I’ve been meaning to post about my A&S experience this year…and wanted to wait until after Kingdom happened. And this is a bit beyond that! The trials of having a blog, right!? So, here I am better late than never!
I’m glad to be able to enter A&S after a short break because…life. Big life…but life. Anyhow, back to it and happy. I decided to go with a food entry again — but, why can I do something simple, right?! I decided to do a soft cheese because, again like the mustards I’ve made, it was something I had been making but wanted to learn more about. My goal for this year’s A&S entry is to learn more about making a basic so cheese. I have been making so cheeses similar to the recipe used for this project for several years. I have even featured it on tables for a couple of local feasts and at several of my friend’s vigils. I was first introduced to a homemade so cheese at a feast in the very northern part of Pentamere at an event known as “Viking’s Come Home.” I have since learned that the cheese they presented is known as “skyr” — which was a dairy product similar to yogurt. And, while the cheese that I will present here is slightly different than the original inspiration, I’d still like to make mention to honor the memory!
It was entered into the Food Preservation category for A&S rather than as a Cooking Single dish entry. The project gave me a chance to research the history of cheese making through the preservation of milk. One of my goals was that would help me have more educated conversations on the nature of the cheese, why and how these cheeses were made in period, and to develop my own documented recipe for making some cheeses. Lastly but most importantly, it will allow me to present my findings — of all of these items — so you may enjoy them!
The cheese I created was based on two period recipes documented from the 1st to 17th century. Nearly every region of Europe and Asia valued milk and preserved it as a method of extending its use. The method I used creates a quick, fresh cheese made by heating milk; curdling it with an acid like vinegar or lemon; and, letting it hang to drain. The result is a spreadable, soft cheese that was used on its own as a simple protein or could be mixed with other ingredients to make a dish. It was eaten by both upper and lower classes.
This project contained two acid-curdled cheeses. One was made with vinegar and the other with lemon juice. I made the two batches to compare the curdling agents. They were then evenly separated into 3 containers and favored to show the versatility of use. One was left plain, one flavored with garlic and chives, and the third was sweetened with honey and ginger. In addition, I reserved the whey from the cheesemaking process to use in the recipe for the bread that was served to taste the cheese.
The cheese was presented at the Pentamere Regional A&S which was held the first week in April 2016. The event was the first A&S competition and was opposite two other large events in the Kingdom and as a result had very low attendance. But, we all had a good time! My judges gave very favorable responses to the entry — but not a whole lot of feed back. I received a first place and loads of positive comments. I’m always glad when I can offer samples to everyone after judging.
The Kingdom event was held nearly a month and a half later during Memorial Day at the A&S and Crown Tournament event in Indiana. The event is always a great time having both events tied together on the long weekend and makes a great road trip with friends! The cheese was remade in the same fashion it was created for Regional. Other than correcting a few typos and the additions of the weights and yield of this batch of cheese, I made no changes in my documents or process.
Kingdom A&S is always so much more pressure than Regional. My judging time was the first session — which was great because that leaves the remainder of the day for everyone else to taste the cheese! My judges were two cooking laurels and the third a Lady who actually had judged at Regional. She ended up grabbed the extra laurel in who just happened to be sitting close by and he is the husband of “THE” cheese laurel — so he had tasted A LOT of cheese. They had a lot to say about the entry and the cheese. I found out a lot about what I created and did my best at giving answers to their questions. This was very much a different experience than Regional! I did not think that the Q&A session went well at all, and for the remainder of the day, I was rather discouraged. I actually ran into a lady who was a newcomer who drove by the site and stopped to ask questions and distracted myself for nearly 2 hours talking with her and touring her around the site! I also had some good times sitting with the entry and talking with people who stopped by to taste the cheese. And, as it turned out — I did receive a first place again for the entry at Kingdom A&S. I have reviewed the feedback from the judges and I think the Q&A was mostly trying to gather more information and give me some ideas for next time — which is great!
During my research, I ran across a quote from a gentleman named Clifton Fadiman, who was a noted American intellectual, author and radio personality. He was described cheese as “milk’s leap to immortality.” And what a wonderful thing to preserve it is, indeed! I’m really glad that I did this project. Entering A&S and doing the “REAL” research is a VERY important part of the SCA!
You can read my A&S documentation by clicking here. Sorry though, there’s no cheese to taste! I hope to display at Pennsic this year — for the very first time — at the Known World A&S Display, so find me there to take a taste!