Monday, December 19, 2011

Making 50 Medieval Cheeses - Kimetha Loidolt

Kimetha as Waldetrudis von Metten
For those of you who don't happen to be historians, that's from 600-1600AD (a few years ago!)

Kimetha Loidolt (also known as Waldetrudis von Metten) is a longstanding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a non-profit group with over 50,000 members world wide.  They basically re-create the Middle Ages and their research helps folks imagine what the world was like in those days.  Kimetha has been active in it for over 20 years.

Five years ago, the group issued the A&S 50 Challenge which involves doing 50 things in the Arts and Sciences between May 1st, 2007 and May 1st, 2015, in honor of the SCA's 50th birthday.  Kimetha decided to make 50 types of cheeses that she could authenticate in literature from the Middle Ages.

She didn't decide to do this "out of thin air."  Her great grandmother taught her how to make butter when she was a child and when she was 14, she milked her Aunt Bessie's cow.  So, by 2007, she had been making butter for 37 years and she was ready to try making cheese.



Of course, at the time she had no idea how much she would enjoy it.  At this point, it's only 2012, and she's already made 44 of the cheeses on her list.  By 2015, she estimates she will have made and documented 60!

We first found Kimetha at her wonderful blog, medievalcheese.blogspot.com.  If you start at the beginning in September, 2010, you can follow her progress (cheesewise) in her posts.

There's a lot of great information about present day cheese making and, also, of course, it's history.  She recommends books and videos and she supplies links to articles she likes.



Kimetha and her husband, Marcus




At this point, she's a master home cheese maker and a teacher of classes.  In a post about her philosophy, she says,

"What I like best about making cheese and dairy products is that it has allowed me to give others a good understanding that without the basic building blocks of medieval life (in this case dairy products) much of the other arts we practice could not happen. 

I have heard a number of times - your cheese or butter is great but not that showy.  I respond that is the idea - soft cheeses were one of the primary sources of protein of the working class.  

It was by selling their surplus dairy products (butter & cheese) that they earned extra income.  With out these basic dairy products, much of the soft cheeses & butter used in cooking could not happen.  So, it may not be showy but without it daily life in the Middle Ages would not be the same."

Demonstrating making butter and draining new cheese




Where did you get your medieval name?

Waldetrudis von Metten is a persona I portray in our reenactments (like Civil War groups).  I did a lot of research on my areas of interest and developed a bio for her based on that research. Her interest in cheese would have been a skill that she would have practiced in a monastic community.





Marcus and Kimetha at their wedding ceremony in April, 2010


Where do you get your milk?

I purchase my raw milk at a local farmer's market from Homestead Heritage, LLC.  This is a Mennonite farming family who also use their milk to make cheese.  In Indiana there are only 3 ways to get raw milk: 1. Buy a share in the animal plus pay an up keep fee, 2. Buy raw milk with a label stating "Not for Human Consumption", 3. Own or have a friend who has animals that you can get milk from.

One of the oldest sources of information about
cheese in the Middle Ages




I don't have a label in front of me but it says "For Animal Use - Not For Human Consumption."  The gallons are just like what you would buy from your corner market with sealed caps.  Their cows and milking facilities pass regular inspections since they make cheese and butter at their farm and sell it on the internet and at several local Farmers Markets.  It is unfortunate that in order to comply with Indiana law they must place that wording on their labels.

Blueberry cheese



I am currently researching cheeses made from sheep's milk and plan on trying these next.  I joined several dairy groups on Yahoo.  One is dairysheep@yahoogroups.com.

Through this group I was able to connect with a sheep dairy in Adrian, OR.  They freeze their milk and sell it to local cheese makers.  My husband and I also have Shetland sheep but are looking into getting milking Dorset's in the spring so I can have a source of fresh sheep milk for making my cheese.

12th Night in Chicago, IL-Craft Persons Faire, 2011


How do you make your living?

I work for a company that makes door frame parts for Toyota (Edinburgh, Indiana).  My main job involves Quality Control for new projects.  Making cheese is something I do for fun and as a hobby.

Actually it is a labor of love that has grown to a consuming passion.  It is true I do not make my living at this and I have lost count of the number of times someone has said "why are you not selling your cheese?"  The simple answer is I love making cheese, and researching the history of cheese.  When it starts becoming a chore because it is a "have to" instead of a "want to," I am afraid it would stop being fun.

So I make my cheese for myself, for friends as gifts and I keep my batches small.

Where do you teach your classes?

Twice a year the SCA "Society for Creative Anachronism" the area within the group known as the Middle Kingdom (http://www.midrealm.org/) hosts a RUM, or Royal University of the Midrealm, a day university featuring a myriad of classes in a vast array of topics. Normally RUMs travel around the kingdom so as to ensure each region gets one every couple of years.

The two classes I taught were "Cheese Preservation" and "Hard Cheese 101."  Both of these classes are focused on how cheese was made and preserved in the Middle Ages.

Supplies ready for class
Showing students where to buy supplies (our catalog)
Class in session
Showing natural rind and waxed
Dill cheese, green cheese, garlic cheese
Brie, Mozzarella, Gouda, Camembert
Sampling cheeses at the end of the day

See Kimetha's blog - medievalcheese.blogspot.com

8 comments:

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

now that is cool!

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

Now that is cool!

G said...

Thank you for the fun and informative article. It looks like something we could do to. Thanks for being inspiring!

Miss Trudy said...

Loved this article! Very inspiring.

Amy Jones said...

I live near Dover in Kent and I am a involved in many reenactments as a medieval cook. I have made many 13th to 15th foods. I have made butter but now want to be able to make medieval cheese. Where do I start?

Amy Jones

Amy Jones said...

I live near Dover in Kent and I am a involved in many reenactments as a medieval cook. I have made many 13th to 15th foods. I have made butter but now want to be able to make medieval cheese. Where do I start?

Amy Jones

Amy Jones said...

I live near Dover in Kent and I am a involved in many reenactments as a medieval cook. I have made many 13th to 15th foods. I have made butter but now want to be able to make medieval cheese. Where do I start?

Amy Jones

RAN Farm said...

Hello,

How about goat milk?
I enjoyed your information.

Zen Goatz