Traditionally, Latvia is not considered a country of cheese, but … history shows that cheese was made here a long time ago, and we have enough admirers of this wonderful product. And what could be better than delicious cheese with amazing white or red wine? Is that the cheese that you invented yourself, using your own special technology. Is that possible? Quite! – assures the Soira team, believing that everyone can become a cheese maker!
We will tell you about the founder of Soira LLC Inge Arina-Vilna and a short history of the creation of the company, which recently celebrated its second birthday.
How a hobby becomes a favorite thing in life
Inga studied medicine. She worked in the field of public relations for 10 years. And then her hobby – making cheese – turned into a business. In just a few years of hard work, Inga, who has never been associated with the production of food, has become a successful entrepreneur and a significant expert in cheese science in Latvia!
Now she, together with Ilona Lipa, not only makes cheese, which is recognized by the best restaurants, but also willingly shares her knowledge with everyone, and also organizes master classes for all cheese lovers who are interested in learning how to make such products themselves that they personally like … Is not that great?!
The cheese workshop is small and consists of two rooms: a shop and a kitchen, between which there is a window. Therefore, any client can see how the cheese is made. This building used to be a shop selling hunting and fishing accessories.
How the exchange helped the entrepreneur
So, Inga was a PR specialist for 10 years, and she liked this job. During the crisis, she found herself in the ranks of the unemployed for a very short time and, thanks to the labor exchange, found herself in courses on developing business plans. Soon, together with her friend, our heroine developed a business plan for master classes in cheese making and received funding in the amount of 2000 lats. “It seemed to me that the main visitors to our master classes are active townspeople and hardly villagers, because they already know how to make cheese, they will be bored with us. But after the announcement of the master class, all our performances turned from head to foot – the villagers are coming to us! And the best thing is that they continue to cook this cheese! ”
At the beginning of August 2013 in Adazi on the street. Muizas, 5, was opened by a new company Soira Ltd., which is engaged in the production of semi-hard, hard and moldy cheeses. The latter were not very well known in Latvia, but they definitely deserve attention, therefore Soira Ltd. has also started to popularize this species in Latvia.
Today, cheese from the Soira company can be bought both in Adazi and at various markets. “We are a little limited by the status of a home manufacturer,” says Inga. – To be honest, we do not know how to produce so much to enter a large market. In addition, we make cheeses that take a long time to cook, so there is not enough cheese yet. ”
By the way, the Vincents restaurant, revered by gourmets of Northern Europe, became the first corporate client, and this is truly an achievement! The exquisite cuisine of the Vincents chef Martins Ritins was appreciated by such outstanding personalities and subtle connoisseurs as the Emperor of Japan, Prince Charles, Elton John, Angela Merkel, George Bush, Heston Blumenthal and many others.
… And the world learned about Soira products! Now among their clients are many chic restaurants in Riga: Vincents, Bibliotēka No. 1, Elements, Burkāns, Trīs pavāru restorāns and others. Inga is glad that these places are supported not only by word, but also by deed – by ordering products from local producers.
Most recently, Soira cheeses received the first awards in Lithuania. Of the three cheeses that participated in the competition, two were awarded recognition: the cheeses of the feta and brie groups.
They experiment a lot and tasty here. And all experiments, step by step, are recorded in a black notebook. “If someone wants to know all our secrets, he just needs to steal our black notebook! I have no idea what to do if one day we lost her! ” – shares intimate Inga.
Soira cheese cellars
One of the positives is that you won’t find plastic bags here. The cheeses are wrapped in wax paper. Much to the disappointment of many marketers, there are no posters or other paper advertisements here, because the philosophy of Soira is this: do not hurt anyone, you will not feel bad either. Therefore, nature (and paper!) Must be protected!
Work on quality
The main thing is the product. If it is unique, if it is the best, then it will survive without advertising. PR is just a tool, not a panacea and the only way to reach the hearts of customers. Market conditions dictate the fashion for the concept of “all for the sake of greater profit here and now”, but it is almost impossible to stay afloat for a long time. The only sure way, according to Inga, is to work hard on quality. Their micro-enterprise does not produce substandard products. All products are their pride. There are no pass-through options, “semi-good”, “normal” cheeses. There are only those who really, really like themselves. But Inga is especially proud of two types of them. These are Gauja (similar to the Italian Toleggio) and Adažu tornis (a special technology was developed specifically for the variety!) – the creator considers them to be completely special among others, although they turned out by chance, and no one pored over them for a long time.
Seasonal preferences of Latvians
By the way, Inga noticed that Latvians’ preferences for cheese change every season. In the spring-summer period, when a lot of fresh vegetables appear, people like to eat very light soft cheeses more. And in autumn and winter, they gravitate towards hard, and therefore, more saturated taste.
A little about technology
The enterprise produces about 20 types of cheese. It is believed that about seven to eight of them will remain in stock. The most difficult thing in cheese production is to provide certain climatic conditions. For example, for soft cheeses with mold, the room should be from 23 to 26 degrees (although this is not mentioned in the recipe book, this necessary condition was reached empirically!). The company receives a lot of advice on cheese making from enthusiasts from all over the world who are not stingy to share their secrets on cheese forums. But local producers, when they find out that they themselves produce cheeses, become silent and close down – competitors come! There are, however, exceptions – and with these companies Soira is happy to exchange recipes.
They make the cheese they like. It is produced in very small volumes and from natural products. This is a French school. Inga has been to France and was impressed with how delicious cheeses are made there! And I wanted to repeat …
There are two ancient ways to protect / preserve cheese: by waxing, which is most typical in Holland, or by allowing the crust to form naturally and then treating it with salt water, alcohol or oil. Each type of cheese has its own processing products. Soira most often uses salt water and oil. Originally olive oil was used, but now, whenever possible, they try to take the products from local oil producers.
How to make cheese at home?
Nowadays all over the world we are experiencing an unprecedented boom of a wide variety of hobbies – there are just a huge number of them! But the most popular and valuable in the eyes of millions of people were won by those areas where you can independently create something with your own hands: the production of products, interior furnishings, the creation of your own textiles.
The Soira team can state with full responsibility that cheese production is a really interesting process! Plus, making delicious cheese isn’t nearly as prohibitively expensive as one might think! Not at all! At home, you can and should try to cook: mozzarella, feta cheese, hawarty, cream cheeses, goudou, colby, Dutch type cheeses, Camembert and brie, hard cheeses – Caerphilly, Tomme and many others.
What needs to be considered in this case?
Top 8 tips from Inga
1. It is preferable to use fresh natural milk purchased from small farms. But for the first experiments, ordinary milk in bags will also do – the main thing is that it is not ultra-pasteurized. (Here, in parentheses, we note that if the choice falls on milk from private traders, then it would be good to know how often they carry their products for inspections; if bacteria or, for example, yeast are in the milk, the cheese will deflate and will not cook, you just throw it away).
2. To see how the process is going, you can first try the most aggressive method – heat the milk to a temperature of 90 degrees and add acid to the resulting mass. This is how the so-called rural fresh cheese is made – the resulting mass is similar to cheese, and while it is soft, spices, salt, nuts and even dried fruits are added there, because this mass itself has neither taste nor consistency.
3. Cheese production is a lengthy process. Soft cheeses take 6-7 hours to make, so be patient! And hard cheeses must also be aged for at least six months. Plus, all cheeses have their own nuances of preparation. For example, it is not so easy for beginners to make mozzarella right away – you need to pull it in a special way in hot water.
4. Make a synopsis in which to write down all your experiments.
5. Study the microbiology of milk. If it is understood, it is easier to make cheese.
6. Of course, you cannot do without ferments – therefore, you should buy special bacteria (they are sold on the Internet in the form of a dry powder, you can store them in the refrigerator at home).
7.32 degrees is the temperature at which milk is fermented, aged and frozen powder is added. The milk is jelly-made, cut into pieces and specially processed to produce real cheese grains.
8. The paradox – beginners usually get cheese, but after six months of practice, the first mistakes appear, and new-found cheese makers start asking questions: “Why does my cheese crack / dry / sour / without holes, although they should be?”