Using natural kefir milk grains (little rubbery colonies of yeasts and bacteria), I fermented 1 1/2L whole milk in a warm (about 19°C) cupboard for ten hours, then transferred the slightly lumpy mixture to the fridge where it stayed for a further 18 hours. If I was just making a kefir drink I would have taken the grains out after 8 hours but I wanted it to activate more than normal to split the curds and whey. By this time the curdled mass had coagulated sufficiently to seive the curd and extract the whey. Not having any white mould to hand, I stole some from a nearby Camembert by stripping off the rind and dunking the thin pieces in water. 2 hours later I used the murky solution to wash through my curd and then transferred it into a small form with holes in to drain. I turned the cheese twice and six days later, a lovely bloomy kefir cheese is starting to emerge. Due to the incredibly high levels of wonderful bacteria in kefir, I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into this, although I left quite a few rubbery nuggets of kefir in the curd which may cause the cheese to be a little sour. I may leave it for a week or two more so that the Penicillium Camemberti gets a chance to hook its teeth in and raise the pH. I may just scoff it tomorrow
Why does eating cheese make us feel happy and wanting more?
This picture should go some way into explaining why we feel so happy eating cheese and we always go back for another chunk. Its name is beta-casomorphin 7 found in cow’s milk (the seven coming from the number of amino acids). It’s not only the delicious flavours that come from well-aged, fermented curd that cause us to beam when we chew on cheese or babies drink breast milk. There is now scientific understanding behind the smiles and infatuation.
These microscopic tribes of happiness are known as casomorphins. The name comes from the word casein, a protein found commonly in bovine milk (and in all other species’ milk) and morphine, the opioid best known for its pain relieving qualities, euphoria enducing experiences and its ability to dramatically reduce fear and anxiety. It is also highly addictive - heroin is very ‘moreish’.
It has been found in greater quantities in mouldy cheeses such as Brie and Chaource so if you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, crack open the Camembert.
In hospitals the morphine used comes from poppies but cows don’t go around eating poppies most of the time. It appears that cows, via their livers, produce a number of opiates including codeine and morphine which find their way into the milk. Once the casein protein is split along its long chain of amino acids (this happens via the bacterial breakdown within our gut during digestion when we drink a glass of milk or eat a hunk of cheese) a variation of short-chain amino acids known as casomorphins are produced.
If anybody has ever had the pleasure of watching a tetchy, riled baby suddenly find themselves soothed, sedated and transported into a very different, peaceful lala land from a helping of mother’s milk, here’s one reason. The physical bond between mother and child is enormously important, not just for keeping the baby alive, but also for the psychological well-being of both parent and child.
There have been different opinions on just how much these casomorphins get into our adult system but cheese is by far and away the food with the greatest quantity of casein in and research has shown that the bloodstream receives these tiny morsels of casein about 30-45 minutes after ingestion. A baby’s digestive tract is much thinner than our adult system and therefore allows the transferral of these happy chappies quite willingly into the bloodstream. Most of the opioids stay in our adult gut and indirectly send messages from there to the brain. Some though, do make their way into the bloodstream. If you eat a decent sized lump of cheese, which to most people is not that difficult as it tastes so delicious, we find ourselves with more than enough casomorphins in our system to signal to our brain that this is something we want more of, again and again.
There are other compounds that have a drug-like effect found within cheese. One of them is phenylethylamine, or PEA, unique neurotransmitters related to amphetamines also released by chocolate and sausages! - Two other food stuffs we can’t get enough of.
Basically keep on eating cheese, sausages and chocolate and your life will be filled with joy and happiness. I certainly plan on feeding my baby solely with all three. Stuff pureed butternut squash ;)
My son likes cheese. This is great news. He also seems to understand that there’s a time and a place for young, modestly flavoured cheddar, although I have no idea whether he likes the older, fruitier stuff as this is his first foray into the fascinating world of cheese and by the look on his face, it won’t be his last.
Pick and Pay Cheddar Plain - R77/kg (£4.23/kg, $7.02/kg)
Alby’s face during the taste test expressed emotions that only a smooth, buttery cheese could produce. He squished the curd in his hand (like a true cheese connoisseur should when taste testing cheese) for a couple of minutes to check for texture and oil levels. Exceptionally high malleability and oil levels experienced. The slightly damp plastic rind accentuated the sweet odour of the young, orange cheese. Once the curd made its way from hand to mouth, his initial grimace said ‘this is too saccharine and honeyed’ and his lack of willingness to swallow said low-end, bog standard curd fodder. The general spread across his body said high playability level.
It’s been a long time since my last post, what with moving countries and starting a new cheesy job, but coming soon will be information about my cheese related tour of India (yes you heard that right). You may be surprised to hear that I found more than just a few fantastic cheese makers. From the southern hills of Tamil Nadu to the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, India has a wealth of marvellous cheese and I’m going to tell you all about it. Sadly when I was in Bangladesh I had my phone stolen, which held more than a small amount of info about my travels including painstakingly organised interviews with the makers themselves but I shall endure to paint a picture of what I found and spread the good word of what’s happening over there. See you soon
It’s not to late to enter this weeks photo contest. Snap a picture of your favorite cheese, tag it @murrayscheese and #cheeseme. You could win a big old bag full of funk!
Cheese photo people get snapping
JOWETT CHEESE LTD.: Chapter one "Build A Dairy", almost completed. Chapter two "Cheesemaking" is beginning
Today was an incredibly monumental day for the JC project: it was the first time I’ve brought milk into the dairy… And bringing milk into the dairy means cheese is being made!
I did the milk run to Gorsehill Abbey at sunrise, arrived back at the dairy in record time and without a drop of milk…
soon to be blogging Turkish and Indian cheeses