Monday, May 05, 2008

Potato and Cheese.

May 3 ...

Any dish containing both potato and cheese has got to be good, right? Instead of potato AND cheese, how about ‘potato cheese’? Potato cheese is just what it sounds like – cheese made with the inclusion of potato. Cant be bad, can it?

I only discovered this concept recently, although it is apparently moderately old – and I have yet to actually try it. If you know anything about it, do please let us all know via the comments. In the meanwhile, here are my scattered gleanings on the topic.

There are a number of references in English writings of the nineteenth century to ‘potato cheese’ from Germany or the Savoy region. Some recipes sound more like a fermented cheesy potato pancake rather than a potatoey cheese.

From a magazine article of 1830:

Potato Cheese.—In many parts of Saxony, cheese is made in the following manner from potatoes :—Take the best potatoes and boil them ; when cold, beat them in a mortar into a pulp, adding a pint of sour milk to five pounds of potatoes. Keep the mass covered for three or four days, aud then beat it again. Make it into small cheeses, which are to he placed in baskets, to let the superfluous moisture escape. Dry hem in the shade, and then pile them on each other for fifteen days ; after which they may he put away in any manner in a dry place. They have a very pleasant flavour, and will keep good for years, improving with age.

A recipe from The American Frugal Housewife (1838) by Lydia Maria Child.

Potato cheese is much sought after in various parts of Europe. I do not know whether it is worth seeking after, or not. The following is the receipt for making : Select good white potatoes, boil them, and, when cold, peel and reduce them to a pulp with a rasp or mortar ; to five pounds of this pulp, which must be very uniform and homogeneous, add a pint of sour milk and the requisite portion of salt; knead the whole well, cover it, and let it remain three or four days, according to the season ; then knead it afresh, and place the cheeses in small baskets, when they will part with their superfluous moisture ; dry them in the shade, and place them in layers in large pots or kegs, where they may remain a fortnight. The older they are, the finer they become.

From an Agricultural journal (1846):

“In Savoy, an excellent cheese is made by mixing one of the pulp of potatoes with three of ewe milk curd, and in Westphalia a potato-cheese is made with skimmed milk. This Wesphalian cheese, while in the pasty state, is allowed to undergo a certain extent of fermentation before it is finally worked up with butter and salt, and made int shapes and dried. The extent to which this fermentation is permitted to go determines the flavour of the cheese.

From: Sketches of Germany and the Germans (an extract in a journal of 1859):

“Potatoes in Prussia: I have frequently seen them served in six different forms : the bread was made from them, the soup thickened with them, there were fried potatoes, potato salad, and potato dumplings ; to which may be added potato cheese, which, by the by, is one of its best preparations, and will keep many years, for which we are indebted to Prussian ingenuity.”

A recipe from the English cookbook Cassells' Vegetarian Cookery (1891)

Potato Cheese.
Potato cheeses are very highly esteemed in Germany; they can be made of various qualities, but care must be taken that they are not too rich and have not too much heat, or they will burst. Boil the potatoes till they are soft, but the skin must not be broken. The potatoes must be large and of the best quality. When boiled, carefully peel them and beat them to a smooth paste in a mortar with a wooden pestle. To make the commonest cheese, put five pounds of potato paste into a cheese-tub with one pound of milk and rennet; add a sufficient quantity of salt, together with caraways and cumin seed sufficient to impart a good flavour. Knead all these ingredients well together, cover up and allow them to stand three or four days in winter, two to three in summer. At the end of that time knead them again, put the paste into wicker moulds, and leave the cheeses to drain until they are quite dry. When dry and firm, lay them on a board and leave them to acquire hardness gradually in a place of very moderate warmth; should the heat be too great, as we have said, they will burst. When, in spite of all precautions, such accidents occur, the crevices of the burst cheeses are, in Germany, filled with curds and cream mixed, some being also put over the whole surface of the cheese, which is then dried again. As soon as the cheeses are thoroughly dry and hard, place them in barrels with green chickweed between each cheese; let them stand for about three weeks, when they will be fit for use.

And finally, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Bulletin No. 608, found in The Complete Book of Cheese by Robert Carlton Brown 1959 (found in turn, via Gutenberg)

Potato Germany and U.S.A.
Made in Thuringia from sour cow milk with sheep or goat sometimes added. "The potatoes are boiled and grated or mashed. One part of the potato is thoroughly mixed or kneaded with two or three parts of die curd. In the better cheese three parts of potatoes are mixed with two of curd. During the mixing, salt and sometimes caraway seed are added. The cheese is allowed to stand for from two to four days while a fermentation takes place. After this the curd is sometimes covered with beer or cream and is finally placed in tubs and allowed to ripen for fourteen days. A variety of this cheese is made in the U.S. It is probable, however, that it is not allowed to ripen for quite so long a period as the potato cheese of Europe. In all other essentials it appears to be the same."

Is this cheese still made anywhere in the world? Perhaps some German speakers might be able to shed light on it? I would love to know more about its history, and I am sure many of you would too.

Tomorrow’s Story …

An important flavour.

Quotation for the Day …

Goat cheese ... produced a bizarre eating era when sensible people insisted that this miserable cheese produced by these miserable creatures reared on miserable hardscrabble earth was actually superior to the magnificent creamy cheeses of the noblest dairy animals bred in the richest green valleys of the earth. Russell Baker.


Rochelle R. said...

Some time ago I read about potato cheese (vintage) on someones blog, can't remember where. At that time I couldn't imagine what it would be like and I still can't. I just don't understand how the process could yield something edible.

Mindy said...

They eat potato cheese here in Mexico all the time. It is very common in the Yucatan pennisula.