Friday, May 2, 2008

History of cheesemaking

No-one knows exactly when or where cheese was invented - although it can be said for certain that it was not in Switzerland. One story has it that a merchant travelling through the desert 5000 years ago made the discovery by accident when the milk he was transporting in a bag made of a sheep's stomach reacted with the natural rennet in the stomach lining and was churned into cheese by constant jogging. Be that as it may, cheese is certainly mentioned in the Old Testament in texts which may date back 3,500 years.

Swiss cheese was mentioned by the first century Roman historian Pliny the Elder, who called it Caseus Helveticus - the "cheese of the Helvetians", one of the tribes living in Switzerland at the time.

From cottage cheese to hard cheese

For centuries the standard type was cottage cheese, made by souring milk, and which did not keep. The technique of using rennet - a substance taken from the stomach lining of calves - to make hard cheese first appeared in Switzerland around the 15th century. Since such cheese could be stored for lengthy periods it is not surprising that it soon became part of the basic fare of travellers.

The monks who looked after the hospices at the top of some of the major passes, snowed in for part of the year, kept large stocks of it for their guests. And they needed to be large: one guest who passed through the hostel on the Great St Bernard pass was Napoleon, who - with the help of his 40,000 troops - got through a tonne and a half of the monks' cheese in May 1800. (The monks had to wait 50 years before they saw any money at all for it, and it was only in 1984 that the then French President, François Mitterrand, made a token payment of the rest.)

Cheese and cheese makers go abroad

Once it could be stored, Swiss cheese soon became a valuable trading commodity. By the 18th century it was being sold all over Europe - even to the detriment of the local market, if a 1793 travel guide is to be believed:
"It is rather strange that cheese and butter should be so bad in inns throughout Switzerland. Even in the regions which produce a lot of milk, it is hard to get good cream for your coffee or fresh butter, because the locals find it more profitable to make cheese out of their milk."

Switzerland soon exported not only cheese but cheesemakers too. Many of the thousands of Swiss emigrants who settled in the US in the 19th century were dairymen, some of whose descendents are still making cheese there today. Others were invited to Russia and eastern Europe to help set up a dairy industry. Some of them remained in those countries, but many eventually came back to Switzerland. It was Swiss cheesemakers who developed Tilsiter cheese, named after the town of Tilsit, which was then in East Prussia, and is now the Russian town of Sovetsk. They brought their new product back with them when they returned home. Even today, the Swiss government provides advice and practical help in cheesemaking as part of its aid to developing countries.

... and a pasture that went abroad too

Not quite such a success story as far as the Swiss were concerned was the accidental cession of valuable pasture land to Italy in 1821. A notary in Brig sold the Bettelmatt Alp, on the border between Switzerland and the Piedmont, to an Italian, without realising that it would thereby change country.

The pasture, sufficient for about 100 cows, is renowned for its juicy grass and aromatic herbs.

But the creamy cheese it produces is now an Italian, not a Swiss, variety.

From the comment of s.j.simon

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Sauteed Mussels In Pernod Flavored Broth

Source : Italianfoodforever

The pernod liqueur adds just a hint of anise flavor that is delicious. Just make sure you have lots of good quality bread handy to sop up all the tasty juices.

:Serves 4:

by Deborah Mele

Mussels are quite inexpensive, and in a recipe such as this, they can be a tasty appetizer, or a light dinner entree by simply adding a nice green salad and dessert. I had this dish first at a favorite restaurant of mine, and while they wouldn't share the actual recipe, they did tell me the broth was flavored with pernod. I went home and created this recipe, which although isn't identical to the restarant version, it is just as good.

3 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Medium Onion, Chopped

2 Stalks of Celery, Chopped

3-4 Cloves of Garlic, Minced

Salt & Pepper to Taste

2 Plum Tomatoes, Seeded, Cored And Diced Into 1/2 Inch Pieces

2 Cups White Wine

1/2 Cup Pernod Liqueur

Dash of Saffron

2-3 Pounds Mussels, Scrubbed with Beards Removed

1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, celery and garlic until translucent. Add the salt and pepper and cook 5-10 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the wine, saffron, tomatoes, and pernod, and cook an additional 10 minutes. Add the cleaned, drained mussels, cover, and cook until the shells open, which should be about 5 additional minutes. Add the parsley in just before serving. You can serve this dish on grilled garlic bread, spooning the juices over the bread in a shallow bowl, or serve with a good crusty bread on the side.

Grilled Seafood Salad

Source : Italianfoodforever

Antipasti di Mare ~ I created this salad after buying some fresh seafood at the market which we grilled, and then tossed in a light lemon dressing. This would be delicious at any summer barbeque!

:Serves 6:

by Deborah Mele

This delicious recipe was created after I had an extremely unpleasant experience with a seafood salad at a local restaurant. It was a beautiful summer evening, and my husband and I were walking downtown, trying to choose a restaurant to dine in that evening. Because of the warm temperatures, all of the outdoor patios of the restaurants lining the street were overflowing with people. As we were walking by one particular restaurant, we saw a waiter bring out this striking looking plate of seafood salad, artfully displayed on a bed of salad greens. We are both big fans of seafood in general, and therefore were lured in to try this restaurant and in fact ordered the seafood salad to share. Well, the salad certainly did not live up to it's appearance. It was swimming in a heavily laced vinegar based dressing which overpowered the delicate flavor of the seafood. The calamari were rubbery, the shrimp so tiny you could hardly see them, and the mussels were dried out. We were both very disapointed, and decided we needed to create our own version of seafood salad to replace the memory of the one we shared that evening. The next morning while we were at the St. Lawrence market on our weekly visit, we bought some very fresh shrimp, baby squid, scallops, and mussels and came home to create our own salad.

We decided to grill the seafood instead of poaching the ingredients as I do my Christmas version, and then assembled it from there. I chopped the seafood into bite sized pieces, and added the juice of 1 lemon, a little garlic, minced parsley, chopped black olives, and some good quality olive oil. The salad was delicious, and tasted great both still warm from the barbecue, as well as room temperature the next day. This salad would be great at a summer barbeque, and can be put together in minutes.

1 Pound Small Calamari, Cleaned

1 Pound Medium Shrimp, Cleaned And Deveined

1 Pound Scallops

24 Fresh Mussels

1/2 Cup Pitted Black Olives (Optional)


3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Clove Garlic, Crushed

Juice and 1 Teaspoon of Zest From 1 & 1/2 Large Lemons

1/4 Cup Chopped, Fresh Parsley

Dash Red Pepper Flakes

Salt & Pepper To Taste

Heat up the grill, and cook the seafood in batches, just until cooked through. Depending on how hot your barbeque is, this should only take a minute or two per side. For the mussels, simply place them on a barbeque grilling tray, place on the hot grill, close, and remove as soon as they open. Once cooked, cut the calamari into pieces, the shrimps and scallops in half, while leaving the mussels in their shells. Place the seafood in a bowl, add the dressing ingredients, olives and mix well. Serve immediately still warm from the barbeque, or cover and let marinade in the dressing in the refrigerator overnight. Just before serving, adjust the seasonings. Serve.