Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Homemade cheese is on the horizon

Regular readers know that I have been on a quest for the cheese-making enzyme “rennet” or, “coalho” in Portuguese, for some time.  Cheese in Brazil is amazing-delicious, but dare I say it is either limited in variety or super expensive as a result of its imported nature.  If you have a bead on an organic goat or sheep farm out there making boutique artisan cheese here in Brazil (who hopefully ships their product) do leave a comment.
I am completely satisfied with (as in, I have eaten enough already, thank you) most garden variety queijos minas sold in grocery stores, and with the dyed yellow queijo prato which tastes a bit like a mild, mild cheddar.  Common mozzarella is nearly flavorless and fresh Mozzeralla de Bufala costs more than a tank of gas.  These are all perfectly nice cheeses, but this transplant from northern California misses the variety we enjoyed at our friend Mario’s “Country Cheese” (love you Mario!)store three blocks from our house in San Francisco, or at the infamous Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley, or the selection at the Berkeley Bowl, or the cheap and varied options at Trader Joe’s, or the artisanal varieties we could get at the farmers’ markets or at farms along the drive to wine country.
OK – stop.  I’m sorry.  I don’t usually focus on what is NOT available (or affordable) here in Brazil.  But this gordinho likes his cheese and has been yearning for more affordable varieties.
Some cheeses here, like requeijão or caitupiry are truly heaven sent.  But I’m still salivating for a crumbly feta, or a smooth herbed goat farmer’s spread, or especially for dry, harder, aged cheeses that explode with flavor.
Rather than sit at my keyboard and whine I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.  I’m embarking on a self-taught (with Google’s help) cheese making adventure.  And I have finally located the liquid enzyme that has been the missing piece.

Shout out to Ray and all others who have been helping me find a local source for coalho. It is certainly available in Brazil, but apparently not in my urban environment.  When visiting our friends in Belo Horizontes this past weekend we not only found the Holy Grail rennet, but also a suitable cheese mold and ml-type measuring spoons.
I’m good to go.
Stay tuned.  First I’m going to try and replicate the queijo minas demonstrated by my friend Amanda’s mother, previously posted here.  From there I will move on to feta.  FETA!  From there, well, we’ll see where this goes…

15 comments:

Danielle said...

ohmahgawddddddd.... that picture; Berkeley Bowl; coalhada; feta... I'm so hungry for cheese now.

Shelley said...

You go Jim! Can't wait to see the results...

Rachel said...

Yay! Can I suggest selling your feta to fellow expats for a reasonable price? I would love my name on that list!

Jim said...

Danielle - it was excruciating to remember the resources back in SF. But I will step it up here and see what we can do. Come for a wine and cheese night!

Shelly - I will keep you posted!

Rachel - fair enough, but I would much prefer your company. Perhaps this will create the necessary incentive to get folks to actually cross the bridge and visit Niterói! I've got a Greek Salad and stuffed squid menu knocking around in my head...

You can take home the extra feta.

Gil and Ray said...

Jim,

I see a business opportunity in the horizon! ;)


Ray

SN said...

So glad you finally found it! Good luck!

Sara

TLC said...

I am missing feta myself...I did have a fairly worthy substitute from Casas Pedro (www.casaspedro.com), a wonderful ricotta cheese (which seems much more sturdy in consistency than its N. American counterpart), rolled in zathar (a mideastern spice) and if you like it spicy, with zathar and red pepper flakes. If you have not tried it yet, do---you won't regret it!

I do feel that in spite of some missing cheeses, queijo do coalho and the cost of brie and gorgonzola are somewhat compensatory... Can't wait to read about your success...

Anita said...

I don't get yor passion (and other Americans) for feta. It is just a salty and dry cheese for salads, nothing special.
If you go to Minas Gerais, you will discover another range of cheeses you have never heard/tasted before: smoked cheese, "queijo de trança", queijo bola, etc..

Jim said...

SN - I will definitely keep you posted.

TLC - I will look for that. I love many of the ricotta choices. There are some good herbed ones at a market nearby.

Anita - yeah - maybe I have fixated on feta a bit -- but as a salad person, and a cheese person, these two are like Romeo and Juliete (if you know what I mean) I don't like soft cheeses in a sald.

We definitely have explored the smoked cheese you mention.

I love the cheese in Brazil. But when I want something else it is so rediculously expensive, or not available. In particular I miss HARD cheese. Brazil is the KING of soft, creamy cheese.

It's all good. I'm just trying to satisfy an urge.

thetaoofme.com said...

Wine and Cheese night? Sounds like a great blogger get-together plan. I'll bring the wine, you tell us when the cheese is ready!

Peg

Corinne said...

Great news!! I will be curious to hear about your results.

Peg said...

Did you know about this sitio?

http://www.sitiosolidao.com.br/produtosLaticinios.html

Looks like they sell their cheeses out of several stores in Rio. Sadly, none in Niteroi.

Jim said...

Peg - GREAT reference. We go to Miguel Pereira with some frequency. I will look them up. And I am in Rio enough to look them up in the stores mentioned.

Very cool.

Wine and cheese night is taking shape...

Shelley said...

Hey Jim--how did your cheese turn out? If you don't mind sharing (if it doesn't cause too much saudades for your cheese-eating days), I'd love to hear about it, especially Feta. Thanks!

Jim said...

Shelly - first it has been just too cold to try and make cheese. But now, as you mention, I am not eating anything - so a few huge chunks of cheese have no purpose in our refrigerator.

But I did buy a food thermometer and I have found a place that sells less-pasturized milk. So I am ready to go.

If only for the craft of it I still want to get into cheese making. It will happen soon...