“Cheese, glorious and toothsome cheese! Its creation is an ancient art, hedged about with ritual and superstition, but also with care and precision – and the result is one of the most flavourful foodstuffs to ever cross the face of Caelereth... hail to cheese! Creamy, curdy, tangy, mellow, spicy, nutty, chewy, melting, salty, sweet – cheese the delectable, the wanderer’s staple and the housewife’s gift, the homebody and the great traveller, cheese, cheese, cheese!”
Image description. An assortment of all kinds of cheeses of Caelereth, a true delight for every Santharian gourmet. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
We thank Master Dofron Barrelbung Hobytla from the Elenveran Shire for this lyrical introduction. We should also point out, less lyrically but more informatively, that cheese is a fermented milch product, made generally from the milch of cows, but also from sheep, goats, and other lactating animals. Wherever milch is collected and set to rise for cream, and wherever rennet or other coagulating agents can be found, there the product known variously as ‘cheese’, ‘kase’, ‘kaas’, ‘chaes’, ‘kaese’, or ‘gasse’ can be found. On other continents the process appears to have developed independently as well, for every place our Compendiumists have reported in from, across Caelereth, cheese may be found. Indeed, it may well be, as Master Dofron emotes, both the ‘homebody and the great traveller’ – but let us desist ere we become as poetically profuse as he.
Description. There exists a plethora of cheese types: Cow Milch Cheeses, Goat Milch Cheeses, Sheep Milch Cheeses, Horse Milch Cheeses and Exotic Cheeses. In the following we try to cover each group and their best known representatives.
I. Cow Milch Cheeses Cheeses made out of cow milch (sorted alphabetically), take your pick:
Baneg cow milch produces a mild hard white cheese, particularly good when scraped and melted. We recommend it as an accompaniment to smoked meat, raw carroots, and a good sour-rise bread with a hearty crust...
Literally intoxicating - a fresh liquid cheese mixed with liberal amounts of cherry liqueur which tints and infuses the cheese with veins of crimson. Inevitably, this comes from a halfling cheesery; one of many in the Dogodan Shire. The Brandypots are said to have taken their name from the cheese a long-deceased ancestor invented and then made the family fortunes on... their original name has been lost in the annals of hobbit history. Frightfully expensive but delightfully worth it, by all accounts!
Thick white curds in a creamy, tangy base – actually technically not a cheese as it is undrained and uncompressed, but a very popular foodstuff nonetheless. This is usually made and eaten fresh, as it does not transport well but is simple to make.
Yellowish curds, drained of their whey and salted. Also one of the simplest forms of cheese to make (see Method of Production, below)
Fedaerkaese (Blueblood’s Bliss)
Produced only in the area of Caelum, in southwestern Santharia. A bluish-green mold is allowed to infiltrate the cheese, giving it an intensely unique flavour appreciated mostly by sophisticates. It is also claimed to be a favourite of the nobility of the area, the Fedaerkyls, hence its alternate, more popular name.
Huik Kashh (Gnomish
An absolutely delectable hard cheese made in large wheels, the size of an average cartwheel. Cheesemaster Kilghu Rhakkot, to whom we owe much of the technical information in this entry, has been running a small gnomish cheesery at Yorick for years and producing Huikkashh under the local brand of “Cart-n-Horse”, which we can strongly recommend. It is a firm, flavourful cheese with a deep golden hue and a salty, flaky ‘mouth’.
A spreadable fresh cheese with a gently nutty scent, as creamily textured as its name implies. A more expensive cheese, produced in the Vezash area by the Havadeshi family for the last hundred and fifty years or so. Also does not travel well, so is usually only available within Manthria.
Injèrákaas (Sun Cheese)
A common and inexpensive young cheese of a nice bright yellow, from the lovely Strata cow. It is a specialty of Bardavos, where it can often be found tinted with marigold petal extracts or similar natural ‘dyes’ to enhance the golden hue, and shaped in a rondel with the impression of a stylized Injèrá pressed into the top. Some of the more superstitious bardic students have become so addicted to this fine local brand, that they won't perform without having eaten their daily portion of Injèrákaas, saying that it's an ideal foodstuff to nourish the body to be in good health on stage.
Kanapan or Furno Cheese
From the fierce Furno cattle of the far north. “The rich creamy milch is used for drinking and making Kanapan cheese, which is reserved for the priesthood. It is said to be a mild but richly flavourful cheese, light-coloured and pitted with small holes.” As none of our Compendiumists is a Kanapan priest, alas, we cannot confirm this claim to our satisfaction!
Also a Rimmilch cow product, this mellow cheese is firm yet oily. Though it resembles its sister cheese, Ung, being a pale yellow bubbly substance, it has a smooth, buttery taste and a longer aftertaste. Moden sells better in the autumn and winter, when folk crave the richer foods against cold. Both Ung and Moden have many variants depending upon which herb is fed the cows from which the milch is taken in that cheese-year or what spice is mixed into the milch during the process: Rosemint-Moden, Mintung, Yahrlung (with a pleasant peppery flavour, considered medicinal), Moden da Cinna (a marvelously scented sweet cheese), Fragrans-Moden, Ung da Havadeshi, and many more... but see the Rimmilch Cow entry for further details!
A smooth and simple cream made from the well-drained curd. White and soft, this gently-flavoured substance is drier than Cottcheese but softer than Hava, and is most often used in cooking; it makes marvelous sauces and dips, and is the base for a delicious sweet ‘cheesecake’ dessert.
A rich orange cheese, rubbery when young but crumbly and tangy when older. Quite popular, relatively inexpensive, and a good market item - can be found across Santharia. Mature blocks are dipped in a thin coat of malisewax and thus protected, form part of a sailor's rations.
A very aged variety of Rimmilched which is highly flavourful and can be distinguished by its characteristic burnt-orange colour. More expensive, as it cannot be aged effectively within a protective malisewax coating for some reason, and thus must be stored with as much caution as maturing brandy or wine and protected from excessive heat or cold. To that end, the old mineshafts from deserted Thergerim caves here and there in the Rimmerins Ring mountain chain make excellent storehouses for the cheese as it grows to full flavour!
The milch for this cheese is ‘stolen’ from a nursing Rimmilch cow, beginning immediately after her calf’s birth. The Rimmerins Ring cheesemakers claim this produces a sweeter, ‘brighter’ cheese, with a light texture. Generally this cheese is a very pale yellow yealm colour, dotted with tiny ‘bubbles’ which produce minute holes when the cheese is cut into. Despite its higher cost, Ung rises in popularity in the spring, as it complements the fresh herbs and spring greens that are just coming into season.
A very inexpensive fresh cheese often encountered at roadside inns. When poorly made, waxy and nearly tasteless, but when treated with reasonable care, a delicate light cheese with a buttery feel.
Another ‘old cheese’ with a strong flavour and scent. The strange alternate name comes from the old saying which defines Zamum’s quality: ‘strong enough to knock down a Brownie at two paces!’ Really ancient Zamum might thus be described by its merchant as ‘Five Brownie-pace Cheese” on the label, while others have bragged “Ten Brownie-pace” or even, with pardonable exaggeration, “Twenty Brownie-paces”! In some parts where the original meaning of the phrase has been lost, the cheese simply took on the name ‘Browniepace Cheese’, which itself of course eventually degenerated into ‘Brownieface’ - presumably for the rich bronzy brown colour that the cheese takes on after about five years aging.
II. Goat Milch Cheeses. Cheeses made out of goat milch (sorted alphabetically), take your pick:
Aka‘goa Cheese (Goa‘kaas)
As the milch of these little desert goats is quite rich in fat, with a very sweet taste to it compared to aka‘pi‘s milch or cowmilch, a very creamy and soft sweet cheese can be made out of it. This basic cheese has to be consumed quite quickly, due to the desert heat. However, the Shendar have developed two methods of conserving it, resulting in two different cheeses – see below!
a) Mil‘goa. The goa‘kaas is wrapped as soon as it is produced in freshly-cut mil‘no leaves. With this additional protection it makes its way even to Bardavos and Varcopas. It has taken on a light taste of the mint-like mil‘no, which makes it really pleasant. Some Shendar women abrade the interior surface of the mil‘no leaves deliberately so that more of the liquid can penetrate the cheese. This allows it to be kept for longer, but its stronger flavour is not as popular.
b) Desertkaas (Desertsand). This cheese has nothing in common anymore with the former kaas. The fresh goa‘kaas is mixed with the desired flavorings, or left plain, then squeezed in a thinly-woven cloth bag to remove some of the initial moisture. It is then spread thinly (about a nailsbreadth in depth) on a large flat stone, and left to dry out in a cool place. After a day or two it has transformed into a pale, opaque yellow substance, slightly sticky to the touch and cracked deeply all over its surface. It is now scraped off the stone, and the resulting pieces are laid out in the sun to dry further for a few hours. The outcome is a hard and longlasting ‘dried cheese’ which may taste sweet or spicy, depending on what was added, but invariably has a strong cheesy flavour! It can be eaten out of hand as a snack, ground and sprinkled over a meal (when it is usually known as ‘Desertsand’) or put in milch and cooked up for a delicious soup. Due to its characteristics it can be stored for a long time and often serves as a highly nutritious foodstock on long travels. ‘Desertsand’ sells for an excellent price in central Santharia as a condiment, skilled cooks and noble’s chatelaines competing for it; a sprinkle will spark up plain boiled vegetables, add interest to garlick bread (in fact it complements most members of the ae’lon family well, and chives are one of the spices sometimes added to the goa’kaas in the initial step of production…), or dramatize a cream soup.
One of the mildest goat cheeses available. It is semi-liquid – hardens in cool weather but melts in the heat of the sun, just as butter might. It is usually sold and stored in small ceramic crocks or pannikins with a crust of wax poured over the top to seal and protect it. Often enjoyed spread directly on fresh bannocks, or over toasted barley bread.
A Zhunite product about which we know little, save that it is a pale yellow block which is excellent melted. Said to have a very complex and ‘multi-layered’ taste.
A hobbit-made round cheese which is well-aged and smoked, giving its rind a reddish hue. Hobbit cheesemakers will tell you straight-faced that it is smoked over the pipeweed of the same name, but attempts to replicate this have resulted only in a lot of wasted baccy and rather foul-tasting cheeses.
Imported from Nybelmar by the Erpheronians (available mainly in Milkengrad, from whence it is sometimes traded for exorbitant prices). It’s a strongly-flavoured soft, curdy cheese, usually shipped and sold in oiled wrappers of parchment which has been rolled and twisted at either end, giving the cheese a typical cylindrical shape with tapered, wrinkled ends.
III. Sheep Milch Cheeses. Cheeses made out of sheep milch (sorted alphabetically), take your pick:
Fairly common sheep cheese, often flavoured with crumbled peppercorns or sharp-tasting seeds. It is whitish, crumbles into large curds easily, but rarely goes bad.
An aromatically smoky cheese produced by the Kassite cattle herders of Nybelmar, of irregular shape. It is said to be molded in sheep stomachs or possibly even (cleaned) bladders, and ‘travels well’. Indeed, it is a sturdy, resilient cheese which does not crumble easily, with a woody aroma and a faint aftertaste of mushrooms.
A specialty cheese made from lythien-fed sheep’s milch, with a pleasant nutty flavour. Sometimes available cast in the shape of acorns, complete with ‘cap’ on one end and point on the other, then wrapped in cheesecloth to protect it.
IV. Horse Milch Cheeses. Cheeses made out of horse milch (sorted alphabetically), take your pick:
Made from the ‘rich creamy milch’ of the mares of the Sarvonian Heavy Horse breed. The result is “a delicious, sweet, light-flavoured cheese, which is very popular…” - at least, among Northerners but little known except to New-Santhalan cheese connoisseurs.
Produced in the Wilderon Heaths region, where the sturdy little Landesh Ponies provide its main ingredient, this strange cheese looks exactly as one might expect from its name... grayish-bluish white, and crumbling not into nuggets or nodules, but along sharp fracture planes like a piece of friable rock! Its taste is sharp, almost acrid, with a refreshingly sour bite at first which fades to a salty afterglow. Rather expensive in central Santharia, what with its less common source and the distance it must travel, it still finds a market for whatever quantity our traders can obtain...
V. Exotic Cheeses. Cheeses made out of very special ingredients (sorted alphabetically), take your pick:
A moist white cheese, also made from aka’pi milch, usually flavoured with various herbal additions, produced by the Shendar of the south. Unlike the earlier mentioned Arpun variant, this kaas is more an acquired taste and mainly consumed by the nomadic Shendar, though regularly offered to others by their merchants.
Small nutty cheeses made from aka’pi milch, with a greenish rind, sold in their original woven ar’pun grass wrappings. “The leaves of the ar’pun contain the moisture of the cheese, and impart a pale green colour to the soft outer rind, and a taste that can be called closest to roasted nut. While not the only method of cheese wrapping, ar’pun wrapped cheese is very common and certainly not unpleasant to even a non-Shendar's tongue…” These sell well in Strata, and their grass wrappings, if kept dry in a ship’s hold, make it up to the great port at Salóh and from thence through Santharia.
Mouse Cheese - lit. "Tail-friend Food-Sludge")
Despite its unpromising name, the few brave humans - mostly Compendium researchers, we are proud to say - who have tasted this tiny Brownie-made cheese say it is quite palatable, with a pleasingly fatty texture and a slightly sweet, rather than savory, flavour. Brownies tell us that they frequently add finely-mashed (by their standards) berries, ground grass seeds, herbal extracts, and even bits of smoked meat to make a sturdy and nutritious substance that can serve as a complete travel food. Unfortunately our researchers were unable to obtain enough cheese to test this claim on humans - nor do we believe it would be worth hand-milking the many thousands of field mice required to produce it!
This is certainly a misnomer, as the merfolk of Sarvonian waters at least do not have the level of intelligence and culture required to originate so complex a product. It is almost certainly a legend put about by seafarers who hope thereby to obtain a higher price for their coagulated nuggets of fermented whales’ milch. We can report, for those who will never have the opportunity to taste ‘Mercheese’, that it certainly has all of the claimed benefits of nutritiousness, sustainability, and traveling properties; a single chunk the size of a child’s fist can keep a man healthy for a week, as long as he has sufficient water. We can also warn you that the taste and texture are reminiscent of something which has – well, never mind. Suffice it to say that the swollen nodules of Mercheese are a pale bluish-white with green streaks through them, and their flavour matches their scent: horrendously salty yet cloyingly sweet, with weedy, fishy overtones. If one can bring oneself to attempt the tumorous mass, it will certainly sustain life as well as an equal amount of meat or travelbread.
Produced by the Murmillions of Nybelmar, certainly an exotic cheese and rarely encountered. Notes from a poorly-lettered sea-captain’s log say only: “lukyng lyke a chonk of yelow clay – salty and sour tasteyng lyke seeweed. Did drynk much ale after takeyng ‘Oberryoso’ with ships biskyt and jerkey. Provoked to appetyte and much drinkyng...” Which is provocative but not terribly informative...
Made by the 'Noble Orcs' upon special occasions; a congealed mucus-like substance made by slaughtering a calf immediately after it has nursed, removing the milch-full belly and hanging it in full sunlight for anywhere from a week to a month... Usually done in preparation for a ceremony or ritual event as it is relatively costly, even for a cattle-rich society. We refuse (actually our informant refuses) to provide a fuller description of this ‘cheese’, so imagination must suffice.
Made from vegetable 'milch', one of the most unusual cheeses around. Produced by the monks of the White Order (dedicated to the deities Eyasha and Nehtor) of the Istarin Monastery off the Carmaladian Coast in Eastern Santharia, it is remarkable not only for its completely plant-based origin but for its delightful flavour, almost meatily satisfying. Though the actual ingredients and process are kept secret, it certainly contains extracts from the oya pea, various crushed nuts, and baych sap...
A peculiar cheese from one seaside village on the Seanian Coast which not only has a fine edible mold growing on its surface but actually supports tiny mushrooms! We were unable to obtain a sample for testing as it is only available in the rainy season every two or three years, but our Cavthan correspondent raves, “Swamshromm has thee most delikate taste that evver I did encownter…compleks and subtil, wyth flavours that do explodde in thee mouth and covver thee tonge… almost meety, lyk to a godde beefstake or lambe chop… yet softily meltyng and runing down thee throate…” Personally, we are happy to take his word for it.
Tar’andus (Telor Cheese)
Rare but not unheard of, this specialty cheese is made on the far northern Iol peninsula from the high-fat milch of the local Tar’andus reindeer. Said to be an oily, rich cheese with a pleasantly salty taste.
Warggruh (Warg Milch Cheese)
According to F'ash the Archivist, the Rhom-Oc and Losh-Oc of the Oro and Tandala mountain regions make a horrifically odorific and rubbery 'cheese' from the milch of their female wargs. The mind boggles at the thought of milking a savage wolf-like creature, let alone consuming the result in any form, but apparently it is a prized delicacy among the Losh-Oc. F’ash tells us that he would never have been brave enough to try it, but it would never have been offered to a ‘housepet’ in any case; it was reserved for those of rank among the orcs of the area.
A small, oleaginous half-sphere manufactured on the Isles of R’unor, most probably from the milch of the Sarvonian Deer. Quite sharply-flavoured, with a piquant overtone and peppery bite. It has an unusual colour, somewhat flushed, with very faint purplish veinings. Whether this is due to natural properties of the deer’s milch or to some unknown additions has not been determined by Santharian cheesemaker experts at this point.
Method of Production. The process of cheese production can be split into three steps: Letting it sit, Forming the Curd and finally Washing, Drying and Ripening.
Sit: Starting Cheese
Cheese can be made as simply letting fresh warm milch stand – it will clump and separate, or curdle, into two parts: curd and whey. As every child knows, the curd is the rubbery, chewy solid ‘cheese’, while the whey is the thin liquid remaining. Such simple cheese should be eaten within the week, as it does not store well. Cheese made by this method is often referred to as ‘Crofter’s Cheese’ or ‘Cottcheese’.
For more sophisticated cheeses, there are two main methods of beginning. The first is known as ‘Maidsmade Curdle’: the milch is taken just as it comes from the cow and allowed to sit till it cools to the same heat as a (female) human wrist. It is then kept at a comfortable temperature within the room or building to allow the curd process to begin. The second is referred to as ‘Kettle Curdle’: the curd must be cooked till bubbling and then treated. This produces a harder, sharper cheese in many cases.
To produce the curds, there are various catalysts or ‘curders’ that can be used, depending upon what is available in the region or the type of cheese desired. Curders can come from some bitter herbs, from certain mushrooms, and from animal sources, the most famous of which would be from the lining of a calf’s stomach, ‘chymmet’. Here a footnote on chymmet seems to be required, as it is one of the most well-known and oft-used curders in Caelereth.
“Chymmet is produced by slaughtering an unweaned calf, removing its stomach and inflating it so that it dries evenly, which takes approximately a month. The dried stomach should then be cut into strips which are turned and sliced again at right angles to create small ‘tablets’ of dried lining. These tablets are then soaked in brine at a 1:10 ratio of salt to water. The resulting yellowish solution must be aceedified with Baverine Aceed and filtered to bring it to strength. Good chymmet is a bright butter-yellow and should be stored in dark glass bottles if not used within the month…”
Thanks to Gnorian Cheesemaster Kilghu Rhakkot, who also tells us that Baverine Aceed is another name for ‘Muriatic Aceed’ or ‘Ghost Salts’, a mixture of common salt with vitriol.
Slash-n-Stuff: Forming the Curd
Once the milch has curdled, the mass is sliced through repeatedly, heated and squeezed. This removes liquid from the mass and allows the curds to harden. Salt and flavouring is added at this stage and the cheese is then shaped into its desired form.
Shaping can be done by hand, by mold, by press, or by container. Soft cheeses can be packed into containers and sealed with cheesecloth and/or malisewax. Harder cheeses can be squeezed into bags cut to the finished shape and left to sit, or modeled into wheels, barrels, blocks, and so on. At the curd stage they can be treated almost like butter and pressed into wooden molds so that simple shapes will show up in bas-relief on the top of the cheese.
Washing, Drying, and Ripening
At this stage the cheese is set away to age, stored carefully on wooden racks, laid on stone shelves, packed in barrels, or whatever the specific cheesemaker has determined.
It is also at this stage that we cannot obtain very detailed information about what is done to the cheese, because apparently the treatment affects the flavour and type of cheese so intimately. As a result, it is hedged about with great secrecy and we can give only the most general of descriptions.
Some cheeses are apparently simply left to dry and harden, while others are carefully washed with or even ‘barded’ with certain substances, ranging from sea water through soured cream to fortified wine. Some are wrapped carefully with cheesecloth after having ‘set up’, while others are dipped in malisewax of various colours. At least one cheesemaker sets his fresh circles of cheese upon slices of old bread to let them cure, claiming that the finished flavour of the foodstuff depends upon it. We hear that some cheeses are entirely a product of their location – places where the "cár’áll" of cheese lingers, as the cheesemakers say – particularly the ‘blue’ or ‘moulded’ cheeses.
Sprinkling salt, or washing with salt, we do know, results in a thicker skin or ‘rind’ on the cheese. Rubbing with oil or herb extracts can also thicken the skin and tint it a characteristic colour. And of course, many cheesemakers use nuts, small grains, chopped herbs, or other such items, in which they roll the cheese and coat the exterior before it develops a rind. Such a cheese must be protected with cloth or fine paper so that the interior does not dry out or the coating flake away.
Image description. A piece of Fedaerkaese where a bluish-green mold is allowed to infiltrate the cheese, adding to its unique flavour. Picture drawn by Theras.
Cheese is produced not only throughout Sarvonia,
but, as far as we can determine, throughout
Caelereth. Any region that can support a milch animal (even those we may not
consider as milch animals, such as the ferocious
warg, or the minute field mouse!)
seems to have inevitably developed the process of cheese-making. While in some
places it is cruder than in others, the end result is always recognizably cheese
– to the eye, nose, and tongue. That is, setting aside Orkensmeug, which we hope
we never do have to submit to the test!
Within the kingdom of Santharia, there are some notable areas for cheese production: the town of Northhern, off the Kenerun Downs below the Huiscen Plains, for one. Thaak, to the north of New-Santhala, has a large cheesemaking industry, based mainly on their large herds of Rimmilch and Baneg cows. Certain caves in the Rimmerins Ring area are known for being cheesestores of antiquity, and the very air is redolent with ancient cheeses; when one stands within their richly scented walls, one can certainly believe that the spirit or cár’áll of cheeses past are ready to infuse the young ripening rondels on their rock shelves...
Generally a cheesery is an individual proprietor, or a family-size operation, though some gnomish cheeseries involve as many as forty or fifty folk from milking the cows to marketing the finished product. Many farmers in more remote areas simply set a portion of their milch for Cottcheese rather than go to the trouble to take it out by wagon to the nearest cheesery, of course, but through most of the kingdom there are established trade routes and no one need do without the “most flavourful foodstuff” if they do not choose!
History of the Industry/Lore. People in Santharia say that Jeyriall created all the milch-giving animals solely that we might have cheese! Though we cannot of course prove this, we certainly will not argue against the old belief... but surely cheese was made at a very early time. As soon as there was enough milch available in any community, the problem would naturally arise as to what to do with the excess. It does not stay fresh for a long time and though sour milch is perfectly drinkable, only a few of us would prefer it to the fresh stuff! As we see that cheese can come from all over Caelereth, and each continent has its own ideas about making cheeses and its own unique styles and flavours, most likely the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally and independently in different areas.
No records are left from old times about where which cheeses were eaten, and it is only over the last 150 years that we can talk of a ‘history’ of cheese. However, having no history of cheese does not mean that it was not mentioned during the centuries. As a by-product of descriptions of significant events - or more often significant people - we have been able to record quite fascinating details. So a history of cheese is a history of famous people as well, in one special aspect: their like or dislike of cheese!