Weird scenes inside the homestead! What have we to add to the big wide web of weird today? A couple of things only, along with some sad news and some happy snaps. Successes and failures, as usual. Trying to keep them all in stride, which with the wild flowers and a short country drive, isn’t too big a challenge at the moment.
Best to get the crap out of the way first, I prefer. We’ve got seemingly severe blackberry failure and an established bee colony suddenly lost. I could write exhaustively on just those two, but since I’m already exhausted, I’ll keep it brief. And continue the relentless churning in my mind alone.
These photos and several more have seen the cyber rounds this week, let me assure you! And the cornucopia of responses we’ve received is rather astounding. Long story short—we’ve had some lovely rains, finally. But it sent our blackberries from thriving and gorgeous, to this brown, crispy-looking horror nearly overnight.
Not just a few bushes either, the entire row, a dozen bushes easy. It looks terrible. So we got a bit frantic and have been sending photos to Ison’s Nursery, where we got them. Also, to various friends and forums, where we’ve had answers to run the gamut: too dry, a virus, a fungus, a blight, Botryosphaeria canker, empty pocket syndrome, aphid damage, and then the kicker . . . This is totally normal development.
You mean to tell me these could be normally progressing blackberries and after many years of growing blackberries we just never noticed it before?!
Well that would certainly be a big and welcomed WOW! Yes please!
But unfortunately, I don’t think so. They look brown and shriveled beyond anything I’ve seen in any of the online photorama. And there’s no sign of aphids, and it’s not cane blight, and it’s certainly not too dry, although I totally understand that guess, since that’s exactly what it looks like.
And I do so appreciate all the speculation, seriously! It gets me thinking and exploring every time and I do so love all the effort and camaraderie inherit in it. Be wrong, it’s not the end of the world!
Of course, what I did so notice among the seeds of speculation was the one that was, unsurprisingly, totally missing. Toxic rain perhaps? Some other oddities in the atmosphere, perhaps? Not on anyone’s radar? Really?
No idea what’s happening in this photo with the blue dot-purple ring, I just snapped the shot with the tablet as soon as I saw the trail while busy in the garden.
On better themes . . .
I also took some lovely happy snaps of the wild flowers blooming along the road, which was so much more gorgeous than what I was able to capture here. But I tried, and that should count for something, no?
And on that note, this post will have a Part 2 to finish later, cause that’s all I can manage at the moment. More to follow, so much more!
Thanks for stopping by!
I leave with a song that motivates me when I really need it most. Hope it works for y’all too!
‘Stinky cheese’ is an official cheese category for those unfamiliar with the great wide world of cheeses. Really! They include the washed-rind cheeses, but some others as well, depending who you talk to.
These would include such well-known varieties as Muenster, Limburger, Raclette, but also some relatively new popular favorites like the Stinking Bishop of Charles Martell & Son – Cheesemakers and Distillers.
The wash-rind process used to be referred to as “putrefaction fermentation”so you can understand why they might want to change the name.
When I set out 7 years ago into the glories of cheesemaking I had no idea I’d also be making my own ‘signature’ cheeses. At the time I was responding to the sorry fact that in order to buy even a remotely decent cheese I had to drive several hours. And even then, nothing was made from raw milk. I bought freeze-dried cultures just like the vast majority of home cheesemakers do. I found a lot of success imitating the favorites—mozzarella, Pepper Jack, Camembert, Parmesan, Swiss, dozens of cheeses. I’ve tried making just about every cheese you’ve ever heard of, and quite a few unknown to even real cheese aficionados.
Of course, considering there are 1400 named cheese varieties in the world, I still have a long way to go!
But, the more I learned, the more I wanted to get back to basics. The more I got back to basics, the more I began to understand what a beneficial and even necessary learning experience it has been. Sure I can spend much time and effort recreating other people’s cheeses. But even better is to invent my own!
That means developing our ‘terroir’. No more purchased cheese cultures. Milking our own goats and making raw milk cheeses with our own wild yeasts, yogurt and buttermilk, all which change flavors and colors with the season.
Like a true Roquefort can only come from Roquefort, France and real Champagne only from Champagne. These have PDO status, that is Protected Designation of Origin.
The process is only part of the story, because the finished product is a signature of its terroir. Affinage, that is, the art of maturing the cheeses, is the next crucial component.
Not that I have any interest in throwing my cheeses into any rings with the big guys. Not a chance, even if my cheeses were that good (I think they are!). I have no interest in turning my pleasurable hobby into a stressful profession.
“In its simplest form cheesemaking is the aggregation and preservation of protein; in its highest form cheesemaking is alchemy. . . Many traditional European cheeses are on the decline or have disappeared. It is ironic that the United States is leading the resurgence of artisan cheese and is the fastest growing market for specialty cheese on the planet. Can we Americans be the saviors of French terroir? Or will our efforts to reveal our own terroir be stillborn because of insurmountable regulatory hurdles?” ~Mateo Kehler Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro VT
Anatole and the Robot (1960) — The story of a professional cheese taster whose job has gone to a robot. I think Anatole has the right idea: “I sniff, I taste, I think, and then I use the magic of my imagination!”
Source: The Oxford Companion to Cheese edited by Catherine Donnelly, foreword by Mateo Kehler
One thing I never liked about teaching was being the center of attention. I was told I’d get used to it, but in 20+ years, that never happened.
It’s not that I’m a shy wall-flower, far from it. It’s also not that I didn’t appreciate that stage-ease in other teachers when I was a student. In fact, I rather liked it.
Still, I always felt like, if I could design my own classes they would never be lectures, never large groups. Even though some of my large lecture experiences as a student were very positive.
But, that’s because getting lost in the crowd is so easy.
Far more challenging is small group, low structure. It’s a very unique dynamic and my personal preference. It’s not necessarily conducive to many teaching tasks, but it does work very well for other things. Especially if your goals are real community ties over speculative market drivers.
After all, when you consider what motivates most teachers, money rarely tops the list. Small group, low structure is the least beneficial monetarily speaking, for obvious reasons. That’s probably why it’s so rare.
Many hands make light work. I think that means not just a lighter work load. It’s also ‘light work’ as in, bringing the joy of community into our work and into our homes. Incorporating the unique contribution of each individual toward a common goal. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s pretty much the opposite of what incorporation has come to mean in modern parlance—which is more like automatons performing tasks to perfection at the command of a central authority.
We are witnessing in our ‘Institutional Affairs’ that not only are we being conditioned to not discuss religion or politics, but it is becoming a requirement for receiving public funding.
While personally I’m ambivalent to these policies, because on the one hand I appreciate a separation between Church and State. Still, on the other hand I perceive what’s actually happening is an enmeshment of Globalist agendas with local affairs. An infiltration which began long ago that lately has been picking up pace.
Perhaps it is unfair that Christian-affiliated groups are getting squeezed out of public affairs. I can certainly empathize with their predicament and growing resentment. And yet, far more important to me is that I have encountered first-hand and through others’ stories that part of the means to this end is being achieved by categorically excluding crucial topics from public dialogue.
The de-platform and shadow banning and cancel culture that’s being most hyped online often excludes what’s been happening locally in folks’ churches, State-run organizations like the Master Gardeners, and State and church-affiliated out-reach programs and charities, not to mention in the schools.
This in particular makes small gatherings an essential part of a healthy public and community life. Feeling threatened by group-think and ostracized for a differing opinion occurs far less often.
Particularly, when we are gathered around wholesome work, like learning skills together, getting necessary things done, or just sitting on the porch—shooting the shit, so to speak—group identity is replaced by an individual-level camaraderie, where the label is not the first thing on everyone’s radar and money takes the back seat to true care. Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Republican, Anarchist, whatever—these are the social constructs as much as gender identity or which church or which school or which job one has, if any at all.
Differences can be appreciated in a friendly and comforting surrounding rather than creating strict and professional-level hierarchies. Sure, it’s still great to have like-minds around, but they don’t have to be like-minds set in stone or the whole edifice risks collapsing.
When the goal is a better life, actually living it, politics is naturally relegated to the background, not because it’s a forbidden or contentious topic, but because in the manner of human relations it belongs in the background.
Or, even better, six feet underground!
And for these reasons, I feel charmed and grateful for the, so far, two ‘Fermenting Workshops’ I’ve hosted here on the wee homestead, with a lotta help from my friends.
Thanks and well done, Ladies! What lovely and wonderfully productive days—I look forward to many more!
A very special thanks to Nicole Faith, our supreme community organizer and A+ homesteading student, who also provided these photos, along with her exuberant enthusiasm and gracious courage. 😘
Never a dull moment on the wee homestead. Since our last update we’ve got limping dogs, goat rodeo, weather whiplash, a huge harvest of sweet potatoes, new cheeses and old ferments.
If it’s the cooler temps or longer nights or more critters creeping around, we can’t say, but our dogs have been doing a lot of midnight galavanting. First they got into skunks, and that was bad enough. Now we go out first thing in the morning to find them wet and limping and exhausted. We’ve started taking them for walks during the day trying to tire them out and make sure they get enough gentle exercise, because we’re worried they’re going to get themselves into some real trouble. It’s working out very well for our barn cat, Skittles, who now roams wherever she wants without fear of attack.
Milking just three goats twice a day is proving to be quite the chore considering with the two first-fresheners it’s a constant battle of wills. It seems every day they learn a new trick trying to get free treats. First it was bucking and kicking, then squatting making milking impossible, now one has graduated to full refusal, getting up on the milk stand only to lay down flat. It takes both of us, Hubby to hold legs and supply food, me to grasp the bucket with one hand and milk with one hand, each with our reflexes on full alert to shift, draw, grab in the split second it takes a hoof to swipe, spill, crush. It’s really not fun. At all. I have to remind us both that it takes patience and to stay focused on the rewards.
In garden news we got a very early frost and then the temps shot right back up to the high 80s. It’s cooled down a bit since then again and we got a whole 1/2 inch of rain, woohoo! It hardly made a difference, but maybe my fall seeds have a better chance now of germinating.
We harvested loads of sweet potatoes and still have more to go. The vines can’t handle even a light frost, like the basil, so we got all we could manage beforehand though the tomatoes and peppers survived, so that was a pleasant surprise.
I continue to experiment with fermenting all kinds of veggies and they are coming out so delicious. I moved them from the aging fridge to make room for the cheeses, but they kept great in there all summer. We’ve got all kinds of goodies—cucumbers, basil, peppers, okra, carrots, cabbage—and soon I’ll be tying sweet potatoes.
A whole world of deliciousness I’ve only really embarked on seriously starting this year, and thanks to this excellent book.
P.S. Sorry for all the sideways photos and if you get a crink in your neck trying to view them you can thank WordPress for that. I spent an hour trying to correct them, and it’s not working. My WordPress experience is getting worse and worse, which is why the days of this blog will be over soon as it’s just become too annoying to continue it. It’s gone steadily downhill since they forced the Block Editor on everyone. They continually make changes that only make it harder and more time-consuming to post. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!
I’ve got some complaining to do today, but there are some rays of sunshine, too, fear not!
Let’s get the crap out of the way first, don’t you think?
“Climate change”— aka Geoengineering/Weather Modification — continues to haunt us. That is, in droughting us out, mercilessly. I have little hope for the fall garden. I’ve had very poor germination in some crops, none at all in others. That could be the high soil temperature, the still scorching sun and heat even now into October, or perhaps it’s all that crap in the atmosphere.
The pastures are so parched, which means, as I mentioned last time, more sheep than we’d wanted to will go to freezer camp.
The upside is, we are eating very well these days. We’d slowed down on meat consumption over the summer because the freezers were low. The hens had really slowed down laying too in the heat. Now we’ve got meat and egg surplus and we’ve been indulging accordingly.
That also means tallow, which is like white gold to me!
They want a pretty penny for this stuff, which makes sense considering all the costs and effort involved. A basic tallow balm will set you back $15/ounce! I’ve already made one hand balm with rather erotic-scented essential oils that’s got the thumb’s up from my sole customer. 🤗
On to the garden . . .
The purple Czech hot pepper is still my season favorite. It’s still doing beautifully (under shade cloth) and is a lovely little plant I’ll try to over-winter indoors. Hubby is making hot sauce in the fermentation crock that I’m sure will be top-notch.
We’ve finally fully weened the kids and it’s been a very loud few days! I’ve got enough milk again to make some good cheeses, which is just about my favorite thing to do in the world. Or, I just really missed it all summer and I’m really sick of the garden.
I’ve got to get practicing my cheeses again, because the interest in homesteading has really been growing around here. A nearby group has formed and asked us to share some knowledge, which we are pleased to do. Hubby will be lending a hand in the butchery department and I will be offering my fermentation wisdom— in kombucha, soft cheeses and sourdough—for now, hopefully moving on to more advanced skills if interests persist. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done any teaching and I’m already nervous! But, I’m so pleased folks are really starting to see the value in more self-reliant living.
Whether it’s out of necessity or innate interest, I’m thrilled more folks are choosing a more natural lifestyle.
And . . .I think the more the big shit stinks, the more we should be celebrating the small stuff.
And . . .Just in time for Halloween . . .a visit from a black widow!
There’s the good kind of failures—like those you are able to remedy; And the bad kind—like those you can’t control; And the worst kind—like those you could control, if only you could figure out what went wrong.
We have a collage of all 3 today!
Failed cheeses, failed fruits, and sun scorch.
Penicillium roqueforti has dominated my Little Turds and now we have little blue turds, which is a big fat failure.
This is the most aggressive cheese fungus and once the spores get started it’s extremely difficult to correct the issue. As much as I love blue cheese, this is not the process for making it. As a surface mold it does not taste good, it’s the veining of the blue cheese that brings out the nice flavors. I don’t make blue cheese, because in order to make other cheeses you must exclude the blue to get the white (geotrichum candidum),or any others, to dominate.
Even a hobbyist will quickly learn that you need a separate space, equipment and unique aging fridge just for the blues. This particular invasion happened very quickly, in just 2 days, because a beverage fridge does not make a very good aging fridge for cheeses. But, it’s all I’ve got. The temperature varies unexpectedly and you can’t control the humidity. Sure, a lot of cheese makers out there claim there are certain tricks for modifying the humidity levels of the mini-fridge, but they just don’t work, or they are far too high maintenance for me.
The fridge got too cold by just a few degrees, and this was the result. The two without any blue are from an older experiment, also failed, because their white fungal coat is not thick enough. I’m hoping a snug fig wrapping will magically transform the problem. But, I doubt it.
As for the little blue turds, I’m going for maximum shock treatment, just to continue the experiment at this point, because I think they are beyond repair. I have them at room temperature now and I might even try spraying on some geotrichum candidum, just to see what happens.
The orchard is a continual string of failures, the nectarines being just the latest one. We’ve planted so many fruit trees in there we’ve lost track. We planted a couple of plums, one that actually produced for a couple of years, then both suddenly died. The grapes are looking terrible this year, the apples hardly ever bloom and never produce any fruit, the peaches die a year or two after planting, and now we finally got some nectarines and they look like this. The worst part is, once you cut out all the bad parts, the few nibbles of good fruit you have left are absolutely delicious.
We’ve got one reliable pear tree, another two that get a great crop about every 3 years. And the figs, my favorite, that are on some boom-bust mystery cycle we haven’t figured out.
Hubby is beyond frustrated with the fruit trees, so he’s got a mini-project filling up the orchard now, his own hog feed production line.
I think he’s trying to teach those miserable fruit trees a lesson by planting a thriving row of squashes between the rows as feed for the pigs. The cost of feed is getting crazy! And of course, we’d much rather feed the pigs off the land. Trombetta and chayote squashes, and luffa, are growing great and will soon make for some happy pigs.
Luckily we at least have some giant blackberries to soothe our disappointments a bit.
While the garden is still hanging in there despite intense heat and very little rain, the signs of stress have already started. Even heat lovers like the turmeric are getting sun scald. The leaves of the tomatoes and tomatillos are looking equally sad. I’ve covered what I can with shade cloth and screening, and I’ve got my fingers crossed, and that’s about all I can do about that.
If the melons disappoint me again this year, at least I can feel better knowing the bees were very pleased. That is, except for the little bitch who stung me on the middle finger while I was harvesting cucumbers. The simplest of all these problems to solve—must wear gloves now while harvesting.
Oh, and last but not least, the shallots never bulbed. No idea why. I bet Bubba knows, but he’s not talking.
I ran out of attention span last post before I got to talking about cheese. Now that we have three mamas in milk I’ll be having a ball experimenting with new cheeses, which along with kombucha experimenting, is my favorite homesteady sort of thing to do.
Gardening and cooking being not far behind, to be sure!
Aged chèvre (goat cheese) in the French tradition is made of the highest craft and care, even when they are whimsically-named, like Crottin (Little Turd) and Sein de NouNou (Wetnurse breast).
But here in the U.S., Land of the FreeTM, Velveeta is ‘safe’ for consumers and aged goat cheeses, ideal for homestead creation, are completely illegal.
Because they care so very much, right?
“Chèvre evolved in frugal farming households of the sort that continue to make it today. It is a cheese that’s very economical, in both time and ingredients; made on the family farm, where there are many chores to take care of and livestock to feed, a cheese that didn’t need much attention or many costly ingredients fit right in.”
That is in Central France and other locations where it’s not illegal to sell. These are cheeses that require few inputs and no regular purchases—you don’t need a cheese press, or any expensive cultures, or even rennet. Fig sap (or other coagulants like nettles) can easily be substituted for rennet as only a few drops are used to set a gallon of milk.
These are also cheeses suitable to make in warm climates, similar to the more well-known goat cheeses like Feta or a fresh goat cheese. What makes the aged chèvre so unique is that it can only be made with raw milk. You may find hard raw milk cheeses in your grocery store or farmer’s market, like Gouda or Cheddar, these are pressed cheeses aged over two months, which are legal to sell with all the proper licensing. (I have NO interest in that!)
These illegal aged goat cheeses sit at room temperature for about four days.
You most certainly can’t do that with pasteurized milk. These cheeses were invented before pasteurization and before refrigeration and aged for a month or two in caves.
Mine will be aged in Tupperware bins inside a small beverage fridge I use for aging cheeses. (I would prefer not to use plastics at all, but they work just fine and I don’t have other options at the moment.).
I use natural cultures, not store-bought or freeze-dried, developed from previous cheeses, and stored in the freezer. Once the cheeses develop their fungal coat after a couple of weeks, they will be wrapped and aged for about a month.
Traditionally wrapping for these cheeses include leaves, like grape and fig, and even hornet’s nests. A few will also be coated with ash, instead of wrapping, like the traditional Sein de NouNou.
It is positively amazing how differently the cheeses will taste based on just a few variables in the process!
“Relatively unknown in North America, this class of cheeses includes some of France’s most famous fromages: ash-coated and pyramid-shaped Valencay; Sainte Maure—pierced with a blade of straw (the industrial version of Sainte Maure features plastic straws!); and small, moldy Crottin are all aged chèvre cheeses. Perhaps the only well-known North American aged chèvre is Humboldt Fog, a creamy, ash-ripened goats’ milk cheese from Humboldt County, California.”
(I’ve not looked into why or how the Humboldt Fog is legal to mass produce and sell. I plan to dig into that, but my initial guess is they’ve been able to either find a way to use pasteurized goat milk or they have a state-of-the-art affinage ‘cave’ where they can age it over two months without losing the creamy texture.)
“Goats are a belligerent species that have rejected the rigorous production regime thrust upon their bovine cousins. Unlike cows, who contentedly chew their cud in confinement and produce enormous quantities of milk year-round, goats refuse to be cogs in the machine of industrialized dairying.”
A most excellent resource, and the source of the above quotes:
Goats, a belligerent species? HA! The perfectly adorable non-conformists more like!
What better day to ponder than Mother’s Day why kids are so darn cute?!
The newest kids, born yesterday, Phoebe’s firsts—Hercules & Zena—notice he is twice the size of her!
We’ve bartered or sold most of our piglets already. We’re not on social media where such information is exchanged, but it certainly does seem the homesteading community in our area is growing rapidly. Yippie!
One family who came by insisted we were under-profiting from our piglets. Their 11-year old daughter offered her mom to pay us $50 more than we were charging, ‘for the cuteness factor’. Aren’t kids precious!
In not-so-cute news, the swelter season has started abruptly. Bye, bye beets and broccoli, before your time, because I think not even the shade cloth can save you now. The last rain that was hyped on about for days, that flooded some areas and caused tornadoes in others, yielded us a whopping 1/4 inch, not even enough to penetrate the mulch layer.
Of course I’m happy we didn’t get hit with another tornado, but I can still be miffed I have to start watering the garden. Half my roses haven’t even bloomed yet, or the zinnias. The parsley and celery have gone to seed before I got a decent harvest from them and the lettuce will soon follow, no doubt.
The bees are feeling it, too. I checked these hives last week and they were just half-full, yet the bees are bearding. Unfortunately, the swarm we got a couple of weeks ago left after only one day, unhappy with the digs I’d offered apparently. Now it’s already too hot for me to do the splits I’d planned. Better luck next spring.
I’m so pleased to be getting any strawberry harvest at all, they’ve never done well before. Then I saw this video and quickly got a reality check.
Hubby tried to make me feel better by saying those were probably grown in California and loaded with pesticides harvested by illegal aliens. He’s mentioned before something is off about this (Fabulous!) channel. It must be CGI, or heavily staged, or something. Never has a country cottage been so clean and picturesque. Where’s the chicken poop on the table and the flower pots dug up by the puppies? Good questions!
By ‘doing well’ I see I need to learn a thing or two about growing strawberries. They are too crowded and between the humidity and the wet mulch they are mostly half-rotted by the time they get ripe. I’m really loving the strawberry kombucha though! As well as the blackberry, and mulberry. I’ve started making the kombucha tea from yaupon, which grows like a weed around here. It’s delicious and sweeter than the store-bought green tea I usually use.
And speaking of mulberries, what a great surprise, Hubby found a full grown, wild mulberry tree in a spot we walk by regularly and never noticed before. What a treasure hidden in plain site!
And this post has reached my attention span limit, so I leave the cheese to the next post. It’s gonna be a good one all on its on, really! Stay tuned!
Instead I exit abruptly, like spring has done in East Texas, with this quick lesson from Bubba in best yoga techniques.
Can you tell who your ancestors were from the sorts of foods you like?
Folks say you develop a taste for the foods you grew up with and keep a sort of inner-scent nostalgia from childhood, like when Proust describes his semi-conscious love affair with Madeleines.
I’d say that’s only the surface layer of the story. The first time I smelled beans cooking from scratch, as in not coming from a can, I felt I was wafting on scented dreams that could not possibly have come from my own limited lifetime.
We didn’t eat sourdough or sauerkraut either growing up. We ate Oreos, McDonalds, KFC, TV dinners, mac & cheese, and we loved them. All the way through university I lived on mostly fast food and had little clue what cooking from scratch actually meant.
So, considering I was well-adapted to such convenience foods growing up and had developed such a taste for them that I craved them after moving to areas where they were not available, what gives?
Hubby had a much more traditional outlook from his childhood than I did. More than any other single influence in my move toward better nutrition, he was my inspiration. He introduced our household to fermented foods, and now I’m primarily the one who nurtures those crafts. His folks had already been gardening in his youth and still had a ‘subsistence’ mindset, and by that I mean they still ‘put up’ food, something that was unheard of to me growing up.
Do you eat to live or live to eat?
Breaking bread together still means something in our country, I think, but barely. Somehow even the traditional ‘pot luck’ is hardly lucky anymore when food sensitivities reign and diet dictocrats menace and folks’ general health is so poor who knows what will set them off the deep end.
Sensual, comforting, beautiful, sublime, simple, food is far more than sustenance, just as depicted in a popular and a most favorite film of mine, Like Water for Chocolate. Can your mood affect your meal? Can your meal affect your mood? Any true cook or gourmand knows, indeed, it can, and often does. That is ‘the weather’ both inside and out, tempers the dish, for better or worse, and that’s a fact I’ll swear by.
Which came first: the cheese, the beer, the wine, the bread, the kraut or the Kombucha?
In Czech they say their beer is liquid bread. Fermentation is a key miracle of life that I had no idea existed until I was nearly 40. I’d visited caves in France where Champagne is aged and others where Roquefort is crafted and been to festivals where the ‘new wine’ and liters of beer were copiously enjoyed and obviously had eaten pickles in my lifetime, but none of these experiences cemented the notion of fermentation in my mind.
“In all raw whole foods, the food plays host to beneficial bacteria that are particularly suited to devouring it. These native cultures also help to transform the basic foodstuff into traditionally fermented foods: Cabbage contains all the bacteria it needs to become sauerkraut, wheat has all the bacteria and yeasts it needs to become bread (or beer), and grapes have all the culture they need to become wine. Milk is no exception: The native biodiversity of raw milk provides microorganisms that help infants digest their mothers’ milk (and cause the milk to decay if it is spilt); these microorganisms are all that the milk needs to become the many different styles of cheese.” The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses by David Asher
The first time I tasted Camembert with onions was in Germany, partnered with great beer, and it was instantly a favorite meal. At home I bought an American-imported version of both, but they were not the same. Once I started to make cheese myself I realized why, and also realized, I’d become a bonafide cheese snob. A freeze-dried culture is very different from a ‘territoire’ cultivated culture—as different as Velveeta is from the homemade ‘Mexican queso’ it’s supposed to imitate.
“Generations upon generations of traditional cheese makers evolved the diverse methods of making cheese while carefully practicing their art. All classes of cheese were discovered by cheese makers long before they had a scientific understanding of the microbiological and chemical forces at play in its creation. Industry and science hijacked cheers making from the artisans and farmers some 150 years ago, and since then new new styles of cheese have been created; yet during that time hundreds, possibly thousands, of unique cheeses have been lost.” (Asher)
These cheeses were made from my own fungal cultures and have a far superior taste compared to the cheeses made with the typical freeze-dried cultures: brevibacterium linens, geotrichum candidum, penicillin roqueforti
I know how bizarre this will sound to many, because that’s how it sounds to me, now. I didn’t even know vegetables had seasons and I’d never tasted cheese that wasn’t processed and wrapped in plastic, but I assure you, for a girl raised in the American suburbs this was/is typical.
I remember the first time a visiting Czech friend tasted an American beer, he remarked, “That’s an interesting beverage, not bad, but it’s not beer.” It was Budweiser, the ‘beer’ that was originally from Plzen, called Budvar. Even then, already as a ‘worldly’ adult, I didn’t fully grasp his meaning.
Now I understand he was noticing the obvious lack of real fermentation. Like breads made from instant yeast instead of natural yeast, or cheese made from freeze-dried cultures instead of natural cultures, there is most definitely a difference and once you are sensitized to it you cannot even refer to this difference as subtle. It’s glaringly elementary, yet it’s pitifully difficult to describe.
We grew up with artificial sodas like Coke, but we don’t drink them now, because once you master your own favorite Kombucha flavors, artificial flavors become unpalatable. Ditto on the artificial condiments—ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, Tabasco—these all fared from real and healthy foods that once kept our ancestors thriving for centuries before science learned how to mimic them, but not in nutrition, only in taste, and even then, only sort of.
It’s similar to the modern rose that is hardly a rose but in looks alone. And even then, only sort of. Do modern cultivars creating the equivalent of fake boobs recall that roses, like boobs, once had a nutritive purpose that surpassed mere vulgar voluptuousness?
It would appear that no, they do not, because even here in the ‘rose capital’ of Tyler, Texas, boasting a very popular annual festival with a Queen and everything, I’d never have fathomed roses were once cultivated primarily for their hips.
Selective breeding and shortcuts require compromises that are most often not worth it once you develop refinement and can truly appreciate how unsurpassed is the luxury of time. Two days for decent bread, two days prep plus six months aging for a great Alpine cheese, a year for a drinkable wine, a century of painstakingly crafted cultivation for a beautiful yet still nutritious rose—when you nurture the sensitivity of your palate and your gut, you realize there really is a hierarchy of taste and fake is never going to be an adequate substitute.
I’ve set goals all my life, many of them I’ve achieved and many more I’ve not and many more still I decided were not worthy of achieving once within the goal posts. But there is always remaining this matter of food, and it always fits. Not the short-term convenience foods I grew up with, but a much wider tradition that settled into our lives rather organically and that reflects the ancestral wisdom I believe my own ancestors were mistaken to leave behind, which I feel very fortunate to have the time and inclination to revive and cultivate.
With Handy Hubby perfecting another lost art—growing, slaughtering and butchering all on-site—perhaps we should up our game goals? ‘Luddite Power Couple’ is that a thing? 😉