27 December 2012

How Much Cheese is Enough?

Recently I was asked to set up some sample cheese plates for a local business. At first I was more concerned with the cheese choice. Only when I was laying the cheese on the plate did I realize how essential the amount of cheese is for such a venture. When I sit down with a piece of cheese I'll often just eat with no regard to how much I've consumed. This, of course, is a testament to my love of fromage. When there are other factors involved (multiple cheeses and extras) it's a whole different story.

I set up a few plates. The first was designed to be an all American plate: cheddar, a blue, and a chevre. This combination is nice because you could fill all the cheeses from various regions of the country if you wanted to keep it more local. And on this plate I set out 1.5oz of each cheese along with some filler (almonds, figs, etc). 1.5oz turned out to be way too much cheese.

On the next round I went with an Italian theme: burrata, a toscana, and a piave. This time I switched to 1oz of each cheese which was much more manageable. It's possible that even .75oz would have been sufficient but I think 1oz is a nice amount. Filling for one person and share-able for two.

And if you keep the cheese choice reasonable, so too will be the cost of the entire cheese plate. At wholesale prices just the cheese (@ 1oz / cheese) was under $2 per plate.

And in terms of extras - they mostly hovered around $.30 per item. In order of cost: sliced baguette, figs, chutney, almonds, tapenade. And the only very expensive and very delicious extra was the prosciutto. A guilty pleasure.

12 December 2012

Neolithic cheese making: Evidence from the 6th Millennium, B.C.

It was exciting to hear some cheese news out of the world of archaeology this month.  (A dear friend to FDM was kind of enough to pass along the story).

An article published in the journal Nature (link here) describes some carbon-dating techniques and other analysis that a collaborative group from the U.S., England, and Poland performed on pottery sieves found at a Neolithic archaeology site in Eastern Poland.

Basically, this group report  evidence that these sieves, which date from ~5300 to 4900 B.C., were definitely used to process milk and were designed (hammered at) to be able to separate the whey-protein clumps from the typical fat-rich milk curds that result from milk spoilage. This method is similar to the way that many cheese-makers do it  today. 

To-date, this is the earliest evidence of human beings making cheese

These are the actual sieve fragments that contained milk residue that was  carbon-dated .
As all of you know, the production of cheese can be viewed as sort-of the controlled, variably nuanced, spoilage of milk. Historically, the process may have been put to use by farmers who wanted to preserve the milk for a longer period, as it was a precious commodity, and/or to make it more digestible or palatable.

The article's abstract includes the following of interest: "The processing of milk, particularly the production of cheese, would have been a critical development because it not only allowed the preservation of milk products in a non-perishable and transportable form, but also it made milk a more digestible commodity for early prehistoric farmer."

It turns out that pre-historic man was on to something pretty big.  It's a fascinating story all together.
Thank you, Keyrock and friends.  Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.