Cheese making in East Africa
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CTA. 1995. Cheese making in East Africa. Spore 55. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49546
Demand for milk products in Africa is rising faster than supply. In fact production of milk and milk products is almost stagnant and increased demand has been met by steadily rising imports. Yet milk is produced in abundance in sub-Saharan Africa...
Demand for milk products in Africa is rising faster than supply. In fact production of milk and milk products is almost stagnant and increased demand has been met by steadily rising imports. Yet milk is produced in abundance in sub-Saharan Africa at certain times of the year and failure to make optimum use of this production is a very great loss in nutritional and economic terms, both to rural families and nationally. The objective of the Dairy Technology Unit of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) based at Debra Zeit, Ethiopia is, says DTU Head Dr Charles O'Connor, to improve the nutritional and economic status of the African smallholder, his family and the community at large. The valuable nutrients in milk must be preserved in a form that makes them available at periods of low milk availability,' says Dr O'Connor, and he explains that the main activity of the DTU is to research appropriate products and processes. 'We look at the process by which smallholders produce existing products and we try to improve the quality of the product and the efficiency of production, he says. The philosophy is to help farmers initially to improve on their current practice, not to introduce new concepts or technology. 'We try to show farmers how, by making really quite small changes or modifications to his or her tractional way of doing things, they can achieve meaningful improvements in the quality, quantity and consistency of their products,' he adds. Later, when these improvements have been implemented and the market expands we can then introduce new products. ILRl's Dairy Technology Unit concentrates on processes for making butter, ghee (clarified butter), yoghurt and soft and hard cheeses. Locally, farmers have used spices in an attempt to extend the shelf-life of butter and Dr O'Connor believes upto 20 spices may be used for this purpose. Most are known at present only by their local names but ginger is one of those commonly used. Unfortunately, it has yet to be proved that the addition of spices materially extends storage life, but it certainly adds variety. The safest way of storing butter is to convert it to ghee. Cheeses, particularly hard cheeses, have a longer shelf life and the DTU has many years of experience of processing milk into a variety of cheeses using processes appropriate to small-scale producers in East Africa. AYIB AND SCAMORZA CHEESES Ayib is a soft curd cheese made in many parts of Ethiopia. It can be prepared either from skimmed milk (after removal of fat) or from the buttermilk produced by churning sour whole milk. In Kenya and Tanzania many smallholders produce a soft Pasta filata type cheese called Scamorza. It is similar to Italian Mozarella. Scamorza is made from whole milk or milk from which some of the fat has been removed. Thus both cheeses can be made from milk which is also used as a source of fat to make butter. The processes for making these two cheeses differ. Whereas Ayib is made by heating the buttermilk or skimmed milk to about 50'C until a distinct curd mass forms, milk for Scamorza is heated to only 36 C and a yoghurt-type culture must then be added. Heating should be gradual in both processes. With Ayib, heating up to 65 C will result in a cheese with a longer shelf-life, but too high temperatures during cheesemaking can result in cheeses having a 'cooked' flavour. While a thermometer is a useful aid to consistent cheesemaking, many experienced smallholders hay' learned to judge temperatures remarkably accurately. They have also learned that personal cleanliness and clean milk and utensils are essential to avoid bacterial contamination which introduces 'off' flavours and reduces the shelf-life of cheeses. The methods for making Ayib and Scamorza, as well as of her cheese types, are described in the Traditional cheesemaking manual by Charles O'Connor and published by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There is also advice on converting some soft cheeses into harder cheeses; while this reduces the yield of cheese, it can considerably extend shelf-life. To convey this technology to smallholders the DTU conducts demonstrations and training courses but Dr O'Connor is sensitive to existing farmer knowledge. Smallholders are usually clever people and know their business very well, he says. So we do not dictate what products or processes they should use. The farmers and trainees from the national agricultural research systems who attend our training take back our ideas for modified processes and in their own time they apply those improvements or new technologies that they find most appropriate. There is no question that dairy processing has enormous potential for forming the basis of small agro-industries in rural and peri-urban areas in Africa. With encouragement African dairy producers and processors could contribute substantially to local economies and reduce the current level of imports and the outflow of foreign exchange.