A great hobby

The entrance of the cheese farmHere you can see where we learned how to make delicious fresh goat's cheese, and Gouda-type cheese made of the milk of cows and goats in France during the summer of 2002. Below are hyperlinks to pages with summaries in pictures on the making of the several kinds of cheese.

Milking, Gouda Cheese, Herb Cheese, Fresh Cheese.

The cheese farm
Villenue is a biological farm in the middle of France, some fifteen kilometers to the northeast of Montluçon. The farm is mainly a goatfarm, but there are also some cows (for their own use), pigs (which thrive on whey, a 'waste product' from making cheese), horses, and chickens. The farmers grow their own wheat, barley and lupine, which are used as fodder for the animals.
The farm is owned by some very nice Dutch people who work very hard. They care for the welfare of their animals, and are proud of the products of the farm.
Edit: It seems that the family has moved on since 2002, I have no idea whether the farm is still run in the same way, or even if the family has moved their business elsewhere.

Cheeses riping in a meat safeCheese making at home
You can easily make your own cheese at home. You don't need expensive gear, just some cheese-forms and a cutter for the curd. You can eat fresh cheese  just one day after the production. If you want to make Gouda cheese, you have'll have wait a couple of weeks after curing and pressing to let the cheese ripen. For older cheese you have to wait longer still, if you can!
During the same course we also learned to make butter and yoghurt, also quite simple to make at home. The most important issue if you want to be succesfull in cheese-making is to work cleanly and accurately.
You'll need a well ventilated spot to let Gouda cheese mature.
For Gouda cheese a cheese press is needed. It is not difficult to make your own press from pieces of timber laying around in the shed, but the simples press is two buckets. The cheese mould is placed in the first bucket on top of a small plate to prevent the cheese resting in the pressed liquids, the other one is placed on top with several pints of water. Do not fill the bucket to the rim, the cheese will than be crushed rather than pressed.
If you want to make your own cheese, and are looking for cheese moulds, the Dutch company The Cheese Moulds Shop has al kinds of cheese moulds.

Raw or pasteurized milk
Cheese can be made of raw milk, or of pasteurized milk. Pasteurized cheeses tend to be more uniform and less fascinating to the tastebuds than cheese made from raw milk. Although raw milk and cheese from raw milk is generally not prohibited, the production  is controlled by so many rules and regulatuons that small cheese farms have great difficulty meeting these demands. Knowledge and experience of centuries are just dissappearing because one farmer after the other ceases making cheese on a small scale. The regulation by the EC is only advantageous to big companies which can make the neccesary investments, and care more about profit than taste. See also this article on Wikipedia about Raw milk, out of fear of the listeria bactery. It would be wiser to let consumers take their own responsibility, and decide wether or not they want to eat unpasteurized cheese or mayonnaise made with raw eggyolks. The regulation by the EC is only advantageous to big companies which can make the neccesary investments, and care more about profit than taste.
Is all this regulation really necessary? Well, there is a (slight) possibility of the Listeria bacterium hiding in raw milk and soft cheeses made of raw milk. Cheeses of the Gouda-type, even when made from raw milk, do never contain Listeria. If you are pregnant, very old, young or have a weakened immune system, it is wise to avoid raw milk and soft cheeses made from raw milk. The Wikipedia article on Listeria states that this bacterium can also be found in raw and smoked fish, ucooked vegetables and ice cream.

A historical recipe with cheese as main ingredient: Crostini with cheese - An Italian antipasto from the sixteenth century

The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)

If you'd like to become a cheesemaker yourself, I recommend American Farmstead Cheese , from Paul Kindstedt and the Vermont Cheese Council. More books on cheesemaking