by Susan Marquis

“OK, now, who’s ready to make some cheese!?!”1 And so Marc Duarte opens up another session with a group of cheesemakers at the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont. Whether hosting a visiting cheesemaker from Greece, Spain, or Italy, or introducing students to the finer details of cheese technique and technology, Marc Duarte is the hands-on-guy at VIAC. Marc is the one who takes what is taught in VIAC’s classroom and makes it real for students in the cheese room. Seeing the increased viscosity of milk as it reaches the point of flocculation, holding the harp and cutting the coagulant to just the right size, and feeling the curds to know when they have reached the appropriate dryness and acidity level are essential to cheesemakers’ understanding of the chemical and physical changes occurring when they convert milk to cheese. Marc encourages students to use all of their senses in identifying these changes, and offers his enthusiasm and patience to guarantee the success of the program.

So Were There Cows at the Nativity?

by Christopher Thompson

A quick look at Biblical history tells us that there were plenty of dairy animals in Palestine in ancient times, but most were probably goats and sheep. These were easier to keep alive during the harsh temperature changes of the Middle East, took up less stable room, and didn’t need as much grazing as bovines. But there were certainly bovines, as we know from the Levitican laws regarding restitution paid for injured or killed oxen, which were then as now castrated males trained as draft animals. Some scholars think it likely that some households also had a house-cow, for milk purposes. Whether there was one such cow at the Nativity depends upon what sort of place Joseph and Mary settled in for the night. Travelers at an inn in town would most likely have used the stable for draft and ridden animals: horses, donkeys, and oxen. But if it was the stable of a household, there could have been a dairy cow or other dairy animals the family kept. And the question as to how the animals—traditionally an ox and an ass—might have dealt with the divine presence in their stable was addressed in a 15th-Century homily by John Mirkus, at the time a monk of Gloucester Abbey in England; quoted here from his Festiall.

Do Try This At Home: The Ins and Outs of Ricotta

by Susan Marquis

In the last issue of Cheese Enthusiast (CE 6), we promised we’d get back to our readers regarding ricotta. The topic was triggered by a letter we received asking if we had ever heard of making ricotta using boiled seawater. Not having heard of such a thing ourselves, we immediately sent the question out to several of our revered sources, including Marc Duarte at the Vermont Institute for Artisanal Cheese (Marc is featured elsewhere in this issue), Jim Wallace at New England Cheesemaking Supply, and Giuseppe Licitra at the Consorzio Ricerca Filiera Lattiero Casearia in Ragusa, Sicily.

Turning On To Rain, and Turning Off The Tap…55 Gallons At A Time

by Molly Selvin

If Los Angeles’ rainwater harvesting program could put a barrel at each of the city’s 800,000 residential parcels, demand for tap water could drop by about 800 million gallons a year.

I joined the city’s rainwater harvesting program in October, when fierce Santa Ana winds made the notion of any rain, not to mention enough to “harvest,” seem fanciful to say the least. But last week’s glorious pelting rains filled my new storage barrel to the brim, along with those of several of my Mar Vista neighbors.

Book Review: The Home Creamery

by Susan Marquis

I’m telling you, it is a terrific summer meal: a real Greek salad with perfectly ripe tomatoes and cucumbers and the salty, dairy hit of good Feta. Then perhaps some grilled seafood such as prawns, bonito, parrot fish, calamari, or snapper, simply prepared with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and Greek oregano. And perhaps some whole potatoes rubbed in salt and olive oil and roasted on the grill. And then—to delight the soul—some lovely grilled cheese or saganaki, made with Kasseri or Halloumi cheese toasted until browned and then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice. If you are so inclined, this wonderful, outdoor meal is even better when complemented by a bright Greek white wine chilled a bit more than usual to accommodate the summer heat.

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