FROM MILK TO CHEESE

Carsten Schael
Langdu, Yunnan - 22 September 2010

Walking along the wildflower studded shores of this pristine alpine lake one cannot help but being captivated by natures beauty. Bells ring in the background as yaks and cows move through the wet grass driven towards the low lying stone huts by the occasional shouts of the herders. It is time to milk.

             
  A handful of salt bribes the animal to stand still while the gentle hands create a staccato of streaming milk.   After having collected multiple buckets, the cans are loaded on the back of the pick-up truck to be driven down the rough serpentine track to the cheese workshop.   Here the white cream enters a sterile environment to rest for a while before the production commences.  
             
  Meanwhile large water pots are being heated by a wooden fire bringing the temperature up to the desired first step of the production.   The milk then enters large vats which are placed into the hot water to achieve the right temperature.   Once reached, ingredients are added to solidify the milk. This process takes a while, meanwhile the temperature is being kept steady.  
             
  As the solids start to flake out and separate the essence from the liquid, the raw cheese substance begins to emerge.   Mixing the solids with a good dose of salt helps to preserve and support the maturing process.   To give the cheese its characteristic round shape, the solid mass is pressed into a cotton-cladden steel form.  
             
  It is time to rest. Handcrafted from this special gift of Mother Nature the cheese is left for a few months to develop its very distinct flavour.