Monday, April 30, 2012

Bill Moskos in Japan

Bill Moskos
You've got to admire those intrepid adventurers who decide to make cheese in a foreign country!

It can be a daunting effort to get up your courage to make it here in our own country.  But, when you're in a place where cheese isn't exactly revered, it's even more amazing.

Bill Moskos is from the Ottawa Valley, Canada originally, but he's been living in Nara, Japan for the last 10 years.  He teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) by day and he plays in a rock band by night.

We first heard from him when he was placing an order and he mentioned that he had made Mozzarella (with our kit),

As for the mozzarella experiment .... After twice turning out some kind of mutated version of feta that wouldn't melt if you threw it into an active volcano, the third try was the charm.  I'm a believer! 

How could we resist asking him for an interview?  (During the course of that interview, we learned that Bill's triumph over Mozzarella was due in large part to the help he received from Kaoru Mori.  Bill wrote, Not to stereotype, but it's always good having a lady there to make sure you're paying attention to the temperatures.

How did you end up living in Japan?

Actually, a friend from my hometown in the Ottawa Valley was living here before me and he kept trying to get me to come over here and check the place out.

At that time I was working at Boeing Airplane in my hometown and we were doing Japanese business improvement workshops called kaizen.

I was a bit interested in that, but mostly I wanted to study the Japanese language and have a working holiday.

That was around the end of August, 2001. So I came and took it a year at a time and I'm still here.

Still get back home every year or so to get my head straightened out but things are ok here for the most part...  I had a wasabi flavored cacciocavallo recently. Not bad!

What's the cheese situation there?

I'm the only one I've seen doing it on a hobby scale. I'm doing my part to get people into it more. Some people think it's strange to make your own food but there's a bit of a renaissance going on with yogurt making and such.

I've been making my own sausages, butter, chocolate truffles and ice cream here for a while now and the cheese thing is just the next chapter.  It's around double the price to buy it here compared to back in Canada, but I still buy it every week.

Photo taken near Bill's home

Do you have a full kitchen?

Due to space issues here, an average kitchen setup is pretty small.  Picture two gas burners, a small broiler underneath with enough space to cook say four decent size burgers and a microwave/ convection range.

And I'm usually using a 1 gallon/4 liter stainless steel pot so my batches are small.  I'm currently working on a deal with a friend to use his restobar* space before it opens so this spring I can up the production level!

Don't have a spot for aging  so for now I'm sticking to soft, fresh type cheese. A small second fridge is something I'm thinking about.

*A restobar/ restaubar is kind of a cross between a restaurant and a bar. For the sake of avoiding confusion you could just pen it down as a bar. It's a place where you could just go to drink and have a snack or you could  also eat dinner there. That word might be Japlish come to think of it.

How do you make your butter?

Making the butter is pretty simple. I take some heavy cream, let it sit in a jar at room temperature for a while, ( 2-3 hrs ) then screw the lid on tight and start shaking the jar.

It gets thicker like a whipped cream and then you shake it more and then the fat and the liquid ( buttermilk ) separate.

Drain the buttermilk, shake it a bit more, then you can drain it in a cheesecloth/ strainer.

Then, just mix in some salt, pepper or herbs and there you go.

Fresh butter with a bit of Himalayan pink rock salt.

Pretty good on a croissant!  I just usually store it in a small ramekin and wrap some Saran wrap over it. Can't tell you the shelf life because I eat it too damn quickly!

Street scene
The reason I started doing this was,

1. It's cheaper. At import grocery stores I used to see a tiny half stick size package of homemade butter from France and it cost something like $6.00 usd. Talk about a ripoff!

I bought it once at half price and remembered it tasted like some butter we made in the 4th grade for some kind of heritage cooking day.

2. The other reason was that I can control the amount of salt and also put other herbs in it.

Also the leftover buttermilk ( which they don't sell here- cultured or the fresh stuff ) was good for marinating shrimp or scallops. Then I'd just roll them in panko breadcrumbs and pepper and fry them in a pan.

What else have you been making?

I'd made the ricotta before using milk and lemon juice a couple of times and then I decided to try the 30 minute mozzarella. The first time I made it though it looked pretty rough!  Came out like a milk rock!

I had to do a bit of looking around but there are a few brands of milk available here that aren't ultra pasteurized:

This is Seijo ishi brand milk from Hokkaido. It's pasteurized at 65C (149F) for 30 minutes. This made decent mozzarella.

This is Swiss brown from a dairy in Shimane. Just got it a couple of days ago and have yet to use it. It's heated at 72C (162F) for only 15 seconds and is non-homogenized. I'm gonna make a small batch of something with this and see how it is.

Bill's neighborhood
What are your cheese making goals?

For this year I'd like to learn how to consistently make 2-3 kinds of cheese really well.

Then do some workshops and spread the fever a bit!

Want to get a spare fridge so I can try some aged recipes too!

I've done some ESL (English as a second language) cooking workshops before and they've gone over well!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could use a cheese Grater to take some of the excess off that sinister Goatee!

Just kidding very informative article. An update on the progress would be interesting.