Cheese-making Philippine Style, by Olive P. Puentespina
Anyone with slightest interest in food can make cheese. But to make a good one requires passion, dedication and perseverance. Not to mention an unexplainable love for the aged curd.
Not too long ago, maybe 3 years, I was making fresh cheese in the kitchen. Good enough for my ever hungry kids, but soon my fickle mind wanted something better. I wanted a more organized, clean and proper ‘cheese room’. After relearning the rudiments of cheese making from an old colleague from the Dairy Training and Research Institute in UP Los Banos, I endeavored to make my cheese room. I converted the company mess hall to a screened production area. This time, it had area for receiving milk, pasteurization, cooling down, aging and processing and packaging. And I have my father-in-law to thank for, for bank rolling this project, and my mother-in-law for raising the goats for milk.
Slowly, I acquired kitchen equipment that I have converted to suit my cheese making procedures. I also acquired a new sense of confidence. I even changed protocols in established cheese making steps to suit Philippine conditions. This I call “cheese making Philippine Style.” Proudly, after 6 months of experimenting and numerous cheese tastings, my feta made it to the Cheese Club of the Philippines’ September 2006 Meet. The first and only Goat Cheese Feta from the Philippines. You have to realize though that I am focusing on the positive events that I have encountered. I had my share of challenges and criticisms but I did not allow that to hinder my passion in working hard to come up with wonderful products.
Cheese making is a way of preserving and adding value to milk. After receiving milk at the cheese room, it is platform tested and pasteurized. Depending on the kind of cheese it will become, appropriate agents are added. While the milk is cooling down in the water bath, all tools and equipment to be used in the cheese making is sterilized. Any amount of dirt will destroy the cheese! When the curd is set, it is time to cut and allow the curd and whey to separate. Resting for about 20 minutes will allow whey to drain properly. After the resting period, curd can be transferred to the cheese mould. Complete draining can be done in a day or two. Cheese should be removed from its mould and allow to sit on the draining board. Depending again on the kind of cheese it will become, salting and spraying of cheese mold should be done during this time. This may be repeated a few more times until the cheeses are aged fully. Then they are either brushed or wrapped for storage.
Generally, cheeses must be stored in temperatures between 2-4C and must be enjoyed at its peak. Expiration ranges between one month for fresh cheeses, to over a year for aged varieties. All of our cheeses bear this important date to guide the consumer when best to enjoy them.