Grutto, weidevogel

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A plate of “Grutto, weidevogel”
The dish could be eaten while drinking the milk from which the “belegen kaas” had been produced: the milk from Corneel van Rijn's farm

This starter titled “Grutto, weidevogel”[1] was served to the 40 guests of “The Soft Protest, re-chewing & Digest” dinner in October 2019 at Corridor project space in Amsterdam.

The dish consisted of 2 types of cheese: a soft cheese, matured in house and slowly smoked in hay[2]; the other, a belegen kaas (a medium aged dutch cheese) produced by the brother of Corneel van Rijn, the organic dairy farmer whom we collaborated with on the dinner.

Both cheeses were accompanied by hand kneaded sourdough loafs and a greek biodynamic olive oil emulsified with fresh grass extract.

Introduction to the dish

“When our ancestors took up dairying, they adopted cows as surrogate mothers. Indeed, these creatures accomplish the miracle of turning meadow and uncultivated lands into tremendous quantities of human food. As the majority of our ancestors had no lactase enzyme to digest the valuable lactose (a carbohydrate) contained in raw milk, they found different support-organisms (molds and microbes) to break lactose before consuming the milk, thus inventing yogurt and cheese.

When milk is left to stand, it naturally turns acids and curdles into thick yogurt, which draining separates into solid curd and liquid whey. Salting the fresh curd produces a simple, long-keeping cheese similar to feta. Later came the technique of curdling milk with the help of calves stomach extract, called rennet, that allowed the development of modern cheeses. Rennet was humankind’s first step in biotechnology.

Cheese is an intense, concentrated expression of pastures, animals, microbes and time. To enhance this flavor concentration, the danish invented the “rygeost”, a soft cheese smoked in the hay from the pasture, adding a distinctive flavor profile: the landscape. The cheese is smoked at low temperature (30°C), as it avoids melting the surface which could become a barrier to the evaporation of extra moisture. It allows the cheese to stay “alive”.

Notes

  1. A reference to the national pasture-bird of the Netherlands
  2. This cheese was inspired by a unique danish soft cheese called rygeost, which flavors are concentrated by smoking it in the pasture’s hay: a taste of the landscape.