Saturday, 2 March 2013

Ukrainian Easter Cheese!

On this grey Calgary morning, sipping my coffee, I am thinking of spring! Spring sunshine, spring rains, spring greens.....and catching a glimpse of the baby deer born on Nose Hill park.....ah, spring forward! 

On a trip to France recently, a bunch of friends got together and spent a day with a French chef.  A walking tour of his city, the famous marketplace, and into his chef's kitchen was a short course in the French food experience.   Lucious seasonal fruit, preparing wild game, even a lesson about the proper age to kill a chicken! A deep veneration of nature, the cycles of life, and the unique flavours to appreciate at specific points in the journey really came through in the chef's lessons.  It's all about honoring the food, in every moment of its preparation.  Loving life, loving food, in this chef's eyes, means loving the animal enough to give it a full life before it can give a person the fullness of its sacrifice. 

Alex Miles/amk 2011
Author of Ces Hommes qui Cuisinent
He also gave a lesson in cheese. The wisdom goes like this - and it seems obvious - that the first cheese of the season, made from the first milk of the season, nurtured from the first green grass of springtime, is especially nutritious and healthy for the human organism.  The grasses, having rested over the fall and winter, have accumulated so many nutrients, they are particularly flavourful, and make for particularly flavourful milk, butter, cheese, etc.

In my family home, preparing for Ukrainian Easter involved preparing cheese too, from fresh whole milk.  Why cheese?  Turns out that this important food is a gift of the soil, through the life of animals, through the handiwork of man, offered in the cycle of life, death and renewal which is Easter.  Quoting Clifton Fadiman, cheese is "milk's leap to immortality." This unripened soft cheese is called boodz. Будз

Boodz: будз
3 gallons unpasteurized whole milk
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
1/4 cheese rennet tablet
Place container with milk in sink filled with hot water.  Warm milk until lukewarm, add buttermilk and mix.  Crush tablet and dissolve in spoon of warm water.  Mix into milk mixture.  Keep container in warm water.  When milk sets, take a wooden spoon and cut through milk twice each way.  Let stand until curds separate from the whey.  Then drain in a cloth bag or strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Place in a container and leave at room temperature overnight.  In the morning, take out of bag and place in a bowl in the fridge.  It can be left out longer for a more sour boodz.

I don't know if they make rennet tablets anymore, but it does come in liquid form and I hear you can use pasteurized milk.
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