Method

Rennet Starter #1: Whey to Curdle Fresh Milk

Thoroughly wash the stomach of a freshly slaughtered calf and soak it in strong vinegar for 3 to 4 hours. Rinse well in whey, rub thoroughly with salt inside and out, stretch over two thin poles to dry completely, and store in a dry place. Three or four hours before using, soak the stomach in sour or fresh whey in a warm place. This whey is called a rennet starter (podpushka). When poured into milk fresh from the cow, it will curdle the milk. The same stomach may be used three times. However, after each use, remove the stomach from the whey, wash it out well, rub with salt, and dry over poles.

Rennet Starter #2

Clean the calf’s stomach, wash it well, and rub with fine salt inside and out. After 2–3 days, rewash thoroughly, rub with salt, and stretch the stomach on poles to dry. Before making cheese, mix together 4 bottles each of sour and fresh milk and warm the mixture in the oven. When the whey separates, pour off the liquid and soak the stomach in it until the whey sours. This whey, like Rennet starter #1, may be used to make cheese.

Preparation of the Cheese

Pour 1 pail of milk fresh from the cow and the cream taken from 1 pail of the previous day’s milk into a clean tin-plated pot and set over hot coals. Heat until slightly warmer than milk fresh from the cow. Add 2 bottles Rennet starter #2— whey in which a calf’s stomach was soaked—and stir with a wooden spatula until the milk turns into curds and the whey separates from them. Remove the pot from the fire, pour off the whey, and press the solids carefully without disturbing the curds—the porosity of the cheese depends on this. Pack the curds into a rectangular wooden mold lined with a thin, damp cloth. The mold should be about 6 vershok long and 4 vershok wide; the height does not matter—whatever is convenient—but there must be 5 small holes on the bottom of the mold for drainage. Cover with a round barrel top, 1 vershok thick, and weight with stones, beginning with light ones and gradually increasing the weight. Keep the cheese in the mold until the whey has ceased dripping and the cheese has dried—at least 24 hours. Remove the cheese carefully and rub with fine salt on all sides. Place in a basket that will permit the air to circulate while protecting the cheese from flies. Turn the cheese twice a day and, for the first few days, rub the cheese with salt. After several weeks the 2 lb cheese will be completely ready, extraordinarily tasty, and almost indistinguishable from Swiss cheese. It will keep for 2 years in a slightly damp environment.

This kind of cheese is best prepared in May and June, because milk is most abundant then. Cheese prepared in winter is tastier but not as attractive or as porous. Since small cheeses tend to dry out quickly, it is better to make large cheeses by doubling or tripling the designated proportions. If the cheeses do dry out, wrap them in a cloth soaked in beer, salted water, or even white wine.

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