Sunday, October 30, 2011

The way of salting and pressing cheese:

Below, I have included the text of two different descriptions of hard cheese making. The first is from the first century AD, by a Roman author (Columella) and the second is from the sixteenth century in England (Markham). Very little has changed. With modern cheese making, we add the salt directly to the curds before pressing. Pressing cheese is usually less than a 24 hour affair and then the cheese is off to age. In both of the descriptions from period (and before) you can see that the salt is added during the pressing process, and it is applied to the outside of the cheese as a rub. The added technology in the later description, is the use of cloths to wrap the cheese within the press. (The cheese cloth wicks whey away from the surface of the cheese thus drying it out faster.) Torquatto Tasso, also writing on cheese in the sixteenth century maintained that the cheese must be turned into a new, clean cloth at least 3-4 times in the first day. And if you do not use fine clean linen cloth the cheese will be as a child that has been sitting in a wet diaper too long. How's that for appetizing imagery?

But the milk-tub, when it is filled with milk, ought not to be
without fome gentle warmth. Nevertheless, it muft not be brought
fo near as to touch the flames, as fome people are of opinion, but be
placed not far from the fire, and prefently after it is curdled, the liquor
muft be transferred into wicker-bafkets, cheefe-vats, or moulds; for
h is of great importance, that the whey be ftrained and feparated from
the condenfed fubftance as foon as poflible: for which reafon, the
country-people do not indeed fuffer the moifture to drop flowly from
it of its own accord; but, when the cheefe becomes a little more folid,
they put weights upon it, that thereby the whey may be fqueezed out r
then, as it is taken out of the moulds or frails, it is laid up in a dark
and cold place, upon the very cleaneft boards, that it may/ not be
fpoiled; and it is fprinkled with bruifed fait, that it may fweat out
the acid liquor: and when it is hardened, it is prefled more vehe-
mently, that it may be confpiflated; and it is fpiinkled again with
toafted fait, and condenfed again with weights. After this has been
done for nine days, it is warned throughly with fweet water, and
placed in fuch a manner under a {hade, upon hurdles made for that
purpofe, that one eheefe may not touch another, and that i.t may be
moderately dried. Then, that it may keep the tenderer, they put it
clofe together in feveral ftories, in a clofe place, not expofed to the
winds. Thus it neither becomes fpongy and full of holes, nor fait,
nor dry t the firft of which faults ufes to happen, if it be prefled but a,
little i the fecond, if it be feafoned with too much fait; and the third,
if it be fcorched in the fun. This kind of eheefe may be exported alfo
beyond fea. For that which is defigned to be eaten in a few days,
while it is new, is made up with lefs care : for, being taken out of the
wicker bafkets, it is put into fait and brine, and foon afterwards dried
a little in the fun.
De Re Rustica (Columella)

To make a new milke or morning milk cheese, which is the best Cheese made ordinarily in our kingdome; you shall take your milk early in the morning as it comes from the Cow, and file it into a cleane tubbe, then take all the creame also from the milke you milk the euening before, and straine it into your new milke; then take a pretty quantity of cleane water, and hauing made it scalding hot, powre it into the milke also to scauld the creame and it together, then let it stand, and coole it with a dish rill it be-no more then luke warme; then go to the pot where your 187 earning bagges hangs, and draw from thence so much of the earning without stirring of the bagge, as will serue for your proportion of milke, and straine it therein very carefully; for if the least mote of the curd of the earning fall into the cheese, it will make the Cheese rot and mould; when your earnings is put in you shall couer the mike, and so let it stand halfe an howre or thereabouts; for if the earning be good it will come in that space; but if you see it doth not, then you shall put in more: being come, you shall with a dish in your hand breake and mash the curd together, possing and turning it about diuersly: which done, with the flat palms of your hands very gently presse the curd downe into the bottome of the tub, then with a thinne dish take the whey from it as cleane as you can, and so hauing prepared your Cheese-fat answerable to the proportion of your curd, with both your hands ioined together, put your curd therein and breake it and presse it downe hard into the fat till you hane fild it; then lay vpon the top of the curd your flat cheese-boord, and a little small weight thereupon, that the whey may drop from it into the vnder vessell; when it hath done dropping take a large cheese-cloth, and hauing wet it in the cold water lay it on the cheese-boord, and then turne the cheese vpon it; then lay the cloth into the cheese fat; and so put the cheese therein againe, and with a thin slice thrust the same down close on euery side; then laying the cloth also ouer the top to lay on the cheese-boord, and so carry it to your great presse, and there presse it vnder a sufficient waight; after it hath been there prest halfe an howre, you shall take it and turne it into a drie cloth, and put it into the presse againe, and thus you shall turne it into drie cloathes at least fiue or sixe times in the first day, and euer put it vnder the presse againe, not taking it therefrom till the next day in 178 the euening at soonest, and the last time, it is turned you shall turne it into the dry fat without any cloth at all.

When it is prest sufficiently and taken from the fat, you shall then lay it in a kimnell, and rub it first on the one side and then on the other with salt, and so let it lie all that night, then the next morning, you shall doe the like again and so turne it vpon the brine, which comes from the salt two or three dayes or more, according to the bignesse of the cheese, and then lay it vpon a faire table or shelfe to drie, forgetting not euery day once to rubbe it all ouer with a cleane cloth, and then to turne it till such time that it be throughly drie and fit to goe into the presse; and in this manner of drying you must obserue to lay it first where it may drie hastily, and after where it may drie at more leasure; thus may you make the best and most principall cheese.
The English Huswife (Markham, Gervase)


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