FOCUS ON CHEESE 2007 – Fermented Milk from Around the World: Taste Workshop at Cheese 2007

22 Sep 2007

Cheese the event is not just about cheese but milk in all its forms. A Taste Workshop held on Friday explored the world of raw milk and artisanal butters, while today Milk in Ferment looked at yogurt and its cousins.
An ancient food with millennia of history, yogurt was probably invented by the Bulgars (in fact one of the most common strains of bacteria used for yogurt production is called bulgaricus), and so it was appropriate that the first two yogurts tasted were from Bulgaria, yogurt’s homeland. The first was just two days old while the second had been aged for eight days in earthernware jars. Yogurt is a food to be eaten fresh, and in fact the older yogurt had less aroma and flavor, while the younger one had a floral perfume and hints of vanilla.
In complete contrast was the Greek yogurt tasted next, rich and thick as mascarpone. This was followed by a thinner and more acidic buffalo’s milk yogurt.
Cheese experts Sandro Bosticco and Cristiano De Riccardis had been leading the tasting up to now, but they then handed over to Middle Eastern food expert Alessandra Abbona and Lina Sarkis from Lebanon, who led the audience in a tasting of three other fermented milk derivatives from central Asia, northern Africa and the Middle East.
Kefir is a slightly alcoholic and carbonated drink made of fermented milk, originally from the Caucasus region. Recently recognized for its health benefits, the kefir tasted was made from goat’s milk in Piedmont, and had a yeasty, goaty smell and a sour taste.
The tasting then moved to l’ben (also known as raib) from the Maghreb, another cultured milk drink. It was served with a dish of cous-cous, a traditional pairing. Next was labné which Lina Sarkis had made at home by mixing warm milk with some yogurt, leaving it to ferment at room temperature overnight, cooling it in the fridge for a day then letting it drain in a piece of cloth for 24 hours until it reached a creamy, thick consistency. The lebné was served with classic Lebanese accompaniments of Lebanese flatbread, tomatoes, olives and mint, and drizzled with olive oil.
The tasting served to expand the horizons of Cheese, which is subtitled Le forme del latte, “The forms of milk” in Italian, and truly covers milk in all its diversity.

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