The same way it takes 3 goats 3 days to make one little cheese, it takes the milk of an entire herd of cows a whole day's worth of milk (say 100 gallons) to make one 10 pound cheese! It makes sense if you think about it. Milk is a liquid, and cheese is mostly a solid. In the process of preserving a liquid as a solid (more on the technicalities of this later, I promise!), a lot of liquid volume gets removed. This removed liquid is called whey, and it isn't a part of most cheeses. So, the more milk, the more cheese. However, just like with wine, if the milk is collected from lots of cows that are eating different things, and living in different flavors, it might be hard to get a distinctive flavor out of the cheese.
The other night at Andrew's Cheese Shop, I learned about a very special American cheese called Renata. Renata is from Sally Jackson Cheeses, and Renata is made from, well, Renata. Renata is a Brown Swiss cow, and ALL of the milk in Renata cheese is sourced from this one very sweet cow. Renata cheese isn't that big a round, as you might imagine. You can't really expect her to make that much milk all on her own! http://www.sallyjacksoncheeses.com/cowslide.html (and click "next" three times to see Renata!) I thought it was kind of cool to know what the cow looks like that is working hard for your cheese, but the DH somehow thought that it was a little weird. Maybe its a guy thing.
We didn't get to taste the Renata. The cheeses are too small and precious to give away at a tasting. *sad face* BUT, we did get to taste another cheese that really highlights the creativity of cheese makers dealing with temporary milk shortages. The Morbier (more -be-yay) is a washed rind, delicious, creamy, grassy tasting cheese that made me think of the scene in The Sound of Music where they are dancing in the hills. My tasting companion, SMcG thought it tasted like "cow pasture poop," so always remember that everyone's tastebuds are different! Anycow, this tasty or poopy cheese, depending, was traditionally made with 1/2 the milk coming from the evening milking and 1/2 the milk coming from the morning milking, with a layer of ash between the two layers to protect the evening cheese overnight. So pretty! I love this one because I can just imagine the cheese maker going "Crap! I only have enough curds to half fill the mold halfway. I guess I'll just cover it overnight with a little ash and finish it off in the morning!
Sweet cheese dreams for the Morbier cheese maker, Renata, and you!
Photo from Flickr, Taylor149 http://www.flickr.com/photos/taylorrussell/2722358071/