Ale cheese


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Ale cheese

  1. 1. Ale Cheese Cheese rounds air drying & aging in shelf’s, pressing by hand, and draining whey.Fig.1: Cheese manufacture, 1390-1400, Illustration from "Tacuinum Sanitatis",illuminated medical manual based on texts translated from Arabic into Latin, in thecollection of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. 11 Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, 1
  2. 2. Making an Ale Cheese in PeriodSome types of cheese were named for the area that they were being made such as Gouda(in Holland); or the religious orders that made the cheese. An example of this wasdocumented in 1543 in the ledgers of Saint-Aman Abby of Rouen, where the cheesecalled Neufchatel2 was recorded in the book “A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye.”Another example would be a variety of cheeses called Trappist after the order of Trappistmonks who made them. There are also verities of cheeses that were made in a certaintown or region.This cheese is based on a recipe that called for Ale to be used to set the curd c.1430~1450A.D. The version I cited was from “Take a Thousand Eggs or More”, but can also befound in “Two Fifteenth Century Cook Books”.Fig 2: Dairymen and Cheese Sellers (Mid 13th C., San Marco, Venice)3The milk was collected twice a day (morning & evening) at the milking house to beprocessed (fig.3 & 5). In period they would have left the skimmed milk to warm overnight by the fire near the hearth. A milk starter often cream (see Ref. 3) from the next2 Norman Cheeses, At the Table of the Monks: Cheese, Of Course (Part V) 2
  3. 3. mornings milking4 (a bacterial agent some times referred to as a live culture) was addedthat acted as an agent to help back down the proteins in the milk so that the milk solidsout separate out (the curds) . Another method used in period for the source of a starterwas to save a small amount of milk from a previous batch of cheese before the rennet (oragent was added to cause the curd to separate from the whey). Then something was addedlike thistle, safflower juice, or an acid (vinegar or verjuice), ale, or rennet5 to cause themilk to clabbered (the curd to separate from the whey).6The milk purchased for this project was Raw Whole Cows Milk that I low temperaturepasteurized for modern safety reasons (The raw whole milk that I used was lowtemperature pasteurized by me, then processed into the cheese see details below). TheRaw milk came from free range Short Horn Milking Cows, and Belted Galloway whichwas breeds known in the middle ages.Medieval Method of making cheese:Reference 1:“Take a gallon of milk from the cow, and seethe it, and when it doth seethe put thereuntoa quart or two of morning milk in fair cleansing pans in such place as no dust may falltherein. This is for you clotted cream. The next morning take a quart of morning milk,and seethe it, and put in a quart of cream thereunto, and when it doth seethe, take if offthe fire. Put it in a fair earthen pan, and let it stand until it be somewhat blood warm. Butfirst over night put a good quantity of ginger, rose water, and stir it together. Let it settleovernight.”“The next day put it into your said blood warm milk to make your cheese come. Thenput the curds in a fair cloth, with a little good rose water, fine powder of ginger, and alittle sugar. So lash great soft rolls together with a thread and crush out the whey withyour clotted cream. Mix it with fine powder of ginger, and sugar and so sprinkle it withrose water, and put your cheese in a fair dish. And put these clots around about it. Thentake a pint of raw milk or cream and put it in a pot, and all to shake it until it be gatheredinto a froth like snow. And ever as it cometh, take it off with a spoon and put into acolander. There put it upon your fresh cheese, and prick it with wafers, and so serve it.”74 Power, Eileen, The Goodman of Paris, New York, 1992, pg.1695 Arne Emil Christensen is Professor, Dr. Phil. at the University Museum of National Antiquities in Oslo,author of this article (He specializes on shipbuilding history and craftsmanship in the Iron Age and theViking period), Power, Eileen, The Goodman of Paris, New York, 1992, pg.1697 Dawson, Thomas, The Good Housewife’s Jewel, Southover Press, 1996, pg.17~18 3
  4. 4. Fig.3 Women had charge of the domestic animals including milking, butter making, and cheese making production. (Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 764, fol. 44)8 Reference 2:I was reluctant to include this but since there so little in print on how to make cheese thatincludes the pressing and rubbing the outside with salt I have chosen to do so. Pleasekeep in mind that the process described below has not changed since Columella describedthis same process in the first century (see reference #4).(England, 17th century, “A True Gentlewomans Delight”, 1653)To make a slipcoat Cheese“Take five quarts of new Milk from the Cow, and one quart of Water, and one spoonfulof Runnet, and stirre it together, and let it stand till it doth come, then lay your Cheesecloth into the Vate, and let the Whey soak out of it self; when you have taken it all up, laya cloth on the top of it, and one pound weight for one hour, then lay two pound for onehour more, then turn him when he hath stood two houres, lay three pound on him for anhour more, then take him out of the Vate, and let him lie two or three houres, and thensalt him on both sides, when he is salt enough, take a clean cloth and wipe him dry, thenlet him lie on a day or a night, then put Nettles under and upon him, and change themonce a day, if you find any Mouse turd wipe it off, the Cheese will come to his eating ineight or nine dayes.”98 Hanawalt, Barbara, A., The Ties That Bound – Peasant Families in Medieval England, Oxford Univ.Press, Chapter 8 “The Husbandman’s Year and Economic Ventures:, pg.1489 Gode Cookery, Matterer, James L. site owner, 4
  5. 5. The reference above about the cheese being ready to eat in 8 or 9 days is very close to theprocess that I used for one of the versions you will sample.Reference 3:“My Lady of Middlesex makes excellent slipp-coat Cheese of good morning milk,putting Cream to it. A quart of Cream is the proportion she useth to as much milk,as both together make a large round Cheese of the bigness of an ordinary Tart-plate, orcheese-plate; as big as an ordinary soft cheese, that eh Market women sell for tenpence…”10Reference 4:Columella on Cheese Making:(Although an early source from 70 A.D. Columella was a contemporary of Pliny & Cato,and at this point in time this was the most complete written source of instructions I havefound for making cheese both pressed & soft)"Cheese should be made of pure milk which is as fresh as possible....It should usually becurdled with rennet obtained from a lamb or kid, though it can also be coagulated withthe flower of the wild thistle or the seeds of the safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), andequally well with the liquid which flows from a Fig-tree..."."A pail when it has been filled with milk should always be kept at some degree of heat: itshould not however be brought into contact with the flames....but should be put to standnot far from the fire...""...when the liquid had thickened, it should immediately be transferred to wicker vesselsor baskets or moulds..."" soon as the cheese has become somewhat more solid, they place weights on the topof it, so that the whey may be pressed out;....then they are placed into a cool, shady place,that it my not go is often placed on very clean boards, it is sprinkled withpounded salt so that it may exude the acid liquid,...when it has hardened it is pressedagain...""...the method of making what we call "hand pressed" cheese is the best-known of all:when the milk is slightly congealed in the pail and still warm it is broken up and hotwater is poured over it, and then it is either shaped by hand or else pressed into box-woodmoulds." (fig. 1)"Others allow thyme which has been crushed and strained through a sieve to coagulatewith the milk and curdle it in this way, similarly, you can give the cheese an flavor youlike by adding any seasoning which you choose....Cheese also which is hardened inbrine and then colored with the smoke of apple tree wood or stubble has a not unpleasantflavor..."11Period Recipe for Ale Cheese:10 The Project Gutenberg eBook “The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby”,, “Tomake Silpp-coat cheese”11 E.S. Forster & E. Heffner (Translated by), Columella II de re Rustica V-IX, , Book VII, pg.285~289 5
  6. 6. (I also have this book in hard copy at home)Harleian MS. 279 - Potage DyversCOOKERY BOOK. I. HARLEIAN MS. 279. POTAGE DYVERS. 15.1. A potage on fysshday. — Take an Make a styf Poshote of Milke anAle; Jjan take & draw J^e croddys J^orw a straynoure wyth^ whyte SweteWyne, or ellys Rochelle Wyne, & make it sum-what rennyng an sum-whatstondyng, & put Sugre a gode quantyte ]7er-to, or hony, but nowt to moche ;J^an hete it a lytil, & serue it forth al a-brode in Ipe dysshys ; an straw onCanel, & Gyngere, and jif [l^ou] haue Blank powder, straw on and kepe ita[s] whyte as yt may be, & jjan serue f [orth]. 12Harleian MS. 279 - Potage Dyvers 13Supplies:12 Two Fifteenth-century cookery books, Haleian ms. 279 (ab. 1430),Internet Archive,COOKERY BOOK.I.HARLEIAN MS.279. POTAGE DYVERS.15 Renfrow, Cindy, Take a Thousand Eggs or More, Vol. 1, 1998, United States, pg.40~41 6
  7. 7. 2 gallons Raw Whole Cows Milk (Raw Milk or non-homogenized milk will give you a richer cheese) There is an additional step here for me since I used Raw Milk. I needed to heat the milk for 30 min. to a temperature of 145°, then place the pot immediately into a sink filled with cool water and ice if necessary to bring the temp of the milk down quickly, then after cooled place sterile clean container and proceed, with cheese making steps below.)1 pkg. Mesophilic Culture Direct Set1 tsp. Rennet32 oz. (or two bottles) A good Ale (Ale made by *Brewed by Malcolm the Tall*)For the Hard Cheese Used: For the Soft Cheese Used:*Heather Ale * *Saxon Brown Ale*Peat Smoked Barley Malted Amber Roast Barley MaltHoney Wheat MaltWheat Malt Rye MaltMalted Oats Sweetgale (Myrica gale L.)Flaked Oats Juniper (Juniperus Communis)Sweetgale (Myrica gale L.) Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)HeatherYarrow (Achillea millefolium)8 oz. of mead (or sweet white wine) For this Cheese Camelot Mead was used8 oz. of HoneySpices (your choice) Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)¼ cup cool water1 Tablespoon Sea Salt2 Stainless Steel Pots1 Slotted Stainless Steel Spoon1 yard of cheese cloth1 Colander1 Stainless Steel Ladle1 Thermometer1 Cheese Press1 Cheese Mold & Follower1 timer1 large plastic cake container (Tupperware style)2 Reed Mats to place the cheese onAle Cheese 7
  8. 8. (Basic cheese making instructions were in “Cheese Making Made Easy” by Ricki &Robert Carroll, and adopted for this type of cheese)14Modern Method:(My version)Modern stainless steel was used to conform to modern health and safetyguidelines.Take raw whole milk (after low temperature pasteurized) and warm it (heat it a little),then add the Ale, starter, and rennet. When the curds have formed cut them. Place thecurds into a fine cloth (draw them through a fine strainer), add the sea salt, and hang untilthe whey has stopped dripping. Take the curds and add Honey, Sweet White Wine (orMead), and Spices (Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, or what spices you may have). Presslightly and serve it forth.I have included both pressed and non pressed forms of Ale cheese here. The softerspredable version is similar to that described in the period recipe. I also took the basicrecipe above and adopted it into a pressed cheese that would be served at 10 days of age.2-gallon raw whole milk2 bottles of a good Ale (I used a Heather Ale [see note above])8 oz. of a Sweet White Wine or Mead (I choose to use Mead)1 package of Mesophilic Culture DS (this is used for temperatures under 105º)½ tsp. of Rennet for 2 gallons of milk¼ cup of cool water to dilute the rennet into1 Tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt4 tsp. of mixed spices Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)1 cup of HoneyDay 1:Place milk into large pan (fig. 6). Warm milk (after low temperature pasteurized) until ithas risen to a temperature of 90° F. (Use the in-direct warming method using a largemetal pan in a sink of warm water, or inside of a second larger pot).Add the Ale, and Mesophilic Starter DS, and allow to sit for 45~60 minutes to ripen.Next add the Rennet (diluted to 1/4 cup of cool water) and stir for several minuets. Letmilk sit covered for 1 hour or until a curd has formed and a clean break (which is if aclean knife or finger is put into the curd the curd should separate cleanly). Cut the curds14 Carroll, Ricki & Robert, “CheeseMaking Made Easy”, Storey Books, 1996, Chapter on “Hard Cheese”pages ( ) 8
  9. 9. into ½ inch cubes, and then let sit for 5 minutes. Ladle the warm curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander (fig. 8) while still warm (fig.7) and hang to drain for overnight.Day 2:Take the curds and place into a bowl and add honey, wine, a little more ale, and spicescover and refrigerate overnight. Good for about two weeks.CHEESE #1 is finished at this point.Day 3: Cheese #2Place the curds into a cheese cloth lined mold place the follower (fig.1). Place the cheesemold and follower into the cheese press and apply 15 pounds of pressure for 15 minutes.After 15 minutes remove weight & follower and turn the round of cheese, replace thefollower and return to cheese press for additional 15 minutes. Turn every 15 minutes forthe next 2 hours. After 2 hours increase weight to 30 pounds and turn every ½ hour forthe next hour. Then replace into press and leave in press for 12 hours or over night.15Day 4:Remove cheese round and place on reed mat. Turn once a day for the next 2~4 days untila nice rind has developed and the surface remains dry. After 2~4 days rub the outside ofthe cheese all round with a damp cloth of Ale & Honey (making sure not to overly wetthe surface of the cheese), and a little salt. Place in your cheese cave at 55ºF degreesturning once a day for the next 10~14 days (repeat the previous step as needed) then oncea week there after. After 2 weeks wrap the cheese round in wax paper, sealing the cheesewill keep it form drying out and loosing too much moisture, and it also keeps outunwanted molds.Age Cheese #2 for 10~14 days then serve.Observations:In reading many period cooking recipe’s there is as much written as unwritten. I believethat the authors of recipes in period assumed that the reader had a certain amount of basicknowledge when it came to cooking or in this case making cheese. With that in mind Ihave drawn on my experience of cheese making over the last 4 years to fill in the blanksand reproduce this cheese in a period style.I have been working on this cheese for about the last 1 ½ years. My early attemptsresulted in a cheese that was barely eatable due to the fact that I failed to compensate forthe salt that was being rubbed on the outside of the cheese. Through the learning processI have found that semi-hard & hard cheeses will continue to absorb salt from the outerlayers toward the center. I also adopted other references to using wine or other sprits15 Carroll, Ricki & Robert, Cheese making made Easy, United States: Capital City Press, 1996, page 36~37 9
  10. 10. cure to outer surface of the cheese and affect the flavor of the final cheese. So I choose touse an honey & mead, and salt to aid in the flavor profile of this cheese.The next item that I address was the spices used in this cheese of cinnamon, ginger, andnutmeg. From my experience I knew that if a soft cheese is flavored it taste better if youallow the flavors to sit for 1 to 5 days before eating. Again with this in mind I choose tomix the spices into the cheese and allow it to sit for 24 hours before pressing so the flavorwould be better and for the soft version for at least 2 days.The next thing I had to do with the type of wine used in this cheese. I have made thischeese without the wine, with a semi-sweet white wine, a sweet white wine, and mead. Ihad asked a local Venter in the SCA what type of white wines were period and was told aRiesling would certainly work. Again I was looking at the flavor profile of this cheeseand considered that mead was made with honey and I wanted to enhance and complementthe honey used in the cheese. I believe the original intention of the sweet wine was to offset the bitterness from old Ale. If you notice in the period recipe they were using the aleto set the curd. Again I talked to local SCA brewers and the best reason could possiblybe that ale was made fairly frequently, and as ale ages it could begin to turn (like a wineinto a vinegar like base) and it is actually the higher acid content of the Ale that is settingthe curd. Also as part of this process and a certain flavor pallet in mind I also choose touse an organic wild honey to complement the ale.In reading the period recipe for “A Pottage on Fishday” the end product reads like youare getting a soft spread able cheese product. Again I have made this cheese in bothforms, and the product you are seeing today is in the soft form (Cheese #1), and of alightly pressed semi-soft cheese round (Cheese #2) because I wanted to see if I could geta slicing style cheese with a similar flavor profile.Conclusion:I have also learned that time is much more critical for making semi-hard & hard cheeses,and the process of making these types of cheeses is not nearly as forgiving as making softcheeses.Some of the things I learned were if my house is too cold the curd will not set. I canwarm the milk and add more Rennet, and that if using a raw milk product that isproduced near the end of the cows or goat’s lactation cycle the milk does not containenough milk fat to set a curd (you get a weak or soft curd that does not hold up during thecheese making process for hard cheese). On adding rennet I learned early on that a littlegoes a long way and adding two much of something in the case of making cheese can bea bad thing. Adding not enough rennet and your curd will not set, but I have found thatyou can add a little more if necessary. Adding to much rennet will give it a rubberytexture and a bitter under taste. This also will happen if your rennet is too old.This last statement is important because it explains a couple of written statements I foundin period sources that talked about the time of year and the quality of the cheese products 10
  11. 11. produced. For example in the spring and early summer the milk is rich and contains alarge of amount of protein and milk fat due to new pastures and lactation for their young,so the cheese is going to be very rich in body and flavor. If the milk is in the fall then itis not as rich due to the decline of pasture feeding and that they are no longer lactating, sothe cheese produced in the fall will take more milk to produce a pound of cheese due to alower amount of protein and fat making the milk thinner (the cream that comes to the topis not as thick as in the spring/ summer milk). What the animals eat also effect the flavorof the cheese as well.Part of the preservation of any cheese comes in how moisture can I get the curds to giveup without taking out too much and making a very dry cheese (i.e. how much whey canI get out of the curd). This is done in several ways thru the process, by hanging, pressing,and salting. Cheeses pressed and aged in this manner can and do last years.Another lesson that applies as much now as then is keeping things clean, “morning milkin fair cleansing pans in such place as no dust may fall therein”16. There are times whenno matter what you can do the milk will not set and all you can do is start over and feedthe previous batch to the pig.This is a process I have been learning about for the last 4 years, I started MedievalCheese Forum a year ago ( so I could keep track ofmistakes and successes, share information I have learned about cheese making also.Enjoy sampling the cheese.Please reference Illumination in Fig.1, look on the left hand side, and notice the woodenform that the bundle of cheese is being pressed in and the container below to catch thewhey. Above are two images taken from a modern video showing traditional cheesemaking. The form and methods have not changed since the 14th century.16 Dawson, Thomas, The Good Housewife’s Jewel, Southover Press, 1996, pg.17~1817 Gyimesközéplok Traditional cheese-making, Sajtkészítés 11
  12. 12. The cheese on the far left is one of theearly Ale cheeses The cheese on the far right is anotherAle cheese without the spices 12
  13. 13. 18 fig. 518 Norman Cheeses, 13
  14. 14. 19 fig. 6 Warming the milk Warming milk Slotted ladle & strainer 20 Fig. 7 Draining Whey19 From Tacuinum Sanitatis (ÖNB Codex Vindobonensis, series nova 2644), c. 1370-1400) Take 1000 Eggs or More, pg. 45, from Schweizer Chronik, c. 1548 14
  15. 15. 21 Fig. 8 Roman Cheese Press in form and function verysimilar to those found from 600 – 1600A.D.All other photos unless otherwise noted were taken by me.21 Roman Cheese Press, Greyware circular straight-sided bowl, used for training the Whey from cheese, c.450 A.D., 15