April Tea Party Winners

Six Year Blog Anniversary WINNERS: Carla Gade - Pattern for Romance audiobooks go to Andrea Stephens and Megs Minutes and winner of Love's Compas is Terressa Thornton, PEGG THOMAS's signed copy of The Pony Express Romance Collection is Debra Smith, Janet Grunst's debut book goes to Kathleen Maher, Carrie Fancett Pagels' winner's choice goes to: Connie Saunders, Denise Weimer's print winner of, Angela Couch's winner's choice goes to Susan Johnson, Debra E. Marvin reader's choice of any of her novellas or a paperback of Saguaro Sunset novella -- Teri DiVincenzo and Lynne Feurstein, Jennifer Hudson Taylor's "For Love or Country" go to: Lucy Reynolds, Bree Herron and Mary Ellen Goodwin, Shannon McNear's winners are Becky Dempsey for Pioneer Christmas and Michelle Hayes for Most Eligible Bachelor, Roseanna White's winner for Love Finds You in Annapolis is Becky Smith.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Cheese Stands Alone!

In a world of food allergies, dieting, sustainable agriculture and the like, I’ve found cheese is one of the hardest delights to give up. Cheese, after all, is Fat And Salt, and rivals Fat And Sugar in popularity.

Did our colonial ancestors appreciate it as well? Likely so, but in different ways. As long as people have been raising or domesticating milk animals, people have been drinking milk and trying to use it before the leftovers spoil. There’s butter and there’s cheese. Farmer cheese, or pot cheese, was the standard, yet few of us eat it now, as we’ve moved on to aged cheese. Let me explain:

Farmer’s cheese uses the process of adding something to make the milk curdle. It doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? But think cottage cheese. We do eat it. Curdle? Curds? Yes. Cottage cheese is the closest thing we have to the process. By adding vinegar, citrus juice, rennet, milk changes. It doesn’t become immune to deterioration (unless it’s processed American Cheese), but it lasts a lot longer.  Cheese was a common European product and even now, cheese is rarely a part of Asian cuisines.  Europeans brought cheesemaking to the “New World”. Sorry Wisconsin, but the northeast colonies were the heart of cheese-making land long before you saw a Guernsey cow!  Cheese in some form was found around the world wherever dairy animals are kept. Africa, The Middle East, the Americas and certainly Europe.

The colonies of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Eastern Massachusetts were full of these European dairymen. The Cheese culture (ahem) spread to western Massachusetts, New York and into Ohio after the Revolutionary War. Parts of Ohio were considered the center of cheesemaking country! The dairy industry continued to spread west.

What’s farmer cheese? Take fresh milk (unpasteurized—in the old days this also meant straining out things you definitely didn’t want in your milk or cheese),and add rennet. Rennet is a product derived from a calf’s stomach. Today you can still buy rennet or you can use vinegar or lemon. In colonial times, rennet and warm milk would sit in large trays in the coolest part of the milk shed or kitchen, and begin to separate. Ask Miss Muffet about those curds and whey, will you? Colonial milkmaids helped the process along and eventually bagged up the curds to drain. Yes, this is where CHEESECLOTH came from, and they were left with curds. What drained off was the whey and it made a great basis for cooking and baking or drinking, just like buttermilk. 

In some cases the curds are pressed to further remove whey and create a more solid –yet soft—form of spreadable cheese. Farmer’s cheese is generally left as is or flavorings can be added. Chives, for instance.

The other cheeses we love are taken a step further. They are aged. There’s a science and an art to it. Think of all the cheeses you might eat in one day. Cream cheese, cheddar cheese, feta.  They’re all nothing without salt and a specialized aging process. Farmers with more time and competitiveness took those steps. Today, in the Finger Lakes area of New York State, we have a CHEESE TRAIL!


Most of us these days can think of at least ten types of cheese we use in our diet.  (Unless you are milk intolerant!) Have you ever made your own cheese?






15 comments:

  1. I didn't share a recipe, as I saw quite a few, but I think I'll try this sometime. I'm not supposed to eat aged cheese, so I miss it. Farmer cheese might make a nice spread for something different!

    Thanks for visiting!

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  2. What a fun topic!! Yearsa ago my stepdad taught us to make his version of "cottage cheese"--a dry, crumbly product that you could add cream to, or not, and so delicious when done right! We've experimented with the harder, aged cheeses but it never turned out right.

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    1. Ahah! you've at least had the honest-to-goodness experience, which makes me more determined to give it a try. I have to remember, though, to buy unpasteurized... I think!

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  3. Great post, Deb! I've made homemade yoghurt before but not cheese. I am dairy intolerant I think the term is. I get migraines from it like I just did at conference. But I can eat the fat from milk (apparently the protein is gone?) That's funny about Wisconsin not being the original cheese state, but they sure are now, aren't they?

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    1. I used to make my own yogurt. Easy as it was, the time involved, and the fact that I purchased plain yogurt as a starter eventually gave way to just buying plain yogurt at the store in a quart. Easier and cheaper. But I felt like a traitor.

      I didn't know that just the fat of the milk would work for a dairy intolerance. Interesting, but finding that out certainly is good for reducing the body's reactions.

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  4. Great post Debra! My grandparents had a small farm and had buttermilk for us to drink when we were little/visited...we did not like it! I don't know if she made cheese though. My mother talks about churning butter but no cheese making.
    Blessings,Tina

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    1. I'm with you on that. I never could figure out the draw for buttermilk. Good for baking but... blech.
      My dad ate it with chunks of white bread soaked in it. Of course, he also ate pigs knuckles and tins of smelly fish.

      How wonderful that you have that memory of your grandparents' farm. So few of the small farms now! thanks!

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  5. I remember having rennet custard as a child. Thanks for such an interesting post, Debra.

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    1. Hi Janet! that is certainly something I've never heard of and now I want to 'google' it! Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Interesting post. I made some yogurt cheese a couple of weeks ago. It was easy and very good. I watched a youtube video to see how to do it.

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    1. Ah yes! You Tube! So many things to learn. What did I do without it?
      That sounds like another option to try, Kay. I'm going to do this over the winter. Would you make it again? What did you use it for?

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    2. Yes, I will definitely make it again. My yogurt was whole milk vanilla. I spread it on toast with jam. I hope to make some with plain yogurt and add herbs and spread on crackers. BTW, I used unbleached coffee filters, rather than cheesecloth. Much less mess, I thought. I didn't have to deal with the cloth afterward.

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  7. I have never made cheese. But, our family loves cheese. :-)

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    1. Hi Melissa! thanks for stopping in! I've had to stop eating aged cheese and it's very difficult! That's why I looked up farmer cheese--in the search for options. I can eat ricotta or fresh mozzerella. I'll have to learn how ricotta differs from other soft/fresh cheeses.

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  8. I have made my own yogurt but have never tried cheese. I do love to eat it, though!!

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