Gouda cheese

3 May 2018

Gouda cheese

(Aleko Tskitishvili)

Making good Gouda cheese starts from milking sheep. Sheep is milked in summer. In the afternoon the flock is brought from the pasture and they are held in barns, where they are milked. Outside the barn there is a vat for milk. A filtering mug with nettles, white nettles or needle grass is placed over the pot. These medicinal herbs in Tusheti were the best filtering means and are still used there. In the past, a sheep was milked in lime, poplar, or birch barrels. Today the wooden vessels are rarely found. When the cask is filled, with a mug it is poured in the cheese vat.

Next, a cheese maker is directly engaged in making cheese. Giorgi Bochoridze describes this process in detail in his book "Tusheti". The book was written in the 20s of the last century and it contains a 100-150-year-old technology of Gouda cheese making:

"A cheese maker takes out a mug from the vat and then removes any impurities from the surface of the milk in the vat, and if needed he will filter it again. Then he adds "Shabosh", or a culture, concentrate of starter bacteria, and mixes the mass with two-pronged stick. He covers the mixture with tarred felt to keep it warm. Milk is kept in such condition for an hour. When the fermentation is over, cheese curd appears. Then the same two-pronged stick is used to stir and break/ grind cheese curd and then the cheese vat is covered again for half an hour.

After this a cheese maker removes the cheese whey in a separate pot. When whey is completely extracted, then with a long wooden knife, or a dagger, he cuts the cheese into pieces in the vat. He puts pieces of cheese from the vat in a plastic bag to form a block of cheese, which should not be less than 15 pounds. Then the bag is placed on a "cheese draining board". The plastic bag is bound and the cheese whey is released.

While draining, the block of cheese is shaped into a round wheel (To make it proper it should be drained moderately). Then again he puts the cheese in the plastic bag on the board and covers with ‘nabadi’ (felt). Then he places a whole cheese in sheep skin (Gouda), adds two handfuls of "shredded" salt, then he adds another block of cheese, and one after another, each time sprinkling salt between the blocks. Salt should be added at the bottom and on the top as well. Gouda is bound with a packthread or rope with "nut" (iron threaded with packthread).

Traditionally, Gouda for cheese was made from sheep’s skin; that is why Tushetians skinned sheep in a special way for Gouda – the cut was made on the stomach like butchers did. Then two-pronged sticks were inserted inside to make the skin dry open. Later, while preparing the Gouda, the skin was shaved and soaked and the torn areas were fixed.  A packthread or rope was tied to the legs, and the fat-tail part was left open to place cheese inside. Then it was turned inside out so that fur/ wool was inside to have full contact with cheese; finally Gouda was ready.

Then he filled Gouda with cheese from the “leg”(the front leg was still open). After it was filled, he bound this leg as well and put it on the "cheese couch", which was made in a hut, and where feather grass was matted. Then Gouda was covered with nabadi (felt) that kept it warm for two days. The new cheese released whey in Gouda ("Tsaka” –salted cheese whey). To keep the salt even in the cheese, he turned Gouda upside down three times a day. After 20 days the cheese was ready for eating and selling. "

‘Shabosh’ is made from traditional animal rennet, which is derived from the stomachs of calves or lambs on the tenth day when they consume anything but milk. After this period rennet becomes ineffective. It is stored close to fire or in the sun to dry. After it is dried, it is called Shabosh that is used to form a curd. To use in the cheese vat, a larger piece is cut and then sliced in a bowl, warm water is added and the solution is left to be dissolved.

One can make Gouda Cheese from cow’s milk in the same way as it is made from the sheep’s milk; however the latter is far more nutritious than cow and goat’s milk. Tushetians milk goats together with sheep and do not make goat cheese separately.