I love food. One of the perks of my current lifestyle is that I am close to the source. Morning harvest on your lunch plate, morning milk becomes tomorrow’s yoghurt. During lunch we all eat together, in the big kitchen the food is prepared by several dedicated cooks. On the weekend I cook my own meals, and that is a pleasure with all this fresh produce.

 I first came to this farm to milk and herd goats, and eventually ended up in cheesemaking. Unfortunately, the goats are no longer here, only the cows. Although cows are sweet animals, I don’t feel particularly close to them. Goats on the other hand are smart, mischievous, resilient and have a perpetual smile on their faces. They are best when they roam free. I also prefer goat cheese over cow’s cheese. Maybe it is their character that gets into their milk. A little bit wild. 

But I ended up making cheese of cow’s milk, raw milk however, not too tame. The farm is more serious business now, gone are the days of making small batches of goat cheese, milked in the field in the morning in our little buckets. This of course, also has to do with the ever stricter rules in food production, food that people have produced for thousands of years in less sanitary circumstances without much problems, now have to follow strict hazard prevention rules. Slowly industrialization creeps in.  The milk gets cleaner, the microbial community less diverse.
For me, making cheese is like cooking, in big vats! There are only a few variables, temperature, time, type and amount of starter culture and rennet, but you can vary to get very different tasting things. In the old days, the culture to sour the milk came from the milk itself, its lactic acid bacteria, in fact this is what good milk does, it turns sour and thickens. The rennet is another part of your animals, an enzyme that lives in the young animal’s stomach, it helps to separate the whey from the curd.
what goes into to milk is important

Raw milk, still contains this potency, but the rules sanitary operations have impoverished our raw materials and we become more and more dependent on bacterial mixes that have been cultivated in a petridish. Isolation of these ‘flavor profiles’ have helped standardization, but also generated blandness. Our milk still has variability, summer milk very different from winter milk, but probably not as bacterially rich as it once was. Cooking becomes more and more like science experiments. 

I love science, like I like food. But maybe I should nuance that. The science that drives the food industry is rather mechanistic, I would rather approach it ecologically. The cheese is a body of bacteria. Leib as it is called in German. It ripens over time, it becomes better before it finally is bitter old bod. I would love to learn to make cheese the ecological way, complex, for sure, but luckily bacteria don’t have the bad rep they once had and their role in great tasting cheese now gets recognized

Ecological cooking, sounds good to me. Food for thought.

Junge Leiben