▲ Above, cows that provide the needed milk to produce cheese, graze out front of Morning Smile Farm. Below, Gouda cheese, once a rarity on the island, many soon be present in every kitchen in Jeju. Photo courtesy Morning Smile Farm
Cheese Making at Chilsimni
It may not have always been eaten with crackers and a glass of wine, but cheese is a food that has been around for thousands of years. Culinary experts disagree about the exact origins of this ancient cuisine, but it is fairly certain that cheese making arose from the desire to preserve one of nature’s most valuable commodities – milk.
The ancient Romans were thought to have spread the art of making cheese throughout Europe. In East Asia, however, the idea of adding curdled milk to one’s diet did not quite catch on, perhaps because lactose intolerance is relatively common in this part of the world (1).
The Chinese have tried their hand at making a few types of goat’s milk throughout history and Mongolians have been making yak’s milk cheese for a long time out of necessity.
But Korea is a relatively new player in the cheese making game.
In fact, it was a Belgian missionary who introduced the art of making cheese to Korea in 1959. He was looking for a way to help supplement the diet of Korean War survivors. The town in which he lived and work is called Imsil (near Jeonju on mainland Korea) and it is famous for being Korea’s first cheese making village (2).
The practice caught on and, as an interesting side note, sources inside North Korea say that Kim Jong Il is so fond of cheese and yogurt that he sends agricultural experts to Switzerland each year to study how the Swiss make these two products (3).
On Jeju, there are very few people that make cheese, however recently at the Chilsimni Festival I was lucky enough to spend a little time at the booth of a husband and wife team who make their living running a small business that produces three different types of cheese: Camembert, feta and chèvre (French for goat). I was able to try a sample of Camembert they offered for taste-testing, and through my translator Kate Ko, the couple happily explained the process by which it and some of their other cheeses are made.
Process of Chèvre Cheese Making
1. Fresh goat’s milk from the neighbors farm is used (about 20 liters) and it is pasteurized to ensure all harmful bacteria is destroyed. Pasteurization includes heating the milk to about 71.7 degrees Celsius for about 15-20 seconds.
2. Milk is cooled and matured at 23 to 25 degrees Celsius for up to 24 hours.
3. Rennet is added. Rennet contains many enzymes, including a proteolytic enzyme (protease) that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). Natural rennet is found in the stomach of ruminant animals, such as cattle.
4. The curd (which becomes the cheese) is separated from the whey using a cheese cloth. This takes several hours.
5. Once the curd is separated from the whey, the curds are put on trays to mature for another 48 hours. 6. When the cheese has matured, it is ready to indulge.
Chèvre cheese is lower in calories and fat than most cheeses made from cow’s milk.
Process of Camembert cheese
1. Fresh cow’s milk is collected from the neighbor’s farm and pasteurized at 63 degrees Celsius for about 15-20 seconds. Again, this step is to ensure harmful pathogens are destroyed.
2. The milk is cooled to 31-32 degrees Celsius.
3. White mould culture (Penicilliun candidum) is added and stirred into the cheese for about 10 to 20 minutes.
4. The cheese is covered with a lid and left for about 90 minutes.
5. Rennet is added and stirred in well. The cheese is left for an hour at 31- 32 degrees Celsius.
6. Cheese is then placed into a mold.
7. The cheese is turned upside down in the mold for an hour and rotated after two hours, three hours, five hours and eight hours (at least five times). This turning encourages the mould to grow on all sides of the cheese and it also prevents it from sticking to the rack.
8. After 10 hours the cheese is taken out of the mold.
9. Salt is sprinkled all over the cheese.
10. The cheese is matured for a week
For more information, see the family’s Web site: www.cafe.daum.net/jejucheese
The couple offer a three-night, two-day stay at their guest house where visitors learn how to make the three cheeses; chèvre cheese, Camembert cheese, and feta cheese.
1. Wikipedia, Cheese, “Cultural Attitudes”
2. Frommer’s South Korea, by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee, page 210
3. BBC News, Asia-Pacific, “On the Tracks of Kim’s Successor”, June 3, 2009
Jeju Cheese House 1304 Bonsung-ri, Aewol-eup, Jeju City, Jeju Island (Telephone: 064-799-7326)
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