"I am the vine; you are the branches." — John 15:5

Friday, February 23 2018

“Blessed are the cheesemakers”! What’s so special about the cheesemakers? Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.” If you recognize these lines you may be old enough to remember when Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’ caused much consternation, especially among conservative Christians, in 1979.  The lines were said by characters standing at the back of the crowd, trying to hear Jesus as he gave the Sermon on the Mount.  Preachers never know what different souls ‘hear’ as God’s Word is preached!

We do know that Jesus illustrated his teaching with images, experiences, household items and foods that were familiar to his listeners…the shepherd, the lamp, the fig tree, the thief, bread, wine…the list is endless.   Odd that he didn’t use cheese!

Consider the array of cheese selections today, made from the milk of cows, sheep, buffalo and goats, from around the world to locavore delights (such as the wonderful cheeses of the Glengarry Fine Cheese shop in Lancaster, Ontario, made of milk from dairy herds within sight!).  As long as you are not lactose intolerant, cheese is a versatile, flavourful, protein-rich ingredient to add to recipes or just on its own…a ‘renewable resource’.  There are indeed voices that speak out against ‘husbandry’, the caring of pasture animals,  and argue against the health benefits of dairy products.  But surely something that all mammals produce, in order to nurture their young, is part of God’s plan for his children?  When food scarcity is an issue not only on continents far away, but here in Ottawa, it would seem that support for all those who work in agriculture and fisheries, as well as in food preparation, packaging and transport, is  critical, not just for our mealtime enjoyment but for ‘for abundant harvests for all to share’.   Think of this  on your next grocery shopping trip!

“A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be over sophisticated.
Yet it remains cheese, milk’s leap toward immortality.”

Recipe: Homemade Ricotta Cheese Recipe can be doubled.

4 cups homogenized milk; ¼ tsp salt; 1/6 cup (2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) white vinegar

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat milk with salt over low heat, stirring often, until thermometer reads 203 degrees(it takes about 40 minutes; if you don’t have a thermometer, put the timer on.) Add vinegar slowly, stir three times and remove from heat.  Let cool for 20 minutes.  Line a fine sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Gently pour curds through sieve, discarding whey,  let drain for 30 minutes, pressing top slightly.

How to serve:  Spread on toasted baguette; top with grilled vegetables and herbs; fruit slices, such as peaches or figs or berries and a touch of balsamic vinegar etc.  Or use in spanakopita (recipe coming later in Lent) or any other recipe calling for ricotta.