For my 100th entry in this forum, I am putting an old article I've written a long while ago :-)
We spend money on sachets of cultures for different types of cheeses and molds for aroma and washing, rennet and other ingredients. Sometimes it feels like I am spending unnecessary amounts of money on these things. But there is a way to go natural on these ingredients and replace them with alternatives.
The key point in natural cheese making is to work with local flora of the environment you are in and supporting these microbiological lives throughout the make. Only then, you will achieve the desired aroma and texture in your cheese.
The basic ingredients we use are milk, salt and rennet in cheese making. These should be coming from natural sources. Milk should be raw, salt should be either lake or rock salt and rennet is from the abomasum you harvested, salted and dried. You are already a criminal by doing two of these things in some countries but anyway. Only then you can call your cheese making natural.
If milk is from supermarket that is homogenized and pasteurized, salt is table salt with anti-caking agents and additives, and the rennet is store bought microbial rennet; that cheese would have a premature start to life with an off aroma and strange texture.
When you use quality natural ingredients, your cheese will start its life at the highest caliber it can whereas using store bought milk, table salt and vegetarian rennet will not give much chance to cheese to develop its characteristic aroma and texture.
While salt and raw milk is easy to access, an abomasum is not easy to find for making rennet. Though your desire to make natural cheeses will lead you to places where you meet with people and from them you can source an abomasum if you ask kindly.
When you clean and salt an abomasum and dry it by yourself, you will have your rennet and lipase in a never ending form. When you keep it in the freezer, its shelf life is more than 20 years and its strength is unchanged.
Of course hygiene and sterilization is always in the mind as we don’t want contamination to ruin our hard work. If you follow the hygiene rules from milking to consuming the cheese, your cheese will be healthy and free from pathogenic factors that make us sick. You still have to boil water in your boilers and use 1:10 ratio bleach to prevent contamination on your other equipment. We are not trying to cut corners.
Yeast, bacteria and molds exist everywhere and human evolution depends on the interaction with these. You can’t have pickled vegetables, bread, cheese, kombucha or kefir without them. Our digestive system relies on them. Today’s soaps, shampoos, detergents, deodorants and all the myriad of germ killers are actually harming the environment and not allowing us to evolve further in this symbiotic relationship..
Where is that local flora for cheese making?
Let’s have a look at the yeast, bacteria and molds that we can find around our environment to use in cheese making.
Kefir provides plethora of these micro-organisms. Try running the kefiran (strained kefir) as a thermophilic starter in your yogurt making setup. The yogurt starter I use at home is part kefir and part ant eggs and makes the most wonderful yogurt that we love. I also distribute this starter in my yogurt making workshops. Kefir also has G. Candidum and with a mesophilic starter prepared using kefir, it is possible to make camembert and brie.
Bee larva in its comb from an untreated hive. A 2 square inch comb with larva in it can be used as either mesophilic or thermophilic starter. Incubate the whole comb in milk at your desired temperatures for meso or thermo and your starter is ready.
Ant eggs or nest soil. This is another source of probiotic as well as lactic acid bacteria. Again will give you lots of cultures to work with.
Raw milk. Making a clobber from raw milk will actually give you the local flora in its entirety. Many cheesemakers prepare their own starters this way using their own milk to carry the “terroir” features into their cheese. Cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s and water buffalo’s milk will produce and favor different ratios of cultures. Whatever the main milk in your cheese making, prepare your mother cultures with it.
Dry organic raisins. Or better, from your own grapes. It has natural yeast S. cerevisiae on it and can be used to make holes in the cheese.
Your own natural wine, mead, beer can be used to wash the cheese which will contribute to the surface flora of the cheese to ripen it. Beer mash, (if All Grain brewing) can also be used to cover the cheese if you are looking for different aromas.
Natural butter should have L. Diecetylactis and watered fizzy yogurt can have other CO2 producing bacteria and yeast.
Buttermilk you made from your own cream should also have enough life to get your cheese going.
Swiss cheeses’ holes made by P. Shermanii and propionic acid can be sourced from red clovers with a warm tea.
P. Roqueforti mold can be made by letting a rye bread go stale and eventually covered by blue mold. Ground and use the dust to get gorgonzola style cheeses.
Your own produce of lemon can also be used to separate whey and curds.
As you see, once you know where are these microbiology is hiding, it would be easy to harvest and put them into good use.
Also purple stems of Cynara Cardunculus with its Cardosine A enzyme used to coagulate the milk.
White fig sap can also be used for the same purpose.
These are two real vegetarian sources of rennet.
Think about it for a second, at the top of the Jura Mountain, which cheesemaker will find a CHR Hansen culture sachet to add to the milk. It is all about the local flora and fauna that favors certain ratios of microbiological life. And this “life” will help you create some of the best cheeses around.
Also plastic baskets used in draining the curds can be replaced with rattan baskets, birch, and willow types of plant materials. Your cheese will have the unique shape and surface features that will give it a rustic characteristic to it where customers learn and look for.
Also 100% cotton muslins and clothes should be used rather than polyester cloths. Your cultures should be kept in glass bottles and your cheese vat is either stainless steel or untreated copper.
Of course we have to mention the cheese master who will conduct this orchestra.
A master who knows the working temperatures of bacteria, yeast, mold, understands the pH when she/he looks at the curd, even fixes the mistakes throughout the making by adjusting the time and temperatures and produces a consistent cheese every make.
These skills are only gained with lots of practice, reading every accessible source, note taking and mastering the moisture, pH, time and titratable acidity.
Knowledge and skill are two concepts that go in parallel and becomes “wisdom”. The more reading and practice will make you a better, wiser cheese master than the cheese maker who doesn’t read or experiment as much as you do. Also remember that the equipment and freeze dried cultures does not make good cheese. It is the cheesemaker who makes this happen.
You have to follow your passion, you should put yourself in it 110% to produce the best quality cheese. Only then you will feel happy and complete. Happy cheese making.
Thanks for all your tips. Some were quit new to me. As a beekeeper it was interesting to hear about the beehive-cheese method.
But after I became allergic for beevenom I also became allergic for cow milk and other animal milks, also for the raw cow milk of which I made my cheeses with. So now I am in to almond milk making for in my capucino. From the 'almond flour' rests I make again almond coconut flour nut bread or - coocies.
I'm sorry to hear that you have become allergic to dairy products. Are you familiar with the difference in dairy ? I.E.) A-2- A-2 cow milk versus A-1-A-1 cow milk ?
I won't go into a long explanation about this now as you may already be aware of A-2 dairy products. Can I assume that you have tried goat and sheep dairy products ?
After discovering her allergy. My wife spent years avoiding dairy as best she could.
One day a local dairy farmer casually told me about his heifer that just tested out as A-2 A-2 positive. ??? I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained the difference and said as soon as she gave birth he would bring by a fresh gallon of A-2 milk for her to try...
After telling us ,we hopped online and researched. We got very interested in trying this milk. None was available near us.
Months went by with no milk ... Finally I went and asked him when he might have milk for us... Turns out he sold that cow (forgot all about us) However he had a new one being tested and would not forget us this time...
Shortly after, we were shopping at the whole food store where they sell raw milk. I spotted a new display of raw milk ... small tag affixed ... A-2 A-2 !!!
We bought a freezing cold 1/2 gallon , practically ran to the car. With big eyes she took a big gulp and waited ... and waited ... as her smile started growing I knew we had found the answer! She is completely NOT ALLERGIC to A-2 milk...
Maybe Maybe you might have the same reaction ?
Yes I heard (and forgot again) about A2 milk. Looked at the explanation once more.
But I even react on 'milk free' ice cream, where there is milk with lactose inside but with the added enzym lactase. so I can say , that i am lactose intolerant. Getting red spots all over my face, taking 2 weeks or more to disappear.
As you maybe know there is a lot of calicium in green veggies. I eat 3 vegetable meals a day, about 1 kg of veggies this is a day. We people do not really need milk from animals. yes I tried goat and sheep milk/cheeses and got red spots in my face then too.
I have auto immune diseases. It seems that AID-people have problems with 1. glutes and 2. lactose, and a lot more. Eating only veggies and coconut oil helps a lot :) I recently bought an AIP (auto immune Paleo) diet book. Butter after eating breakfast with flower coal and apple several times I am back to my 'own' veggie recipees.
In case you start experimenting making cheeses with nut milk (cashews or almonds), let me know! The nut cheese book says they tast exactly the same as usual cheeses.
I know from making Kombucha my local fauna has a wonderful flavor to it that doesn't happen elsewhere, so I try to "harvest" my local yeasts whenever I can.
I just made hard lemonade using the yeasts on the rinds of lemons and it worked very well.
I particularly like separating curds and whey with lemon juice, which makes a wonderful cheese. And the whey becomes a very nice fermented drink that lasts a long time in the refrigerator.
There are lots of winemakers on the West Coast of the US using their own grapes for the yeasts.
Okay, ant eggs, I think that's a bit beyond me!!
An important distinction: Permaculture is not the same kind of gardening as organic gardening.
Mediterranean climate hugel trenches, fabuluous clay soil high in nutrients, self-watering containers with hugel layers, keyhole composting with low hugel raised beds, thick Back to Eden Wood chips mulch (distinguished from Bark chips), using as many native plants as possible....all drought tolerant.
Annette van Vuuren wrote:
Did you experiment with using other 'milks' then regular animal milks? This book looks like a very good book for making cheeses from nuts instead of milk.
I only tried tofu from soy milk but you wouldn't call that a cheese. I don't want to upset the cheese police :-)
I tried making cheese from lactose free milk. I added malt syrup as it is close to lactose so that bacteria can have something to eat. It worked to some degree but not to my liking. Are you allergic to beer or malt syrup too?
A nut milk has different proteins so enzymatic coagulation may not work (using rennet). Lactic coagulation with starter cultures (bacteria, yeast, mold) requires a food source like a sugar (di-saccharides like lactose or malt syrup in this case).
So your only option is to look into acids and salts to coagulate the nut milk to separate the whey and the curds. Tofu makers use magnesium chloride, this can be bought from health shops as bath salt but I don't know whether it works on almond proteins but worth a try.
Citric acid, tartaric acid, malic acid may also work, you need to figure out the temperature of the nut milk during the addition of the acids. As soon as you see the curdling, you can start draining the whey through a thick cloth.
Thanks for the book suggestion, I am buying it right now.