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Tagged with “cheese” (7)

  1. Food, Meet Fungus | Transistor

    Your host Christina in a tempeh kitchen, for science!

    In her episodes of Transistor, biologist Christina Agapakis is exploring the microbiome: the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in and on our body. The microbiome is hot right now and in these episodes Christina will explore what we do know in the face of so much hope and hype.

    She starts with food. Bacteria-rich foods such as tempeh, cheese, pickles and yogurt have long been praised for their probiotic effect. But can you really add enough good bacteria to your digestive system to outnumber the bad?

    Inside the Episode:

    Barry’s business partner Gordon Bennett mixing the Rhizopus culture into the soybeans.

    Christina pays a visit to an industrial kitchen in Long Island City, Queens, where Barry Schwartz and a small team meet up every other week to make Barry’s Tempeh, the only fresh tempeh sold in New York State.

    Wanting to better understand tempeh – aka “blue cheese of tofu” – Christina then calls her friend Colin Cahill in Indonesia where tempeh originated. He explains how it’s more than just soybeans and fungus that give tempeh in Indonesia its regional flavor.

    Then, if a single bacteria food like tempeh is good, studying a more complex ecosystem like the bacteria on cheese rind might tell us more about bacteria interact with each other and in our digestive systems – at least that’s Harvard biologist Rachel Dutton‘s goal. She’s studied more than a hundred different types of cheese from around the world, trying to better understand how cheese gets its flavor and why they are all so different. She’s now the go-to biologist for world-famous chefs like David Chang of Momufuko and Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, helping them explore ways to make foods taste new, different and better.

    Christina then shares her early love of fermentation with fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz. Sandor’s never met a fermented food he didn’t like, but he’s skeptical of anyone who says fermented foods can make us healthy on their own.

    This episode was produced by Kerry Donahue and Sruthi Pinnamaneni, and mixed by Tim Einenkel.

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  2. What makes Parmigiano-Reggiano Parmigiano-Reggiano?

    Great wheels of parmesan cheese, stamped all about with codes and official-looking markings, loudly shout that they are the real thing: Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP. They’re backed by a long list of rules and regulations that the producers must obey in order to qualify for the seal of approval, rules that were drawn up by the producers themselves to protect their product from cheaper interlopers. For parmesan, the rules specify how the milk is turned into cheese and how the cheese is matured. They specify geographic boundaries that enclose not only where the cows must live but also where most of their feed must originate. But they say nothing about the breed of cow, which you might think could affect the final product, one of many anomalies that Zachary Nowak, a food historian, raised during his presentation at the recent Perugia Food Conference on Terroir, which he helped to organise.

    In the end the whole question of certification is about marketing, prompted originally by increasingly lengthy supply chains that distanced consumers from producers. One problem, as Zach pointed out, is that in coming up with the rules to protect their product, the producers necessarily take a snapshot of the product as it is then, ignoring both its history and future evolution. They seek to give the impression that this is how it has always been done, since time immemorial, while at the same time conveniently forgetting aspects of the past, like the black wax or soot that once enclosed parmesan cheese, or the saffron that coloured it, or the diverse diet that sustained the local breed of cattle. One aspect of those forgettings that brought me up short was the mezzadria, a system of sharecropping that survived well into the 1960s. Zach has written about it on his website; some of the memories of a celebrated Perugian greengrocer offer a good starting point.

    Will some enterprising cheesemaker take up the challenge of producing a cheese as good as Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP somewhere else? No idea, but if anyone does, it’ll probably be a cheesemaker in Vermont, subject of the next show.

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  3. Archaeologists Find Ancient Evidence Of Cheese-Making

    As any cheese maker will tell you, it’s not that hard to make cheese. You just take some fresh milk, warm it up a bit, and add something acidic to curdle it. Then, once it has cooled, you drain off the whey — the liquid part — and you’re left with cheese.

    But when did we figure out how to do this? According to a new paper in the journal Nature, at least 7,000 years ago. Since then, the process hasn’t changed much.

    Melanie Salque is the paper’s lead author and a chemist at Bristol University in England. She says some of the first clues of Neolithic cheese-making were a bunch of strange clay vessels unearthed by archaeologists in the 1970s in Northern Europe. "They were very peculiar because they had very small holes in them," says Salque.

    Archaeologists believe that ancient farmers used pots made from these pottery shards to make cheese —€” a less perishable, low-lactose milk product.

    Nature Peter Bogucki, a Princeton archaeologist who dug up these pots, says they baffled him and his colleagues. Some thought the sieves might have been used to hold hot coals, or strain honey, or prepare beer. But Bogucki wondered if maybe they had something to do with cheese.

    For decades there was no way to prove his pots were ancient cheese strainers. Now new techniques have finally allowed researchers to analyze residue that had seeped into the clay. And they found that its chemical signature matched cow’s milk.

    The simple ancient cheese was an important step in the development of modern civilization. For people who were just beginning to leave hunting behind and beginning to rely on crops that often failed, dairy products had the potential to get them the nutrition they needed. And they were a food source that didn’t require killing highly prized livestock.

    "Milk is a superfood — it’s probably the ultimate superfood," says Mark Thomas, a evolutionary geneticist at University College London who has studied the DNA of these early cheese makers. But he says Neolithic Europeans had a problem — like most modern humans, they were lactose intolerant.

    "Very few or none of the people at that time would have been able to digest the sugar in milk," says Thomas.

    But the process of making cheese removes a lot of this sugar — the lactose. It would have been dissolved in the whey and drained off by those ancient cheese strainers so the farmers could get their daily dose of dairy without the intestinal problems. Richard Evershed, a chemist at the University of Bristol in the U.K. and another author on the study, has found milk residues in pottery shards from southwestern Libya, which suggests prehistoric people were also producing yogurt in the same period.

    "Milk gave us something — some extra edge in terms of survival," says Thomas.

    And that edge meant we had more time and energy to improve farming methods, invent new tools, develop cooking techniques, and eventually perfect the cheese blintz.

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  4. Craft, Parenting and Cheese with Jon Hicks – Episode 29 « Creatiplicity

    I’ve been reading the journal of Jon Hicks for about seven years, so it was an absolute pleasure to have him join for an episode. We talked design, parenting, co-working and cheese. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.

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