The Power of Cheese

This week Dame Aoife, a self-avowed "Cheesehead," writes about one of her favorite topics: Cheese!

Greetings my faithful readers.

I have a terrible confession to make. I'm a Cheesehead. Not a "cheesehead" of the sports-fanatic type (for those who follow American Sports), but of the I LOVE CHEESE variety. Alas, I am the unfortunate product of a childhood spent under the influence of the cheese-of-the-month club, where I was addicted early to the cherry-like flavor of baby camembert and the lushness of smoked havarti. It gets worse, I'm afraid. I actually enjoy making cheese now, and have become quite proficient. I'm reasonably sure that this fact alone seals me irrevocably in my doom of absolute nerd-dom.

The plain truth is, however, that cheese-making of at least an elemental (i.e.: fresh curds, and green cheese which is not the color green, BTW) variety would have been in the purview of every good medieval cook and housewife, despite the fact that we see almost NONE of it in our modern medieval feasts. Making curds, and using them for other products, would have been child's play to most ladies and cooks in our period of study, particularly in the high dairying areas. So what is it about cheese that has so many excellent modern cooks running scared? Although it's not a secret, I'd like to share a fact with you: Making cheese is easy. Anyone can do it, without any fancy equipment. With three ingredients already in your home (milk, salt, and an acidic product like lemon juice, wine, etc.), and a pot to warm them in, anyone can have success at making cheese. And the cheese you make at home will be miles better than store-bought cottage cheese, ricotta or farmer's cheese. Your personae, as you portray them, would undoubtedly have had a daily contact with green cheese, curds, enriched cheese products such as tarts, and would have had frequent contact with hard or aged cheese, slip-coat cheese, etc. So read on, and find out how to enrich your own SCAdian life with the addition of a simple, ancient food: Cheese.

A recent family issue prevented me from teaching a cheese-making class here in Aethelmearc at the event Weekend of Wisdom, and so I hope those that wished to attend my class will find this Links List useful. In addition, I understand the new Links List e-list will be operational soon, and it will be possible to subscribe to that Links List via www.scatoday.net , so stay tuned! Special Thanks to everyone at SCAtoday for working your considerable magic on my behalf.

Cheers,

Aoife

Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon, OL, OP
Canton of Riverouge
Barony of Endless Hills
Kingdom of Aethelmearc

Gode Cookery--Medieval Cheeses
http://www.godecookery.com/how2cook/howto02.htm
(Site Excerpt) This list includes cheeses that were known during the Middle Ages & Renaissance, along with some 17th century varieties and a few modern cheeses that are acceptable period substitutes. Beaufort, Brie, Camembert , Cheddar - first recorded use is in 1500, Comté .... SEE ALSO A Brief History of Cheese at http://www.godecookery.com/how2cook/cheesnet.htm

Stefan's Florilegium--Cheese-msg
http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD/cheese-msg.html
(Site Excerpt from ONE message of Many) Good sources for information on ancient-vs.-modern cheese are C. Anne Wilson's "Food and Drink in Britain", and, Heaven help me for saying so, the Larousse Gastronomique, which, as I have frequently said, is pretty much reliable only where French foods are concerned. G. Tacitus Adamantius
SEE ALSO the food Index at
http://www.florilegium.org/files/FOOD/idxfood.html and click on baked-cheese, cheese (recipes), fresh-cheeses, cheese-goo, cheesemaking, Cheese-Making-art, and cheesecake, for much of the currently SCA-held medieval knowledge about cheese.

Cheese Connoisseurs--Buy Cheese Online
http://www.cheese-connaisseurs.com/show/subcategorylist/subcategoryid/64...

Cheesemaking (and eating) by Cathy Harding (SCAdianly known as Maeve)
http://www.nwlink.com/~charding/cheese.html
(Note to see Campi's painting The Ricotta Eaters of 1585. Site Excerpt:) Digby has a recipe for making cheese (as part of the recipe To Make Cheesecakes)Take 12 quarts of milk warm from the cow, turn it with a good spoonful of rennet. Break it well, and put it in a large strainer, in which rowl it up and down, that all the whey may run out into a little tub; when all that will is run out, wring out more. Then break the curds well; then wring it again, and more whey will come. Thus break and wring till no more come. Then work the curds exceedingly with your hand in a tray, till they become a short uniform paste. (Digby p. 214/174 To Make Cheesecakes)

New England Cheesemaking Supply
(Note: I've dealt with this company and am pleased with their products--Aoife)
http://www.cheesemaking.com/
A good source of Rennet, in both animal and vegetable form. Good directions, as well as basic supplies.

The Grape and Granery--Cheesemaking supplies
http://www.thegrape.net/browse.cfm/2,1373.html

Cheese.com Cheese Making and Supplies
http://www.cheese.com/ Virtual store includes 65 cheese-making items to choose from

The Basics of Making Cheese
http://www.efr.hw.ac.uk/SDA/cheese2.html
(Site Excerpt) The process of cheesemaking is an ancient craft that dates back thousands of years. By today's standards of industrial technology, the process of cheesemaking is still a complicated one which combines both "Art" and "Science" together. The subject of cheese has been extensively investigated by many research groups in many countries, and in-depth information has been reported, for example, by Kosikowski (1982), Scott (1986), Robinson (1993) and Fox (1993). Nevertheless, the primary stages of cheesemaking are shown in Figure 2.1, and in brief the constituents of milk can be described as follows....

Guide to Cheeses from Around the World.
http://www.therepertoire.com/cheese/guide.htm

French Cheese
http://www.franceway.com/cheese/intro.htm
This site goes into detail about French Cheeses and the pasteurized/nonpasterized debate. It also gives tips for deciding the difference between the two and recognizing what you're buying.

Cheesemaking in Scotland, a History
http://www.efr.hw.ac.uk/SDA/book1.html
(Site Excerpt) Cheesemaking as we know it in Scotland today is basically a European development of skills acquired from the 'Fertile Crescent', the area of land between the Euphrates and Tigris in Iraq.Archaeologists have discovered that as far back as 6000 BC cheese had been made from cow's and goat's milk and stored in tall jars. Egyptian tomb murals of 2000 BC show butter and cheese being made, and other murals which show milk being stored in skin bags suspended from poles demonstrate a knowledge of dairy husbandry at that time.

Food Reference.com's Blue or Bleu Cheese History
http://www.foodreference.com/html/artbluecheese.html
(Site Excerpt) Roquefort cheese is a particular blue cheese that is made in the south of France. Some other blue cheeses are Stilton (England), Gorgonzola (Italy), Danablu (Denmark), and Americas' entry, Maytag Blue Cheese. These are just a few, there are many more blue cheeses. SEE ALSO Feta Facts and History http://www.foodreference.com/html/artfetacheese.html

History of Goat Cheese
http://www.inform.umd.edu/EdRes/Topic/AgrEnv/ndd/goat/GOAT_CHEESE.html
(Site Excerpt) Milk from all species has been used for cheesemaking. Because more attention has been given to increasing the productivity of the bovine species, a large proportion of commercial cheese is now made from cow milk; the milk from the buffalo, zebu, sheep and goat is also used extensively.

Making Cheese: The History (centers on Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, etc.)
http://park.org/Netherlands/pavilions/food_and_markets/cheese/history.html
(Site Excerpt) In Friesland in the north of The Netherlands, pots and vessels were discovered which indicate that as early as two centuries B.C., cheese was being made there. An extensive trade has existed since the Middle Ages. Around the year 1100 Dutch bargemen paid their tolls in cheese at Koblenz in Germany. In bills of the city of Rotterdam dating back to 1426, mention is made of the profession of `caescoper' (cheesemonger). In 1266 the City of Haarlem obtained the right to hold a dairy market. In 1303, Leyden was next, Oudewater in 1326 and Alkmaar in 1365.
SEE ALSO Netherlands's Making Cheese website:
http://park.org/Netherlands/pavilions/food_and_markets/cheese/making.html

Mozzarella History and Method
http://www.mozzco.com/mozzhisty.html
(Site Excerpt) Legend has it that mozzarella was first made when cheese curds accidentally fell into a pail of hot water in a cheese factory near Naples...and soon thereafter the first pizza was made! Actually, new cheeses are often formulated when mistakes happen, so there well may be truth in the tale!

Gorgonzola and her Cheese
http://www.deliciousitaly.com/Lombardiadishes13.htm
(Site Excerpt) The cheese's origins are arguably Piemontese. Even today the zone of production includes Novara, Vercelli and Cuneo in that province. All are entitled to label their produce with the official mark of quality. Legend states that in the 12th century a herdsman was travelling to summer pastures in Valsassina when he left a version of Gorgonzola in the town.

sympatico.ca History of Parmesan Cheese
http://gourmet.sympatico.ca/cheeses/italian/parmigia.htm
(Site Excerpt) Unchanged for the last seven centuries, Parmigiano Reggiano was praised as early as 1348 in the writings of Boccaccio. In the Decameron, he speaks of Cockaigne where there was a mountain made completely of Parmesan, on which lived people who made nothing but macaroni and ravioli, seeming to prove that Parmesan has long reigned on the Italian table as the accompaniment of choice for pasta.

US Dept of Agriculture: How to Buy Cheese (Acrobat Reader Required)
http://www.dogpile.com/info.dogpl/search/web/How%2Bto%2BCheese

Feta, The Flavoring Cheese (From the Jerusalem Post Online)
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull...
(Site Excerpt) First they discovered how to make cheese by separating the whey from the curds; but the fresh curds still didn't keep long. So they put the cheese in a brine of water and salt. Thus, feta was born.

Making Cheese at Home
http://schmidling.netfirms.com/making.htm
(Site Excerpt) The following recipe represents the ultimate in simplicity in cheese making. It will produce a delicious cottage cheese that resembles ricotta and is excellent fresh or used in cooking Italian dishes such as lasagna. We recommend that beginners start with a cottage cheese to get the feel for the basics and for the instant gratification of being able to enjoy the product immediately.

Cheesemaking Suggestions and recipes
http://www.geocities.com/foodhowto/recipes/cheese/cheese1.htm
(Site Excerpt) There are two main ways to "coagulate" milk: You can add acidic substance to the milk as the acids cause the milk proteins to clump together. Natural bacteria cultures are the main way to do this for most cheeses, especially the harder cheeses such as Cheddar

Here's How to Make Cheese
http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/howto3.htm
(Site Excerpt) The soft cheeses that most people are familiar with include cottage cheese, "goat" cheese, cream cheese, etc. Roughly speaking, any cheese that can be spread with a knife will have been produced by a "soft" process. There are 3 basic steps in making a soft cheese.

FANKHAUSER'S CHEESE PAGE © David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D.
http://biology.clc.uc.edu/Fankhauser/Cheese/Cheese.html
25 articles, ( 2-3 are NOT about cheese, but he's also into ginger ale and root beer :). Excellent, Concise, and illustrated!

Artisan Cheesemakers List (a yahoo group)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Artisan_Cheesemakers/
(Site Excerpt) How do you know if ARTISAN CHEESEMAKERS-L is for you? Does the idea of taking the mundanity of fresh milk and seeing it touched by the divine via the cheesemaking process thrill you to your very core? Do your eyes light up when the fateful words "Crottin de Chavignol" enter a conversation?

Republic of Kenya: Basic Facts for Farmers: Making Cheese (online instructional phamphlet)
http://www.fao.org/waicent/faoinfo/agricult/aga/publication/mpguide/mpgu...

The cheesemaking process--Stilton
http://www.stiltoncheese.com/UK/makingstilton/index.cfm

The Online Guide to the Art of Cheesemaking
http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Cottage/1288/index.htm