Farming and cheese making
Welcome to page (29) Farming and cheese making
Dear readers, we are continuing to write about my life story, so, just to give a sense of continuity to these articles that we are writing here, we are still going to talk about the farms animals that we were talking about in our last article. We could say that in the farms, we are using farm animals for our own benefit in many ways, one of these benefits is the milk that we take from the cows and other animals, and how we used it. But because I have not said everything in our previous article, because I thought it was a bit harsh to say some cruel things, when you are talking about spring and you want to say that everything in spring time is beautiful, I have shifted that harsh part here. So, before we continue to start milking the cow and making cheese, I am going to write it here-under. Because this is a fact of life that happens, even if we don’t like it to happen.
What I am going to say here is that farmers sometimes are pushed to do something that seems cruel, but it is not their fault if they do it, because these things have got to be done, so what are those things that I am trying to delay saying; okay let me say it, these things that we are delaying to say may seem cruel to some of us, but it is one of those ways that the farmers have to live their lives with, not because they are cruel but it needs to be done that way anyhow. So, don’t be angry towards the farmers, because they have to do it anyhow, we people sometimes do things what seems against Mother Nature, because we need to control everything around us for our own benefit, so, we do some cruel things and one of those things is that we take away the veal from mother cow, we sell the veal to the butcher who does whatever he has to do in this case, after we have done that, then we can happily milk the cow, so the poor mother cow cops it both ways, but these are facts of life and they cannot be changed; So dear readers do not feel sorry about mother cow and don’t think too much about it, as these things have been accepted and done for centuries. So, let us accept it ourselves and forget about the cruelty that sometimes life brings to us, as it is inevitable.
Now, that I have explained this somehow cruel part of us humans, let me go back to tell you about cheese making, because we would like to show you what we were doing or did with the milk that we took from mother cow. As you know, in our last article we were talking about what I was doing in our small family farm when I was young, we were talking about spring when all animals have their offspring’s and at the end we were talking about the cows and the milk that they produce. Now, let us talk a bit more about the milk that we took from the cows, because we want to show you how farming was done the old ways; as we have said farming is based mainly in recycling all the produce that comes from the land, therefore it is based on the assumption of waste not want not, this would also apply to the milk that we take from the cows and other animals, so this milk must be put to good use and since in those times there were not many choices, how to use it, we would make cheese from this milk that we had, as I will describe the procedure later in this article.
As you know, this article is being written because this is also part of my farm life story, at the same time because I love eating cheese, I would like to say a few things about cheeses and how good it is, and then we will go back to our normal farm life story.
Today we enjoy eating cheese in many ways and so do I, in fact in a lot of prepared foods we use many types of cheeses in many ways, so, cheese is very popular food; to understand its importance we need to look at food preparation, and how often the chefs use cheese in preparing their food. Now apart that cheese can be added to many dishes at the end when preparing the food, there are things that the cheese is the main ingredient, cheesecakes, macaroni and cheese and others dishes, you can even make a cheese sandwich by itself or with other ingredients, I love cheese so much that sometimes I just eat a small piece of it with nothing else, it leaves my mouth sweet and my stomach satisfied and happy, I even use it to replace cough lollies and usually it works, but that is up to the individual taste and what sort of cheese you use to do that.
Anyhow here under are a couple of links that will show you how cheese can be used; I hope you will find them useful:
Here we could say a lot more about cheeses and their uses, but perhaps it is better if we go back to talk about my life story in the farm, what we thought about cheese then and also how we made this cheese the old way, we would also say the ways that we believe cheese came about, in other words how we believe making cheese started.
How we started to make cheese
Let us say that cheese tastes so good that when you are young you would like to know who invented cheese, so let us talk about cheese. When we talk about cheese we have to admit that cheese is one of the best and most used foods that we consume, in fact we may have to assume that cheese is perhaps the most used dairy product that we use after milk itself, we may assume that about everybody eats cheese nearly every day or at least has eaten cheese several times during their lives, I am assuming that because I eat cheese just about every day, even if I eat it only in small portions, and most other people that I know also eat cheese regularly. So, even now sometimes we wonder who invented cheese so to speak, therefore here-under we are trying to answer that question, just the way that we believe it happened, including the views of some other people that we have talked about it.
There are reasons to believe that cheese making is very ancient, in fact there is no way to know how early humanity started making cheese, I have not seen anything written in the history books about when cheese first appeared, even though they talk about herds of sheep and cattle, so we have to assume that since they had sheep and cattle, they would milk them and use their milk in many ways, beside other things that they could use these herds for. Since they had this milk somehow ancient people discovered that they could use milk to make cheese and since then we have made cheese.
There are several theories how making cheese started, one of this theorises says that perhaps at the very beginning when some of those shepherd stored their extra milk, if the milk was left there for too long in would turn into curd and then in a sort of cheese, perhaps just a piece of very acid cheese and therefore it would not be as good as the cheeses that we make and have today, but they started to make cheese anyhow, because they needed to save whatever they could to save themselves sometimes from starving; anyhow, knowing that the milk could become cheese, from this event that occurs spontaneous if you leave the milk for a long time, they started to make cheese; you see, even though the cheese that they made was an acid piece of a semi solid paste, the very ancient people sometimes they had to use whatever they had to feed themselves, so they used this cheese and slowly worked out how to make the milk become cheese; anyhow with the passing of time in one way or another they worked out how to make cheese properly.
So, since early times once we humans learned how to make cheese properly, and then how to cure cheese and keep it for long period of time, we have been making cheese and eating cheese ever since, because cheese has one of the best nutritional values and could easily be stored, so, today we are making several types of cheeses and we can choose which type we want, at the supermarket there are many types of cheeses that would be hard even to know all their names.
But cheese does not come just from the supermarket, so, in order to make sense to the young people of today, let us describe where cheese comes from so to speak; perhaps just to pretend that we are not sure where it comes from, in order to tell the younger generation where cheese comes from, since the young people are not exposed to the natural ways of life as most of us did in the past, therefore for them would be hard to imagine how cheese is made and where cheese comes from, they think that it just comes from the supermarket.
So let me see how I could tell you in my own way how to make cheese, since I had to make some cheese myself when I was young; so, let us describe and discover how the cheese is made, and also where it comes from, just to inform the younger generation, because I happen to know this firsthand as I was working in the farms when I was very young, and in our family farm we made some cheese as well. Now the first thing that is necessary to know is that we use milk to make cheese, we use farm animals to milk them and then make cheese form their milk, so let me tell you what I have seen happening and what I did when I was young, so, that we could and would make cheese.
To make cheese we milk farm animals
In this article we are talking about making cheese the old way as well, first of all I have to say that we have always used farm animals to milk them and use their milk to make cheese and other things. Now, in order to understand what I am going to say next you need to imagine that you are living in the past; say seventy years ago or there about in a farm as I did when I was young, because life then was very different from today, so many things were done in a different way as well including cheese making.
But anyhow that wasn’t the only thing that I observed then, because, while I was living in this farm, I have observed many things and I have learned many things including Mother Nature ways of doing things and thus I observed also what follows here under:
While I was living in the farm not only I learned how to make cheese the old ways, because I was observing everything around me as well, and as we all know it is only natural to observe everything around you, since it is the way that helps us survive, and therefore I was observing Mother Nature as well and I saw this; the ways that Mother Nature has set consists of certain time rules, so, everything happen in a natural way at the right time, this setting of how things happen in the natural way is almost faultless, it has to be because this gives the greatest chance to the new born, just let us look at what happens with the farms animals, you see, most of the farm animals give birth to their offspring when there is plenty of food to go around, and when there is plenty of food they make also plenty of milk, it happens also when mild and fine weather is usually expected, this is how Mother Nature has set everything to work and it works very well indeed, because there is no strain on the new born when they are weak.
Therefore, it is for this reason that in springtime most of the animals offspring are born, starting from the goats, sheep, and also the cows that usually calf once every year and they make plenty of milk especially when there is plenty of green food to eat, also other animals have their offspring, the goats have their kids, the sheep have their lambs, the mares have their foals, and other animals have also their young’s whatever it is according to their specie; there are reasons to believe that they are born in spring so that they can grow big and strong during the spring and summer, so that when the cold weather comes back they would be able to cope with it easily, this is really how Mother Nature wants it to be, when we do not intervene and upset the natural ways.
Dear readers, I have written a few extra things above, just to find an excuse and delay to say something that is going to sound cruel, but I cannot avoid it any longer: we the people that own the farms and the animals, sometimes we have to do things that go against Mother Nature, as we want and need to control everything around us. Sometimes we do very cruel things also, and one of those things is when we take away the calf from mother cow, we sell the calf to the butcher and then we happily milk the cow, so the poor cow cops it both ways.
You see we take plenty of milk from the cows after selling their calves, and what we do with most of the milk? We could sell the milk, if there is a market for the milk, or we could make cheese and other dairy products from it. So, hereunder we are going to talk about, how we made cheese at the time when I was young, and then how we made ricotta cheese, I know that what I am going to say here is going to be old fashioned, because today is not done as much as then accept in some cases, when it becomes necessary do use the old ways; but anyhow, here we are talking about my life story and the way of how things were done and happening when I was young, so let me continue to tell you my story.
But before we do that, let us talk about the modern ways of how they make cheese today, say in the cheese factories like Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a well-known cheese all over the world, and it is used a lot on many culinary things. Perhaps this will make us compare the great difference, between the way they do it now on a grand scale, and the ways that we used to do it then in our family farms when I was young.
Parmigiano cheese making
There are many types of cheese in the world, but it would be wise not to mention them because it would take some time to write and to read them; so let us talk mainly about one of the best cheese in the world, Parmesan cheese, which is a cheese that is used in many culinary things, you just need to watch one of these cooking shows to see the many times this type of cheese is used. Now we would also like to talk about from where this type of cheese comes from, as this cheese has a special recipe that is protected even today, so let us talk about this cheese, since it is one of the most popular cheese:
The king of cheeses must be Parmigiano Reggiano, as its name suggests it is from the province of Parma and surrounding territories in northern Italy, here I would like to point out, what is the Difference between Parmesan and Parmigiano-Reggiano?
The answer to this question is this: (I am going to use this explanation from the internet) Due to Italian D.O.C.laws that protect the names and recipes of certain cheeses, a cheese cannot be called Parmigiano-Reggiano unless it is made using a specific recipe and production method within the provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, and specific regions in the provinces of Bologna and Mantua. The D.O.C laws are meant to preserve the integrity of traditional cheeses by insuring the flavour and quality. Therefore, any cheese made outside of these regions with a slightly different recipe or production method cannot be called Parmigiano-Reggiano.
You can check a few things about this great cheese with this link below;
One may guess that the recipes for this great cheese has been the work of very many generations of Italian cheese makers in the first place, and then many generations of organizing the great factories of cheese making, one has to look at some of these photos where they cure and store the cheese until it matures to see what we mean.
Now, we have talked about Parmigiano Reggiano because it is one of the best known cheese in the world, just ask a chef and he will tell you how good this cheese really is to use for his cooking; now we are not going to tell you how this cheese is made, because we do not know how, but the point we want to make here is that lots of people have always made cheeses; we are saying this because we know for a fact that in the old times lots of people made their own cheese, as we have stated above already; in fact I have made some cheese myself in our family farm of southern Italy and I would like to tell you how it was done in the old ways, as most farmers had to do it anyhow, because we the farmers had to use as much as we could from what was available and to turn milk into cheese was one of them, now because I was working in the farm I did it also, so let us see how I have learned to make cheese the old farmers’ way.
Cheese making in the farms
Cheese making on the farms when I was young
As you might already know, as we have said this before, when I was young I ended up working in our family farm. Now, while I have been writing about my life in the farm, I have become aware that I have also learned how to make cheese in the farm and I am sure that some of you would like to know how it was done in those old times, perhaps just to compare to what happens these days; well I have to tell you that this is not exactly making Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese, but is it more like the poor farmer everyday cheese, but let me tell you how we did it then anyhow, so that we may compare those times with the modern times, and how we do those things now. So, I am going to tell you here-under how to make this type of cheese and ricotta my grandma way, I am saying my grandma way, because my grandma taught me how to do it.
Now before I start I need to say that what I am writing here has really happened in the fifties, I had to tell you this because a lot of things have changed since the fifties, but the principle of how these things were done the old times does not change much, so what we were doing then was the same ways that it had been done for hundreds of years or perhaps even thousands of years, this same way could still be used today, if the need arises, so let me tell you what and how we were doing this cheese making then?
In southern Italy and perhaps in many other parts of the world, the farmers use to milk the cows the goats, the sheep and perhaps other animals as well, so that they would have their milk and also could make their cheese and other milk products, so this was also happening in our small farm. For those people that is not familiar with this sort of farm life I need to explain that milking is done twice a day in the morning and in the evening, milking is a must to do at the right times otherwise the animals will suffer, and also if you don’t milk them then slowly those animals will produce less and less milk. So, what to do with all this milk that we collected by milking the cows, goats, sheep, etc. You need to know that the most constant and important rule in farming is waste not want not, so we had to use everything available to us to achieve the best results, and one of these was to make cheese from this milk, since there was not a real milk market, and also there was not much demand for milk locally.
Cheese making grandma way
This is cheese making my grandma way
In our case we had two milking cows, so we would collect up to 30 litres of milk every day in spring time, when there was plenty of green food for the cows to eat. In those times everybody needed to be self-sufficient and nothing would be allowed to go waist, the theory was waste not want not, therefore everybody was ready to do those things necessary to save whatever had to be saved, therefore the milk that we had collected from the cows we used to make cheese, this is what all farmer would do in the old days and I am going to explain it to you how all this was done, including some description of how in the very old time before my times was done.
When I was very young my Grandma who would be staying and sleeping in town overnight would come to the farm to help us in the farm, so she would make cheese from this milk that we had milked from the farm animals, this thing happened for a few years, and then she slowly taught me how to make cheese. The whole process was simple but at the same time it was hard for a young bloke, but as I grew older and stronger and able to do it I was left most times on my own. So, if you don’t mind let me go over the process, because I would like to make a record of how these things were made in the past. You see, today in the farms things are different, because now there is a vehicle that collect milk from these farms and take it to the cheese factory to make cheese and any other milk products. So let me tell you how we made cheese and ricotta when I was young and how my forbear had made cheese themselves for centuries if not thousands of years before me.
After milking the cows, the evening before and the morning we had about 30 litre of milk that we could make cheese with. Now the first thing that I had to do was to light a fire in the fire place of the farm and make sure that there was enough fire wood ready beside the chimney for the whole process, set a strong three legged steel device on this fire that I had started that was capable to hold the weight of the milk in this special container safely. Then I would get this special large copper kettle, now this copper kettle had to be clean for a start, beside that had to be treated from a specialist perhaps once a year with a coat of tin or something like that, this treatment is very much like galvanising the inside of the pot, and it needs to be done properly, so that all copper surfaces inside the kettle should be covered in full. Now that I had this large kettle ready, I would strain the milk with a fine strainer while I am filling the kettle with the milk and after that I am ready to make cheese.
Making cheese the old ways
Making cheese and then ricotta the old ways
Dear readers, I want to point out to you the way that I am making cheese and ricotta this time here, is the way that we used to make cheese then, of course there may be other ways to make cheese and ricotta, but hereunder is the way that I was taught from my grandma.
So now that I have the fire going steady but at a slower pace, and had this three legged device set over the fire to hold the kettle safely, if nobody was around to help me lift the kettle, I had to be extra careful to lift the kettle containing about 30 litre of milk over the fire without getting burned; then I had to be very careful that the milk would warm up to 37-38 degrees only and no more, otherwise the whole process would not work well. So once the milk reached this temperature more or less, I am saying this because we had to guess the milk temperature by putting a clean finger in the warming milk, anyhow once the temperature was right I would take the kettle off the fire. Now let us go on to see what we need to do next, you see to make cheese you need to add something like enzymes or an extract so to speak (or perhaps acid, but I am not sure about acid) in the milk while it is around 37 degrees to make the milk curd. In my young days I was lucky here because this extract could be bought at the chemist and so it was a lot easier that the very old ways, when you had to prepare your own extract. Anyhow at this point I would measure the amount of caglio (this was the name of the extract) and mix it in the milk with a wooden devise which was purposely made.
You see in the old time people had to do most things in wood for this purpose because wood does not rust, it does not conduce heat so while one end is hot the other end will not be affected and remains cold, and also it does not react with milk, therefore wooden utensils were safe to use; and last of all but not the least important was that these wooden utensils could be carved from the farmers themselves, when in winter times was cold and miserable to go out of the farm building.
Now let me tell you how the enzymes to curd the milk were collected or prepared in the past, when there were no chemists to help the process how to curd the milk. I know this is going to be a shocker for some people but that was the way that it was done in the very old times. First of all, a very young lamb is killed after feeding on milk, so that its stomach is full of milk. You see in the young lamb stomach there are these enzymes that curd the milk for the lamb to digest it, as this is the way for the lamb to absorb the milk nutrients and grow. You need to harvest the stomach of the lamb, because this is where all the process starts. There are a few ways how to use this stomach, and one of the less shocking ways is that once you have this lamb stomach you seal it by tying top and bottom and hang it up to dry in a cool clean place. When it becomes dry you can use the powdery stuff inside to curd the milk. You need a little bit of this powder and a little lukewarm water to mix together and you are ready to add it to the milk that you want to curd. This is how it was done in the very old days when there were no chemists to help, this is the ways our forebears have done it, since this is the way that Mother Nature itself has set up.
Now let me go back to cheese making as we have left the milk to curd for a while. 10 minutes or perhaps a quarter of an hour has passed since we have added this caglio to the warm milk and now the milk is firm like jelly, our next move now is that we use the wooden devise that we stirred the milk with and push it into this curd and start breaking it to small pieces. After that we stop and wait a moment for the particle of fresh cheese to start sinking to the bottom as the whey and the cheese become separated, now I put my washed clean hands in the kettle and go to the bottom of it, the fresh cheese has all sunk at the bottom, so I start pushing it slowly to one side of the kettle, by doing this I am slowly compacting the new cheese by pushing the whey out of it, I am going to do this until a firm ball of new cheese is formed. Once I have this firm new ball of cheese in my hands I lift it into a container; wait a minute this is not a real container, but it is something like a woven basket purposely made for this task, so that the whey can continue to run out the fresh cheese. Now I have about four to five kilogram of fresh cheese and by the time it matures may become three kilograms. The whole process does not end here, because there are a couple of other things we need to do to complete the first part of cheese making. One is that I need to get all the whey back into the kettle so that I can make ricotta from it, and after I make ricotta I have to dip for a few minutes the new fresh cheese that I have just made into the hot whey after I have made ricotta. This action is a sort of pasteurising the new cheese, since the whey is very hot after making the ricotta; you see the milk that we have used to make the cheese has never been pasteurised as we have warmed it below 40 degrees. Having made the new cheese and dipped it in the whey for a few minutes, now that cheese needs to be cured for a few months, this curing usually involves sea salt and vinegar. Now in this hub we have talked about how we made cheese and in our next hub we will talk about how to make ricotta cheese. See you then.