Via The BBC, the story of cheesemaking in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
A hillside village in the Democratic Republic of Congo is an unlikely site for the production of fine cheese. But here, one man continues a legacy started by Belgian priests in 1975.
Andre Ndekezi cuts carefully through thick, curdled milk with a large fork and then stirs it with his bare hands. He is making cheese in a bathtub. His workshop is a small, wooden cabin perched on the lush hills of Masisi, in the east of the DR Congo. The conditions are basic, but Ndekezi has a rare savoir-faire when it comes to dairy products.
The curd will spend a month on a shelf in a dark room in the back of the workshop and eventually become a refined cheese.
Simply known as Goma cheese - Goma is the largest town in the area - it is like a milder version of French gruyere, softer in texture. Ndekezi is 52 years old and he learned how to do his job 30 years ago. At the time, all sorts of cheese was produced in eastern DR Congo. “I know how to make camembert and mozzarella,” explains Ndekezi. “But we no longer have the necessary equipment or products to make those cheeses. During the war, everything was looted or destroyed.”
With its cool climate and abundant cattle, the area offers the ideal conditions for dairy production. That is what prompted Belgian priests to first start making cheese here in the 1970s. “The priests started in 1975, they set up factories on the hills, not only here but also in Rwanda and Uganda,” Ndekezi explains. Today, cheese from Masisi is the only local dairy product to be sold across the DRC. Cheese is not usually part of traditional food in Africa, and in fact much of the cheese found on the continent is imported from Europe.
Ndekezi was taught to make cheese by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Masisi, before being hired by a local dairy farm run by Belgian priests.
That’s where he acquired the skills to make more sophisticated dairy products, including the famous French camembert and Italian mozzarella but also yoghurt and butter. “I am proud to be able to say that my country DR Congo produces cheese.” He has bigger ambitions. For him, this tiny factory is only a first step back into the business. He is convinced that with his skills, he can achieve much more. “Little by little, I will build on this. I want to get equipment shipped from Europe so I can also start making camembert here. You’ll see, one day I will send some to you, in France.”
Read the full story.
(Photos ©2014 BBC.co.uk)
Fresh wheels of the Gowanish Couronne in the “cave”. Made with raw goat’s milk, this is at about 4 days in, 53F, 88% humidity. No rind development yet, will likely start to sprout in the next couple days.
Checking the rind development on the Gowanus Tomme. The “M” in the top is starting to disappear under the gray Mycodore.
The American Cheese Society blog features Jess Perrie, “cheese chemist” at Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah and the first recipient of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award last summer at the American Cheese Society conference in Madison, WI:
Jess Perrie, the first recipient of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award (DZTA), is heading to the Basque region of Spain from April 1 – 16 of next year. She will be learning about traditional Basque cheesemaking techniques and how to create cheese in an arid landscape that is similar to that of the western United States.
The DZTA is an annual scholarship given to a food industry professional to further their learning – and their ability to educate others – about cheese. It’s named in honor of Daphne Zepos, one of America’s most inspiring cheese teachers.
Jess received the DZTA at the 2013 ACS Annual Conference, and she has been busy planning her trip since. She will be visiting Barcelona, Vitoria-Gasteize/University of Basque, Bilbao, and perhaps Girona. Jess chose to travel to Spain because of her interest in the Basque populations in the western U.S. “There is a deep connection between food and tradition in the Basque culture,” said Jess. “In some ways too, I feel the west is still trying to define its role in the cheese community. I hope that learning Basque tradition will help me try to find that role.”
Jess is most looking forward to meeting the Basque cheesemakers and shepherds. “They are the inspiration for my application vision and it will be an honor to meet them, talk to them, and see them work. It will be humbling,” said Jess.
Jess also plans to use the knowledge she’s gained from this experience to help cheesemakers in the western U.S. “I hope to inspire those who are interested in artisan cheesemaking in the region and encourage others to follow,” said Jess. While places with Basque populations, like Idaho, have a number of industrial cheesemaking facilities, Jess’ goal is to inspire more traditional methods from a new generation of cheesemakers.
Check out the full post.
(Photo ©2013 Cheesesociety.org)
I’m a little late to this, as the story actually appeared in Garden & Gun magazine this past summer, but this is a great article about the rise of Southern cheesemaking, with a focus on Sequatchie Cove Farm in Tennessee, makers of the Cheese Notes favorite Dancing Fern:
From the heat to the bugs, Southern cheese makers face a daunting set of challenges. But a growing number of them are proving they can stack up with the best
Since it started in earnest in the late 1990s, the South’s artisan cheese-making community has grown to about 150 members, a figure compiled from a survey by the American Cheese Society and estimates by the sellers and makers of Southern cheese. Southern farms and cheese makers are crafting new cheeses that are sometimes exceptional, sometimes quirky, but increasingly embraced by both Southerners and cheese experts around the country. “We’ve seen just tremendous growth in the South,” says Nora Weiser, the cheese society’s executive director. “That’s the area that is most ripe for it, and the quality is increasing with the quantity.”
Arnold was one of twenty-nine Southern cheese makers to enter the cheese society’s competition last year (up from only eight in 2008), and a record fifteen of them won awards. State fairs have started cheese competitions, and the South even has its own artisan cheese festival now, which will be held this year, its third, on September 28 in Nashville.
Arnold never went to college, but that was more about an aversion to institutions than a lack of intellect. He has a meticulous mind and loves art and science in equal measures. He is, a day with him makes clear, a perfectionist, and making cheese in the South, perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, is Kryptonite for perfectionists.
Summer temperatures burn off the grass and make the cows lethargic. Stressed from the heat, animals give less milk. Warm winters mean insects and parasite populations never really get killed off. Sheep get weird parasites such as the barber pole worm. Crazy kinds of yeast float through the cheese house. But with the challenges also come advantages. Find a way to harness all that biodiversity and navigate year-round grazing, and you can make great cheese.
“If you want biodiversity, the South is the place,” says Padgett Arnold, Nathan’s wife and one of about ten people who live or work on the diversified Sequatchie Cove Farm, including its owners, the Keener family. “This climate will grow anything. It’s great, but it means making cheese is an art down here. Every day we’re learning just how complex it really is.”
Check out the full post.
(Photos ©2013 Garden & Gun)
"M" is for Mycodore, first growth of, on the Gowanus Tomme. Mycodore is a culture commonly used in Tomme’s and provides the classic gray-white, dusty exterior and slightly musty, cave-like aroma to the cheese (Think Tomme de Savoie or Saint-Nectaire). Washing the cheese with the brine will remove most of the growth, but it will come back within a few days, once its established. Right now the growth is kind of fluffy, akin to a fresh Penicilium Candidum growth, but eventually it will settle down to a flatter, even growth across the surface.
You can purchase Mycodore, manufactured by Choozit, at ArtisanGeek.com.
Another day, another wheel of Gowanus Tomme, made with raw milk from Dutch Belted cows. Also included are pictures along the way: checking the initial pH; the culture blend measured out and ready to go into the vat; the curds ladeled into the moulds.
I’ve also added a bit of customization to this wheel, “M” (for Matt, although next time I’ll go for “G” for Gowanus instead) in the top of the wheel. I cut the letter out of the bottom of an old tupperware container. You can use pretty much any food-grade plastic (yogurt containers, tupperware, rubber mats etc), and drop it into the mould when the curds first go in. If you’ve ever wondered how cheesemakers add those animal silhouettes or batch numbers to their wheels, that’s all there is to it! Although I’m sure there are more professional solutions out there, eg pre-cut numbers and letters, that you could dig up.
Artisan cheese is now being produced adjacent to a dairy in northwest Mason Valley under the name Tahoe Cheese. The cheese is described as premium artisanal farmstead (or farm made) specialty cheese, made from local pure raw milk.
David and Dawn Green moved with their twin daughters from Orlando, Fla., where they had a dairy and citrus farm, to begin producing cheese in western Nevada. Tahoe Cheese is owned in a partnership with Chad Turner, who is involved in the dairies in the area, including a milking hall attached to the milk plant.
To be sure they had the purest milk possible for the cheese making, the pair wanted to get the milk from a nearby dairy, and not have it shipped somewhere and then shipped to them.
He said the altitude and dry climate are helpful in their production, because it makes the milk cleaner, the cows aren’t in the mud so much, and the cows can be outside more. The Tahoe Cheese website (tahoecheese.com) says it is the only local premium specialty cheese produced in Nevada. The plant produces about 1,000 pounds per week, or two tons a month.
Check out the full story.
(Photo ©2013 Reno Gazette)
TheKitchn.com paid a visit to a micro-dairy cheesemaker in Tuscany, I Due Falcetti, and brought back some beautiful photographs:
Who: Francesco Bagnoli
Where: Lamporecchio, Tuscany, Italy
A few months ago I found myself in Italy at the top of a hill at dusk, surrounded by olive trees and nibbling fresh cheese made by a blonde curly-haired man straight out of a Renaissance painting. “Is this heaven?” I pondered. There is something truly idyllic about I Due Falcetti, a small artisanal cheesemaking operation in Tuscany run by Francesco Bagnoli.
Francesco and his brother create cheese from 15 cows who roam completely free over their 45-acre property in Lamporecchio, Tuscany, about halfway between Lucca and Florence. Cows munch on olive trees, grasses, flowers and other wild vegetation, and their diet varies with the season as different plants come and go. Sometimes their milk even turns pink when they forage for berries on the property!
The I Due Falcetti cheesemaking facility is a small, two-room area on the bottom level of the Bagnoli home. It’s a small setup, consisting of just a few large pots and sterilized tools in one room, which sits adjacent to the cheese cellar where molds and packaging materials are stored. Francesco and his family make 16 types of cheese from their antibiotic- and- hormone-free cow milk. I sampled three different semi-hard cheeses (one covered with black pepper, another red chili flakes, and a plain version) and one soft cheese, a primo sale which translates to “first salt.”
I Due Falcetti operates almost solely on a subscription-based service. Similar to our concept of a CSA share, Spesa a kilometro zero (which translates “shopping at zero kilometers”) is nothing new in Italy, but it’s seen a rise in popularity as Italians strive to directly support the farmers and makers within their beautiful (and very food-focused!) country. Local families and restaurants frequently buy into a year’s worth of cheese, which is delivered to a convenient checkpoint for pickup each week. This cheese tends to be very reasonably priced, too, which makes it possible for everyone to buy it, not just an elite crowd.
Check out the full post.
(Photos ©2013 TheKitchn.com)
British newspaper The Telegraph reports on a new “micro-dairy” setting up shop in North London, Wildes Cheese. London is becoming a bit of a hotbed of urban cheesemakers: in addition to Wildes, it’s home to Gringa Dairy and Kappa Cassein:
Philip Wilton, an ‘urban cheesemaker’, perfects his recipes through plenty of trial and error
Frontier Works, a small industrial estate down a side street in north London, is the last place you would expect to find a dairy. But tucked between a glassworks and a ceramics company is Philip Wilton, 50, a self-proclaimed ‘urban cheesemaker’.
Wilton’s micro-dairy is no bigger than a garage. Its small hallway hosts a single sink and a fridge, and through some plastic drapes lies what he calls ‘the cave system’ – a cold, dark room with a chilling unit where his artisan cheeses are left to mature.
Wilton used to work in management consultancy, but in June 2011 he took redundancy and started afresh. ‘I’ve always loved cheese – for a while I even tried to persuade my mother to make it,’ he says. ‘I’ve lived in Tottenham for 30 years, and in my head cheesemaking meant countryside, until one day the penny dropped. I thought, if you can brew beer on a London industrial estate [like Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick], then why can’t you make cheese?’ He took courses on food hygiene, safety in the workplace, milking and farming, bought his unit, which had been left derelict, in June 2012, and started making cheese, learning as he went.
Check out the full post.
(Photo ©2013 The Telegraph)