Homestay And Cheese Making, Coonoor

Sometimes the best things happen by accident, when you wander off from well-made plans and stumble onto ones infinitely better. And so it was that just as we were winding up our mini vacation to Coonoor, we chanced upon this lovely farm-stay in a beautiful valley.

The Acres Wild at Coonoor

Surrounded by lush, green hills, The Acres Wild is an idyllic dream.

Mansoor Khan, the film-maker turned organic farmer and writer. Passionate about peak oil and sustainability, Mansoor is full of inspiration and plenty of food for thought.

Run by Mansoor and his wife Tina, the farm produces fresh, organic produce and dairy. They even grow their own tea!

I’m not exaggerating when I call it a dream. The hills were so beautiful that we hardly remember what our room looked like. Everyday we would run out to watch the clouds traverse the wide, open sky, changing colours and shapes as they passed. (you know our penchant for skies)

There was space and time for all that life should really be about – Film, books,music, coffee and food

Oh, and cheese! Mansoor’s wife Tina makes cheese in their dairy farm. So while Atul sat outdoors writing and taking pictures, I learnt how to make some cheese from her.

The cheese room at Acres Wild.. where Tina, the self-taught cheese maker spins her magic and shares her craft with openness and generosity

Tina tells an amazing story of how cheese came to be by accident… Thousands of years ago, an Arabian nomad was carrying milk in a bag made of goat/cows stomach as he travelled across the desert on a camel. As he opened the bag on his arrival, he found the milk had turned into a hardened white lump that could be preserved with salt and used over time. This then became a way to preserve milk!  The story also tells you the main tennets of cheese making

1. Acidification – Turning the sugar (lactose) in the milk to lactic acid – the milk itself and the air probably had bacteria that acted on the  milk to turn the sugar to acid. In making most cheeses today, cultured bacteria allows us to do this.

2. Coagulation – The enzyme in the stomach lining coagulated the milk and helped it set into curds. Today we use rennet which is an animal enzyme in a powder or tablet form, easily dissolved in water and added to milk.

3. Separating the curds and the whey – The churning motion as the nomad carried the bag on his camel helped separate the curds and the whey. For most cheeses this is done by one or more of these methods – cutting and stirring the curds, heating, hanging the curds in cheesecloths and pressing the curds to further remove water.

4. Maturing (in the case of aged cheeses) – Letting the cheese age to develop its unique flavour and character.

Stretching out the mozzarella to give it its characteristic layered structure and shape

Variations and permutations of this process results in various types of cheeses. The soft mozzarella gets its texture and shape because of the stretching and folding process at a controlled temperature.

The tangy creamy feta with its beautiful holes.

The plump Halumi with its chicken breast-like texture.

My favourite – the residual cheese thats ricotta. (see, the best things in life come by as lucky bi-products … not what we often go after actively)

And the fifth one that we made – the versatile cream cheese

This is Tina’s own cream cheese. A delicious log, rolled in home-grown fennel and thyme. Beautiful!!

Back in Mumbai with a ton of cheese, it already feels like a lifetime ago..but my head is whirling with things I want to do with the cheese, more cheeses I want to make and most preciously – memories of a place that I hope will not fade for a long long time.

Comments

    • says

      You must Kavita. It truly is inspiring in so many ways that I cannot articulate on a blog post. To be honest, this place made me feel so much and is so like what I really want from life that I am still somewhat overwhelmed.. :)

  1. Anonymous says

    Lovely ! I’m now really motivated to plan my trip there – just a fortnight to go for the renovations to our apartment to be done with and then I’m a free bird once more . …sigh… The photographs are so lovely !

    Meera

    • says

      How exciting!! Do share what you did at your appartment. I am sure it will be something good. And you MUST go here. The photos actually don’t do the space justice at all… partly because of the fixed 50mm lens we favour and partly because its just too immensely beautiful and the panorama too magnificent to capture in 2d :)

  2. Karishma kalro says

    I’m a banglore’an since 26 years and have visited ooty and conoor a dozen times but never heard of this place. It’s been almost 10 months now that I have shifted to coimbatore which is just 2 hours away from conoor and have heard loads about acres wild farm stay! I’m so excited to go and take their cheese course now !

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