by Alifair Skebe
In celebration of National Dairy Month, cheese will “bare it all.” Warning: explicit cheese photos in this post.
To begin, the ancients knew about large-scale dairying. Look at the cows “leaving” their “huts,” as described in the caption (zoom in for readability):
Image from “Antiquity of Dairying”
The circular-shaped shafts look like they could be attached to an udder or two, no? And curiously, the cows are lined up in rows, very similar to the way they are in dairy factories today. That’s also a longhouse “hut” of the Northern European variety. Today’s small milking factories are built with a similar longhouse shape.
American Dairy Month was established to bring attention to the needs of the dairy industry, namely to deal with a surplus of milk supply (read about it in our post here). Long ago, cheese makers found a use for excess milk: to turn it into a delicious, nutritious, shelf-stable product that could last through the seasons.
As they turned their milk into “curds and whey” by adding culture and rennet, the curds were made into cheese and the whey was fed to the kids, the pigs, and the dogs. In the 18th Century, whey was a favored morning drink much like coffee or tea. Nutritionally, whey provides a heap of protein, minerals, and vitamins potassium and B-2. Some of our local cheese makers feed whey to their pigs as a superior nutritional supplement to avoid fattening them on grain.
Those are some happy medieval dogs! As the cheese sits in the mold as pictured above, more whey will drain out over several days before the wheels will be moved to long-term aging. See how the dogs featured in the pictures lap up the various streams of whey draining on either sides of the cheese? There’s so much there, they don’t even have to fight over it!
Cream can also be siphoned off the whey and get churned into a delicious butter, such as the Italian “Burro” that The Cheese Traveler carries in the shop. Made from the cream of named-controlled Parmigiano Reggiano milk/whey, Burro is a distinctive sweet cream butter that hints at the dense flavor of the aged cheese.
Medieval Maven Making Butter
At The Cheese Traveler, we cheesemongers spend much of our time undressing, unwrapping, tasting, and rewrapping wheels of cheese to make certain that the cheese is as delicious when it gets to the customer as when it leaves the cave and the farm. Thus as we celebrate dairy, we also celebrate the erotic nature of cheese, the dressing and tasting and redressing. Our beloved milk has given to us the ability to make and enjoy cheese, the foundation of our passion. Thus, we offer you a little Swiss aged mountain cheese erotica with Eric, the Cheese Traveler, and Nicolette, cheesemonger and collage artist:
Planing a morsel of cheese. Perfect for tasting.
Loving the Unterwasser
Behind closed doors, we jokingly refer to these photos as “cheese porn.” Come in to get yours. The cheesemongers will be delighted to taste along with you.