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New Children’s Book: The Big Cheese Family

BookCoverImage (2)

The Big Cheese Family is the first in a projected new series of children’s books aimed at introducing young readers (and probably their parents too!) to “real cheese”.

Written in brief and simple verse, author & playwright Tony Jerris’ story is illustrated by Oliver Batin.

With characters like “Papa Parmesan” and his wife “Brie” and a glossary of cheeses and terms, the simple first story is that of a family who lives in a grocery with amply access to cheese to the ire of the shop owner McGrime. Unlike Remy the rat in Ratatouille, these mice have no qualms about stealing food for their cheese parties.

The book is geared towards 4-8 year olds.  Batin’s illustrations are colorful, and at around 20 pages plus glossary, there’s plenty for young readers to look at.

The glossary could use some tweaking in future editions. 

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For example, two of the included cheeses are “Parmesan: A hard Italian aged cow’s milk cheese.” and Reggiano: A hard granular cheese named after Parma, Italy.” When actually those are one and the same cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano. “Parmesan” is simply the English name for it. 

Cheese purists looking to teach would want to get these facts straight; regardless, the definition “Manchego: A sheep’s milk cheese from Spain” might not stick with a four year old. Hey- never too early to preach real cheese!

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The Big Cheese Family is available in paperback or for Kindle from Amazon

In the works is the second in the series: The Big Cheese Family Plus Two! (Where Brie has her babies: Baby Swiss & Baby Blue).

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American Cheese Month 2013: Rupert & Pawlet

Rupert & Pawlet 2

Consider Bardwell Farm is one of my favorite American cheese makers- great people, great history, great cheese. Here we have two of their best, the aged, alpine-style Rupert and the Italian toma-style Pawlet. Both were featured last year for American Cheese Month and Consider Bardwell was kind enough to ship me this year’s cheese for comparison. There’s been no letdown!

If anything, this Rupert is firmer, drier, more savory and saltier. It’s still sweet, acidic, rich and grassy. More barnyardy than last season. Holds up with the best European alpine cheeses (where the cheese’s curd are cut fine, cooked, pressed and then aged for several months to multiple years. The result is dense, chewy and lingering on your palate.

Rupert is the softer, creamier, more buttery cheese – not at all in flavor profile but similar in texture to a typical Havarti. Side-by-side, you can really taste the same milk, same terroir, but the different makes and several months age difference yield very different results.

 

Rupert & Pawlet 1

Both cheeses represent the best of what American artisans are achieving in our golden era of artisan cheese making, and the awards attest to that.

Pawlet:

American Cheese Society Winner (2008)
World Jersey Cheese Awards Winner (2008)
American Cheese Society Winner (2009)
World Cheese Championship Winner (2010)

Rupert:

American Cheese Society Winner (2010)
U.S. Cheese Championship Winner (2011)
American Cheese Society Winner (2011)

Cheese: Rupert & Pawlet

WHO: Consider Bardwell Farm

Where: West Pawlet, VT

Milk Type: Raw Jersey Cow

Texture: Rupert: Hard, Pawlet: Semi-firm

Rind: washed

Format: Both 2.5lb wheels 


 


 

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American Cheese Month 2013: Ewe’s Blue

The good peeps and sheep(s) of Old Chatham Sheepherding Company get featured twice this American Cheese Month! Earlier, in cased you missed out I looked into their luscious “Kinderhook”.  Give that review a visit to learn more about this operation.

Next up, is rich and tangy Ewe’s Blue:

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Ewe’s Blue is made in the Roquefort style – but with a key difference: pasteurized milk versus Roquefort’s raw, and it is noticeably less salty though still sweet. It’s a small format, 3lbs and no rind/foil wrapped.  Beautiful blue-grey veining punctuates, literally punctures, the warm-colored cream of the milk. While the paste is fairly dense and semi-firm, the cheese is very moist and sinfully creamy. It carries a big flavor that hangs around: fresh grass, barnyardy blue and tangy acidity.  It’s obviously sheep’s milk but is blue enough you might not notice, or care, as you go back to the board for seconds, and thirds. In cooking, Old Chathalm make several recommendations:

  • Serve with sautéed baby spinach

 

  • Crumble over fresh greens with balsamic vinaigrette

 

  • Top over char-grilled steak

 

  • With poached pears and toasted pecans

 

  • Broiled over vine-ripened tomatoes

Yum! This bold (though still mild) blue will punctuate any dish. And will dominate if overdone. You’ll want a wine with some body and viscosity. Also something a little sugary – Port, sherry-styles, Sancerre, and I’d love to try with a wine I’ve had the fortune of having lately, a 2002 Kracher #6 Grand Cuvée Trockenbeerenauslese. Wow- what a great drink.

 

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Cheese: Ewe’s Blue

WHO: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company

Where: Old Chatham, NY

Milk Type: sheep (pasteurized)

Texture: dense and fudgy center with a gradually runnier paste below the rind as it ages

Rind: bloomy

Format: 3lb wheel

Tasting notes: Big and lingering but mild. A less-salty Roquefort

 


 

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American Cheese Month 2013: Up in Smoke

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Fresh goat cheese.
Wrapped in maple leaves.
Bourbon.
Smoked over alder and hickory.

Need I convince you more?

River’s Edge, from the Central Coast Region of Oregon tells how they make these delicious little cheeses:

“To make our Up In Smoke, we start by wandering through the woods that border the pastures, gathering big-leaf maple and vine maple leaves, often with the company of the goats, who are always curious about what we’re doing out in the fields with them. We wash the leaves and smoke them for several hours to dry them out, then we hand-shape our fresh artisanal chèvre into balls and smoke them over the same alder and hickory chips. After they’ve picked up that marvelous autumn aroma, they’re ready to be wrapped in the smoked maple leaves, which we’ve spritzed with a bit of bourbon for flexibility and that additional hint of smoky flavor.”

You’ll most-often find Up in Smoke wrapped in large, bourbon-sprayed maple leaves but as winter comes and the leaves become scarce, you may occasionally find them in the leaves of the Salal, a Pacific Northwest evergreen.

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It’s a fabulously rich. clean and tasty cheese. The smoke does not dominate, but elevates the clear, bright lactic tang of the goat milk. Pat Morford, her family and small hear of goats make many varieties and I have had the fortunre to try just a very few. If Up in Smoke is any indication, they’re near the top of American Artisans.

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Cheese: Up in Smoke

WHO: River’s Edge Chèvre

Where: Central Coast Range, Oregon

Milk Type: Goat (pasteurized)

Texture: soft, smooth, silty clay

Rind: none/leaf-wrapped

Format: 4-5oz ball

Tasting notes: milky & citrussy with a light, smooth smokiness  


 

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American Cheese Month 2013: Haystack Peak

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A snappy/lightly chewy rind gives way to a dense, smooth and somewhat chalky paste with a cream line that develops beneath its ashy bloomy rind as it ages. Haystack Peak from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy is a tangy, citric goat milk cheese, It’s rich, lightly salty, earthy with a mineral finish. REALLY delicious!

Jim Schott founded Haystack in 1989. What started as a small farmstead operation in Boulder, CO has since expanded to a 5000 sf facility in Longmont that now makes 18 varieties of goat milk cheeses, both raw and pasteurized.  Haystack Peak was their first aged goat cheese and it’s gone on to be a best-seller and American Cheese Society winner in 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2009. Saveur Magazine named Haystack Peak as one of America’s Top 50 best artisanal cheeses in April 2005.

Haystack Peak 1

You’ll want something on the sweeter side to balance the tangy acidity of Haystack Peak. Try a pils or wheat beer, or an fruitier white. An Alsatian Riesling or perhaps an American Riesling from the Finger Lakes if you can find one.

Cheese: Haystack Peak

WHO: Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy

Where: Longmont, CO

Milk Type: Goat (pasteurized)

Texture: dense and fudgy center with a gradually runnier paste below the rind as it ages

Rind: bloomy

Format: 7oz truncated pyramid

Tasting notes: tangy & citric, lightly salty, earthy, mineral

 


 

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The Wedge and Wheel: New cheese shop coming to Stillwater

 

Hey- that’s me!!

 

Thanks City Pages!!

 

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We first spotted Chris Kohtz at the Minnesota Cheese Festival, scoping out his favorite cheeses and plotting how he\’d stock his case. We were pleased to learn his new gourmet cheese shop, the Wedge and Wheel, is on the verge of opening in Stillwater.

See Also:

Minnesota Cheese Festival returns and expands

Best Cheese Shop 2011: St. Paul Cheese Shop

Kohtz has gone from writing about cheese for his blog Wedge in the Round to readying a full-on fromagerie in downtown Stillwater. When we asked him why, he said simply, \”I love cheese.\” Fair enough.

via The Wedge and Wheel: New cheese shop coming to Stillwater.

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American Cheese Month 2013: Kinderhook Creek

Thanks to the many traditional European, especially Basque, cheeses made from sheep milk I’ve long known the magic that the milk of a humble ewe can impart in cheese. The Europeans have known this, known it for many centuries. Ossau Iraty, Pecorino Abbaye de Belloc, Fiore Sardo, Berkswell… and of course, true Roquefort. I love them all. Truly, never met a sheep milk cheese I did not like. It is with thanks to the very small but growing number of American cheesemakers utilizing the milk of these squat fuzzy ruminants, that we can now enjoy more and more fine American artisan and farmstead cheeses with the same deep, rich and healthful profiles of their European forefathers.

The reasons for the relative paucity of sheep milk cheeses made in America are many:

  • lack of tradition: we haven’t 10,000 years of sheep milk cheese making in our young country’s heritage
  • lack of the right geography: think of where Ossau Iraty originates. Imagine the Basque Pyrenees, or dusty, hot Sardinia. It’s not Missouri.
  • Then there is volume and yield. While the milk of the sheep by the liter yields more cheese than goats or cattle due to high concentrations of solids, sheep in general give far less milk. It takes a lot of sheep and a lot of grazing and a lot of labor to produce a very small amount of cheese.

But what happens when talented farmers find the perfect land, the perfect breed for that land and roll up their sleeves to have a go with sheep milk?

Exhibit A: Kinderhook Creek:

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Back a few decades now, a young Tom Clark took his Hampshire sheep to the Dutchess County Fair in upstate New York. He came away with a blue ribbon and told a local newspaper reporter when he grew up he wanted to raise a flock.

But he didn’t. Not at first. Not for many years. But forward to1993 and he had the means to purchase 600 acres in Old Chatham, NY, restore the farm and start a flock. 150 ewes and a few East Friesian rams in the beginning; now, more than 1000 of the breed make Old Chatham Sheepherding Company the largest sheep dairy in the country.

Photo: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company

Photo: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company

Yet, even at that volume, the amount of cheese they produce is significantly less than they’d do from cattle. They actually gave up on cheese altogether for a brief period a few years ago, turning their attention to a growing sheep yogurt business. Happily, they have returned sheep milk cheese to production with Camembert styles, a Roquefort which I’ll review this month and fresh ricotta.

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I’ve oft-repeated here in this blog my general indifference to most Camembert-style cheeses made in America. While I have had very few raw-milk European originals across the pond, They have each, to a cheese, been generally superior in flavor. Richer, more complex, more… oomph.  In America, cheesemakers must age any raw milk cheese past 60 days… that throws any young, ripened raw milks out the window. As a result too many American varieties seem to settle for “It’s the best we can do” and the result is mild, dull, and the ubiquitous “tastes like white mushrooms”. Not exactly an exotic flavor profile. Add to it a seeming mono-culture in, well, cultures used to make the cheese and the results are… yawn.

Then there is Kinderhook Creek. Could it be that simply using sheep milk is enough to change my mind? The particular wheel in most of these pics was made right at the end of August; at about four weeks aged this cheese, straddling the mid-point boundary between young and well-aged, is almost perfect in ripeness. A dense, fudgy interior surrounded in a just-getting runny cream, shrouded in a bloomy rind. Aged longer, up to two months, the cheese really begins to break down into a richer, more savory and certainly oozy, spreadable treat.

On the nose, a middle-aged wheel smells of fresh spring water, of fresh dairy. Muted to be sure; bright and milky nonetheless. The flavor beneath the rind hints at where the cheese is headed with more age. More savory, meaty almost. There’s not a hint of the sheepy, lanolin qualities that arise in hard aged cheeses but the sense of fresh farmyard is there and pleasingly so. Overall, it’s a gentle flavor that is subtly complex at this stage. What is gladly missing is that generic flavor common to most American cheeses in this style. Bravo!

Winner - Gold 2011

Winner – Gold 2011

When you purchase a wheel of Kinderhook Creek, you can check the make date on the back (year-week#-day of week#) to assess maturity; but you can also just apply a little pressure: if the whole cheese is quite firm- you’ll probably want to age it a bit more. Just another week in the fridge can make quite a difference. If you need it riper the day you buy- ask your cheesemonger for something older, it will yield more under pressure as it ripens. At around eight weeks, you’ll likely have a gooey, sheepy spread. If it at all smells strongly of ammonia, like the sheep that insists on getting trough the fence, you’ve gone too far. A little ammonia odor is not necessarily bad, it’s part of the aging and often will just blow off as the cheese breathes when opened and left at room temperature.

Here’s another wheel, now seven weeks old and oozing with savory depth, new-found sweetness and a bit of nuttiness.

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Old Chatham recommends pairing a grassy Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne, wheat beer or mild Belgian white ale. I’d concur- but a dry sparkler works here too. And I’m really into soda pairings right now. Fentiman’s “Victorian Lemonade” is brilliant here.

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Cheese: Kinderhook Creek

WHO: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company

Where: Old Chatham, NY

Milk Type: sheep (pasteurized)

Texture: dense and fudgy center with a gradually runnier paste below the rind as it ages

Rind: bloomy

Format: 14oz wheel

Tasting notes: Younger wheels – fresh dairy, spring water, more savory and meaty along the rind. Older wheels – richer, sweeter and more savory yet still mild.

 


 

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Bijou

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Looking like something out of a Boris Karloff flick… “Brain!!!!” these little Bijou are diminutive, briefly-aged goat milk “crottin” from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. I find them to be among the most consistent and rewarding of goat cheese made in America. The taste of fresh milk, tangy and sweet… a little bit of fresh, yeasty bread about them with a fudgy texture that softens the more the cheese progresses from a young week-old to full maturity around 30 days. Personally, I like them on the young side, more dense, less runny.

That saggy, Shar Pei-esque “brainy rind”, technically a geotrichum rind,  is the natural result of adding geotrichum candidum to the milk. It de-acidifies the milk and creates a great environment for mold and yeast to do their thing. While you might not find the talk of molds, yeasts, acids and the resulting little brain appetizing, I assure you, this is a little cheese jewel, just like its name. Be sure to click twice on the photos for something resembling the view through an electron microscope.

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Bijou is wonderful just cut up and popped in your mouth, plain. But it’s also a wonderful cheese served up in summer salads with berries, spread on broiled crostini drizzled in oil or honey… the applications are endless with this one. While no great artisan cheese is inexpensive, depending on where you buy it, each little cheese works out to be anywhere from $4 to $6 each. It’s a little steep for ~3 oz of cheese but it is soooo tasty!

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Vermont Creamery is one of the earliest and best success stories in the American artisan/farmstead movement. Started in 1984 with just a few thousand dollars, today founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese’s cheeses are readily found nationwide and have won more than 100 awards. Along with Bijou, seek out their Bonne Bouche, Cremont, Coupole and even their fromage blanc, crème fraîche and quark. All beautifully made, and wonderfully consistent. Vermont Creamery recommend Gewürztraminer or Belgian Tripel with Bijou. Age will matter, of the cheese that is: older Bijou becomes sharper and more acidic, so while a young Bijou might balance with a light Vernaccia, I fear a sharp, tangy version would crush such a wine. Let me know what you pair with it in the comments below!

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Cheese: Bijou

WHO: Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery

Where: Websterville, VT

Milk Type: goat (pasteurized)

Texture: semi-soft/fudgy

Rind: geotrichum

Format: this is the smaller “crottin” – 2 cheeses per pack, ~2-3oz ea

Tasting notes: fresh, clean & tangy, yeasty, sharper with more age

 


 

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Yes… I’m opening a cheese shop!

Can’t get into too many details yet. Still working on a lease, money, details, money, more money. Hey… it’s only money!

I’ve been blessed to have the support of so many great friends and family. If all goes well we may be open by end of summer.

I spoke with The Heavy Table recently about the endeavor, The Wedge & Wheel.

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Ohio cheesemaking history picks up the pace — and the awards | cleveland.com

Ohio is getting cheesy again.

Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer

Marvin Fong, The Plain Dealer

We say “again” because during the canal era, making cheese was a crucial way of preserving food, and parts of Ohio were cranking it out in numbers that rivaled top producing counties in New York. According to a 1952 paper in the “Annals of the Association of American Geographers,” Ashtabula and Trumbull counties led the way, with more than 9 million pounds exported from the Western Reserve in 1849.

via Ohio cheesemaking history picks up the pace — and the awards | cleveland.com.

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Farm to Fork Across America: Artisan Parmesan, Vertical Tasting, and Food Culture in Reno | Julie Ann Fineman

Photo: Julie Ann Fineman

Photo: Julie Ann Fineman

South Carolina, Nevada, Parmigiano-Reggiano… must have more than one thing in common, but for today Chef Natalie Sellers of 4th Street Bistro in Reno makes the connection. I met Natalie at the recent Chef\’s Collaborative Summit in Charleston. The Parmesan part, courtesy of her specialty cheese purveyor, Wedge, together they\’re committed to a food education program as promoted by the Chef\’s Collaborative.

Lee and I are in Natalie\’s restaurant, snuggled in a 1930s bungalow, hiding from the roadway behind a curtain of vibrant yellow reeds on the edge of downtown. Awareness of finer, fresher foods is coming to Natalie\’s customers through a vertical tasting of specialty parmesan Parmigiano-Reggiano, accompanied by a four-course meal featuring local sustainable farm fare and wine pairings. Wedge owners Laura Conrow and Peter Burge are walking the diners through the nuances of parmesan making, aging and tasting.

via Farm to Fork Across America: Artisan Parmesan, Vertical Tasting, and Food Culture in Reno | Julie Ann Fineman.

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Family firm that has cheese fans flocking – Yorkshire Post

Judy Bell has handed over the reins of her award winning Shepherds Purse artisan cheesemaking business to her daughters. Catherine Scott visited the North Yorkshire creamery.

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SOMETHING is very different at Shepherds Purse. It isn’t just the branded T-shirts worn by staff, or the mugs sporting the company logo, or even the rebranded packaging and website. It is the fact there are two new women at the helm of this quintessentially Yorkshire artisan cheesemaker.Katie Matten and Caroline Bell have taken over the business from their mum and Shepherds Purse founder Judy Bell, and it is quite a responsibility. Judy, who started making sheep’s milk cheese on the family farm near Thirsk more than 25 years ago, has entrusted the running of her award winning business to her two daughters, and she couldn’t be happier.

via Family firm that has cheese fans flocking – Yorkshire Post.

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BBC Food – Parmesan cheese: Meet Italy’s pioneering cheese master

BBC

BBC

What makes a great cheese? As the World Cheese Awards get under way, the woman responsible for some of the best-tasting parmesan in Italy opens the doors of the dairy where she works.

“I grew up with milk in my veins,” says Catia Zambrelli, the only woman cheese master in Italy’s cheese industry in the region of Emilia Romagna.

Hailing from the Parma region of Italy, parmesan, also known as Parmigiano-Reggiano, is one of the world\’s most popular cheeses.

It\’s tangy, crumbly and hard, and its pungent smell graces fridges across the UK.

It gets its intense flavour from unpasteurised milk and its long maturation process, something that can take years to learn, as Catia Zambrelli has found.

Learning to perfect the cheese has not been an easy journey for the woman who treats parmesan wheels like she would her own children, despite being born into a family of cheese-makers.

via BBC Food – Parmesan cheese: Meet Italy’s pioneering cheese master.

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Hawes cheesemaker set to win six-year campaign for protected status for Wensleydale cheese (From The Westmorland Gazette)

Westmorland Gazette

Westmorland Gazette

A CHEESEMAKER is set to win a six-year campaign to protect Wallace and Gromit’s favourite food.

Wensleydale Creamery, which first applied for protected food name status in 2007, is expected to be granted Protected Geographical Indication for Yorkshire Wensleydale by the EU early next year.

The status would mean that only the Hawes-based producer, which employs 225 staff, and any future producers in a limited area surrounding the dale, could label their cheese as ‘Yorkshire Wensleydale’.

via Hawes cheesemaker set to win six-year campaign for protected status for Wensleydale cheese (From The Westmorland Gazette).

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‘Adopted’ Swiss from alps now arriving in Bay Area – SFGate

Photo: Liz Hafalia, Chronicle

Photo: Liz Hafalia, Chronicle

The days when \”Swiss cheese\” stood for bland and flabby sandwich slices are long gone, at least in the Bay Area.

The Swiss wheels available at top Bay Area specialty shops are among the most rewarding and expertly made cheeses in the case. Importers Caroline and Daniel Hostettler deserve a lot of credit for this rising stature.

via ‘Adopted’ Swiss from alps now arriving in Bay Area – SFGate.

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Olafur Eliasson’s tears used to make human cheese

Well… uh… ummm…  I’ve got nothing to describe this project 😉

Cheeses-made-with-human-bacteria-recreate-the-smell-of-armpits-or-feet_dezeen_2

Bacteria from personalities including artist Olafur Eliasson, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and chef Michael Pollan have been used to make human cheese as part of an exhibition about synthetic biology in Dublin.

Cheese made from chef Michael Pollan\’s belly button bacteria

American scientist Christina Agapakis and Norwegian scent expert Sissel Tolaas collected bacteria from Obrist\’s nose, Eliasson\’s tears and Pollan\’s belly button and used them to make the artisanal dairy products.

via Olafur Eliasson’s tears used to make human cheese.

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