A blog about the arts, books, flora and fauna, vittles, and whatever comes to mind!

Note: Comments are moderated. If you include a link, your comment will not be published. As you will note, I do not accept ads on my website and that includes in comments.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Something Cheesy...

"A meal without some cheese is like a
beautiful women with only one eye."


The moon IS made of cheese!
Cheese sculpture by Sarah Kaufmann.

The earliest cheeses may have been a happy accident, made by nomadic tribes in Central Asia.  Historians believe that they most likely carried milk in containers made of animal skins and internal organs, where it coagulated.  Pressed, these curds would've made an early form of cheese.  Cheese was a good way to preserve milk.

The earliest written reference to cheese is from tomb murals of Egypt dating to 2,000 BCE.  Dairy cattle have been raised in Europe for almost 5,000 years, and there is archaeological evidence that cheese was being made in the Netherlands about 2,000 BCE as well.

Cheese is usually made from the milk of animals who are ruminant and whose milk contains a short chain of fatty acids.  Milk from non-ruminants (pigs, boars, etc.) is not suitable because their milk contains  long chains of fatty acids.  We most commonly eat cheese made from cows, sheep, and goat.  However....

Balkan donkeys.

The most expensive cheese in the world is Pule, a cheese made from donkey milk. Priced at $616 a pound, it is made at Zasavica Special Nature Reserve in Belgrade, Serbia.  The milk is collected from the  Balkan donkeys that live at the reserve. "Pule" is Serbian for "foal".  Donkey milk has a history of desirability, beginning with the Greeks who saw it as a remedy for various ailments.  Hippocrates recommended it for the treatment of some diseases and a remedy for poisoning. Cleopatra was said to bathe in it, but Cleo is said to have done so many exotic things.

Moose milk cheese is exotic and also expensive.  There are moose cheesemakers in Scandinavia and Russia, but the most famous is Moose House, a fifty-nine acre farm in northern Sweden.  It is part of The Elk House (Älgens Hus) farm in Bjurholm, Sweden, run by Christer and Ulla Johansson.  Their cheese, sold mainly to upscale Swedish restaurants and hotels, sells for approximately $500 a pound. Moose produce milk from May to September, and it takes two hours to milk one moose.  Each moose delivers about one gallon a day.  The farm produces 660 pounds of the cheese a year in three varieties.  Their farm is a tourist site and attracts 25,000 visitors a year.  The cheese can be sampled on the farm.

Moose cheese.
Yak cheese, which is three times higher is omega-3 fatty acids than cheddar, is now being touted by health experts.  Yaks can be as a big as cows, but only give a few liters of milk each day, like a goat.  Since yaks eat a lot of wildflowers, that taste is reflected in their milk, and thus the cheese made from it.  Jonathan White tells of his experience helping Tibetan yak herders make cheese on his website.

Flower of Rajya yak milk cheese.
Now if these cheeses aren't exotic enough for you, or if you really think you are an intrepid foodie, then consider cheese made from human breast milk.  Chef Daniel Angerer crafted breast milk cheese from his wife's extra milk.  His website gives directions on making your own.  He uses it in his exclusive dishes:

Maple-caramelized pumpkin seeds encrust Mommy's milk cheese.
Mommy's milk cheese with beets and romaine.
There is also a farm in France that specializes in human milk cheese.  Le Petit Singly expects their donneuses (breast milk donors) to follow specific rules in their diet:

100 G of bread (or cereal equivalents) at a rate of 60g in the morning, 40g in the afternoon

cooked starchy food 200g at midday, 100 G in the evening
green vegetables at will
2 X 100 G of meat or equivalent (fish, eggs…)
2 fruits and a fruit juice
2 X 40g of cheese and 3 dairy products (of cow exclusively)

In addition the donneuses have other restrictions:

do not smoke
do not drink alcohol in excessive quantities
do not make use of narcotics or any domestic products likely to pass into milk

Wheels of human milk cheese from Le Petit Singly.

If you still have an appetite for cheese, here a couple of dishes that may interest you.  They are currently the most expensive of their respective kind, and perhaps much more appetizing...

Martin Blunos and his expensive sandwich.

Martin Blunos, a Michelin-starred chef, created the most expensive cheese sandwich in the world, although it has other ingredients.  The sandwich costs $174.10, partly because of the cheese.  Blunos worked with cheddar cheesemakers at Pilgrim's Choice to create the special white truffle cheese used.  Besides this special cheese, the sandwich includes slices from a $8 loaf of sourdough bread, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and 100-year-old balsamic vinegar, slices of quail's egg, heirloom black tomato, epicure apple, fresh figs, red frill mustard, pea shoots, and red amaranth.  The whole thing is topped with edible gold dust.

Sandwich with gold dust.

Welsh rarebit is a type of cheese toast.  Chef Tom Bridge makes one that is the most expensive costing a grand total of $609 to make.  He uses a slice of Warburtons Toastie bread topped with Lancashire cheese, which melts nicely, and L'Aguila white Umbrian truffles ($1,228 per pound), Matsutake Chinese mushrooms ($556 per pound), shredded Red Velvet Organic beetroot, and slow-roasted vine cherry tomatoes in extra virgin white truffle oil.  Click here for his recipe.

Bridge's Welsh Rarebit.

These aren't your childhood grilled cheeses, which I remember fondly.  Nor are they processed with preservatives and food coloring, and they don't come in an aerosol can.  The quality of ingredients and processing dictates the very high prices.  However, the love and use of cheese is not universal.  It is rarely found in East Asian dishes, as there is a high incidence of lactose intolerance in that part of the world.  On the other hand, cheese is a vital source of nutrition in many areas of the world.  Speaking of which, I hear some Havarti calling me...

All images from their respective websites.
Thanks to the staff of Culture Magazine for referring me to Pule.

1 comment: