Saturday, April 10, 2021

Farming and cheese making.

WELCOME TO MENFRANCO GENERAL BLOG. Today we will back to talk about my life in the farm. Since nothing important to report has happened. 

There are many types of cheese in the world. Now this photo here is from a factory that has these wheels of cheese there to mature. Cheese is very yummy to eat in many ways, so, it can be used to add it to lots of foods. But let us how we make cheese and let us look at how we made cheese in the past. 

Farming and cheese making.

Welcome to my article, Compare cheese making

Dear readers, we can say that farming is a way of life that we use to extract what we need from the land, we use also farm animals for our own benefits, one of these benefits is the milk that we take from the cows and other animals, and we use it in many ways.

Anyhow, here we want to talk about the milk that the cow produce; and what we did with the milk. 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 apply also to the milk that we take from the cows and other animals, because this milk must be put to good use, and since when I was young there were not many choices, we made cheese from the milk that we had; so, I will describe the procedure how we made our cheese.

Today cheese is an extremely popular food; to understand its importance of cheese, 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 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, when I haven’t got them 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:

Cheese Recipes collection -

Cheese types cooking tips - Ingredients -

We could say more about cheeses and their uses, but perhaps it is better if we go back to talk about my life story, and how we made cheese the old way, and how we believe making cheese started.


How we started to make cheese. 

When we talk about cheese, we must admit that cheese is one of the most used foods that we consume, we may assume that most people eat cheese nearly every day or at least have eaten cheese several times during their lives, I eat cheese regularly. 

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 when cheese first appeared, even though they talk about herds of sheep and cattle, so, we must assume that since they had sheep and cattle, they would milk them and use their milk in many ways. 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, some shepherd found that if they stored their milk for a long time, it would turn into curd and then a piece of acid cheese, it would not be as good as the cheeses that we make today, but they started to make cheese, because they needed to save whatever they could; anyhow, knowing that the milk can become cheese, they started to make cheese. Because the ancient people had to use whatever they had to feed themselves, so, they used this cheese and slowly worked out how to make cheese better.

So, since early times we humans learned how to make cheese, and then how to cure cheese and keep it for a long period of time, so, we have been making cheese and eating cheese ever since. Cheese has one of the best nutritional values and could easily be stored, so, today we are making several types of cheeses.

But, let us tell the younger generation where cheese comes from, since they are not exposed to the natural ways of life as we did in the past, therefore, for them is hard to imagine how cheese is made and where cheese comes from, they think that it just comes from the supermarket.

So, I am going to describe how the cheese is made, and where it comes from, because I happen to know this firsthand, since in our family farm we made cheese. Now the first thing that we need to know is that we use farm animals to milk them and then make cheese form their milk.


To make cheese we milk farm animals.  

Now, to understand how cheese was made then, you need to imagine that you are living in a farm in the past; say seventy years ago or more, because life then was different from today, so, many things were done in a different way.  

While I was living in the farm not only I learned how to make cheese the old ways, but other things as well, 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 plenty of milk. 

Therefore, it is for this reason that in springtime most of the animal’s offspring are born, starting from the goats, sheep, and the cows that usually calf once every year and they make plenty of milk especially when there is plenty of green food to eat; we milk the cows, to 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. 

But before we do that, just to compare, let us talk that today they make cheese in the factories like Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a well-known cheese all over the world, and it is used a lot on culinary things. Perhaps this will make us compare the great difference, between the way they do it now, and the ways that we used to do it in our family farms when I was young.


Parmigiano cheese making

Cheese making

There are many types of cheese in the world, one of the best cheese in the world is Parmesan cheese, which is a cheese that is used in many culinary things, you need to watch one of these cooking shows to see how many times this type of cheese is used. Now we want to talk about 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 want 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.

Parmigiano Reggiano - Parmesan Cheese

One may guess that the recipes for this great cheese has been the work of many generations of Italian cheese makers, 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 cheeses in the world; now we cannot tell you how this cheese is made, because we do not know. But in the old times lots of people made their own cheese; in fact, I have made cheese myself in our family farm of southern Italy and I want 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, so, let us see how I learned to make cheese the old farmers’ way.


Cheese making in the farms

Cheese making in the farms when I was young

When I was young, I worked in our family farm; where I learned how to make cheese the old way, so, I want to tell you how it was done, to compare to what happens these days; well I must tell you that this is not like making Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, but is it more like the poor farmer cheese. So, I am going to tell you how to make this type of cheese and ricotta my grandma way, I say my grandma way, because my grandma taught me how to do it.

Now, what I am writing here has happened in the fifties, but 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 thousands of years, this same way can still be used today, so, let me tell you what and how we were doing this cheese making then?

In southern Italy and in many other parts of the world, the farmers use milk to make cheese and other milk products. Now I need to explain that milking is done twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, milking is a must do at the right times otherwise the animals will suffer, and if you don’t milk them then 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. The only thing we could do was to make cheese from this milk, since there was not a milk market, and there was not much demand for milk locally.


Milking cows make plenty of milk, specially in spring when there is plenty of green grass to eat like this cow in this paddock, look at her udder she must be making plenty of milk every day.

Cheese making grandma way

In our case we had two milking cows, so, we would collect up to 30 litres of milk every day in springtime, 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 to waste, 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 most farmer did in the old days; I am going to explain it to you how this was done.

When I was young my Grandma who was 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 happened for a few years, and then she 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, let me go over the process, because I want to make a record of how these things were made in the past. So, let me tell you how we made cheese and ricotta when I was young. 

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 large copper kettle, now this copper kettle had to be clean for a start, beside that had to be treated from a specialist once a year with a coat of tin or something like that, this treatment is very much like galvanizing the inside of the kettle, 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, after that I am ready to make cheese.


Making cheese the old ways

Making cheese and then ricotta the old ways

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 careful that the milk would warm up to 37-38 degrees only and no more, otherwise the process would not work well. So, once the milk reached this temperature, I would take the kettle off the fire. Now to make cheese you need to add something like enzymes or an extract, in the milk while it is around 37 degrees to make the milk curd. In my young days I was lucky because this extract could be bought at the chemist, and 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 this 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 cool, and also it does not react with milk, therefore, wooden utensils were safe to use. 

Anyhow, here I wanted to tell you how to curd the milk the incredibly old way, but I better not, because some people can be shocked. So, 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 extract 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; the container is 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 made into the hot whey after I have made ricotta. This action is a sort of pasteurizing 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 pasteurized 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 article we have talked about how we made cheese and in our next blog we will talk about how to make ricotta cheese. See you then.


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