The cheese ripening initiative

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Fresh cheeses before they were distributed to the participants

At the beginning of September 2021, The Soft Protest Digest was invited to the Food Art Film Festival 2021, run by the Food Lab of the Jan van Eyck Academie. This year, the festival embraced locality. After more than a year of restrictions and keeping our distance, it was time to strengthen the ties with the city, the region, local chefs, beekeepers, and farmers.
Thus, at the beginning of August, Robin invited 10 people related to the Academie to keep samples of fresh cheese made from the same milk with same processing. With no information about the known ways to ripen cheese, they cared for it for 1 month, using only their own judgment and fantasy. Starting from a local ingredient, this simple performance aims to envision how the slightest empowerment on food processing eventually increases food diversity and decentralisation.

  • Our participation to the festival was constituted by:
  1. 🧀🎥 The screening of the short film Landscape, soil, cheese and me (~10min), a one month cheese-making routine.
  2. 👥🎥 The screening of the video The cheese ripening initiative (~6min), where the cheese-keepers tell visitors about the cheese they cared for.
  3. 🧀🥖 A tasting of the participants’ cheeses in the Jan van Eyck Cafe Restaurant after the screening.

Preparation of the experiment

Production of the cheeses

16 cheeses[1] of roughly 5cm diameter were produced in the Food Lab with the following process:

Milk origin Culture input Milk processing and curdling Molding process Ripening time and process
03.08 — 16.5 litres of cow full milk, unpasteurised, provided by Hoeve de Koeberg[2] 1/4tsp Mesophilic lactic ferments. - Milk pH was too low (pH7), so it was kept in 2 containers a room temperature in the Food lab for 25h.
- 10mL liquid animal rennet and Lactalis powder rennet in heated milk (38°C pH6.5).
- 1h45 curdling. Curds cut roughly.
Curd in metal hoops with cheesecloth with weight on top:
- First batch (9 cheeses) for 30' on both sides.
- Second batch (7 cheeses) for 5h on 1 side.
- First batch shrank a bit after 1 day of draining and second batch got pretty shapes.
- Dry salting on both sides after unmolding (1/4tsp sea salt each).
- All cheese found a different keeper to take care of the ripening.
Message sent to the artists resident from the Jan van Eyck Academie.

Distribution of the cheeses

Hello everyone,
   Would you like to become a cheese-keeper during the month of August?
   I invite all of you to The cheese ripening initiative, an experience that will eventually lead to the tasting of cheeses you would have kept for 1 month; for the Food Art Film Festival 2021 (3-5th of September).
   Everyone that is keen on participating will be given a small cheese to take care about, using only your own judgment and fantasy. There is no “good way” to ripen cheese, as every scenarios can bring different textures and tastes, depending on temperature, moisture, flipping, packaging, etc. As long as it is protected from flies and other animals, every cheese might be edible after 1 month of your care.
   This experiment will allow the FAFF public to envision how the slightest empowerment on food processing eventually increases food diversity and decentralisation.
I will provide you from Friday on:

  • 1 small cheese made with raw organic milk from Hoeve de Koeberg’s cows
  • 1 box to keep the cheese safe
  • 1 piece of mosquito net

Those of you who are up for this cheese nursing experience can contact me and agree on when to gather their cheese.
   All the best,   Robin
P.S: if you move away in August, you can always find a place where to store your cheese; I only need you to bring it for FAFF in September.

The keepers and their cheeses

Results of the cheese ripening initiative
Cheese keeper Cheese keeping process  Pictures Taste and aspect
Aliki Cheese kept in its box with lavender strands around it. Dried regularly by opening the box with the net. Aliki-cheese-1.jpg Aliki-cheese-4.jpg Aliki’s care gave us a soft and creamy paste, with a beautiful bloomy rind. Its taste was delicate with a discreet lavender perfume.
Arvid Cheese wrapped in fennel leaves from an organic community garden. Kept in paper in box with leaking whey. Arvid-cheese-1.jpg Arvid-cheese-2.jpg Under a smelly and humid skin of paper, rind and fennel, we found a very soft and runny paste with strong pikant character to eat on bread with jam.
Asli After a bit of ageing in box, the cheese was sprinkled with kōji[3]. It was then kept in a plastic sleeve. Asli-cheese-1.jpg Asli-cheese-2.jpg Unfortunately we did not taste it.
“Ah no it was not so special ahaha! But what we could try perhaps is that the box I use to make kōji and incubate a cheese and see what happens.”
Ben Cheese kept in open box with net. Brought by the windows’ light when sunny. Ben-cheese-1.jpg Ben-cheese-2.jpg Among all the cheeses ripened, this one spent more time in the Sun, resulting on a dry and granular paste. It tasted quite like old hard cheeses (Parmigiano), thanks to the salts concentration.
Elisa Kept wrapped in its paper in the box. Stored in Gamal’s wood hut in the Jan van Eyck’s garden. Elisa-cheese-1.jpg Elisa-cheese-2.jpg After removing the sticky paper, we found a moist and runny cheese that Elisa was afraid to eat, but it turned out that its taste was soft and creamy, and she liked it!
Fazal Cheese was covered with coriander/carom seeds and curry leaves. Kept in open box with net. Fazal-cheese-1.jpg Fazal-cheese-2.jpg The strong perfume of curry leaves balanced well the salty taste of the crumbly paste, punctuated with crispy seeds.
Ignace Cheese was washed every week with Belgian sour beer. Flipped every 2 days and kept in moist basement. Ignace-cheese-1.jpg Ignace-cheese-3.jpg “It tastes like a combination of cheese and my basement!”
From the first look, its rind and paste looked gorgeous: not runny nor too firm, with a nice orange colour that happen to taste slightly sour and tannic.
Morgane Cheese was covered with clay and sage (one side). It was kept on a clay plate in the box, mainly in the fridge. Morgane-cheese-1.jpg Morgane-cheese-3.jpg Under the bloomy rind grown on top of the clay layer, we found a firm yet tender paste. After getting ride of the clay, we tasted its mild fruity taste.
Robin Kept in paper in box in fridge for 2 weeks, and in the Mush-room[4]. Robin-cheese-1.jpg Robin-cheese-2.jpg Unfortunately we did not taste it.
Wim Wim took care of 2 cheeses: #1 was wrapped in a fig leaf, #2 was covered with oregano. Both kept in an aerated box in the basement (to age meat). Wim-cheese-2.jpg Wim-cheese-3.jpg We found two very different cheeses: #1 fig leaf kept it moist, resulting on a creamy paste. #2 dried, grown a bloomy rind and tasted “goaty”, pairing well with the oregano.

Gallery

Notes

  1. Two of the cheeses were also brought to the Maas’ shore (Natural Reserve Eijsden, Oost Maarland) to be given as an offering during the Ritual for the New Moon organised by curator Eva Posas with Aldo, Savas and Aliki.
  2. Organic dairy farm De Koeberg is run by René and Claudia and has 65 dairy cows and about 40 young stock. […] The calves walk in the herd of their mothers for ± 2 months. Then they meet in age groups. When they are ± 1.5 years old they are inseminated. After 9 months they have their first calf and start giving milk. Before they calve, they return to the large herd. We have 60 hectares of land in use. Part of it is for grazing and the rest we grow our own feed for the cows (grass, maize and grain). Our cows spend more than 200 days a year in the pasture. In the winter period they lie comfortably in the straw in the stable. We milk the cows every day around 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., 365 days a year. The organic branch of Friesland-Campina comes to collect the milk every 3 days and makes organic products from it.” (Translated from Hoeve de Koeberg website)
  3. Aspergillus oryzae, also known as kōji mold, is a filamentous fungus used in East Asia to saccharify rice, sweet potato, and barley in the making of alcoholic beverages such as sake and shōchū, and also to ferment soybeans for making soy sauce and miso.
  4. Jop Mens built the Mush-room in the Jan van Eyck Academie, in perspective of growing mushrooms in it. Unfortunately, the Covid19 related lockdown made it impossible for him to farm mushrooms. The cool atmosphere and the sealed plastic room constituted the ideal conditions for Robin to ripen cheese on site.