Taking a break from cycling I found a ranch to work at for a week, Rancho Emilio’s. Their main work is the production of cheese, mozzarella, and yoghurt drinks. They also have horses they sell and use for work, as well as sheep, alpacas, donkeys, dogs, cats, pigs, and chickens. The farm is also a hosteria (hostel), there is a separate house with around six rooms, each with private bathroom and wifi, in which I could stay. On my first day at the farm the owner Pablo had gone to a festival in Riobamba and I helped Diego make cheese (queso fresco and mozzarella). He said the milk would come at 7.30 and somehow I expected a big truck loaded with milk like I remember them driving around collecting and delivering milk in Europe. Suddenly five donkeys turned up, each one of them loaded with canisters full of milk. The milk is poured into a big pot and then heated up to 90 degrees, then cooled down to 70 to add calcium (as a bunch has been destroyed by the heat) and at 65 enzymes are added that separate cheese and yellow liquid. We would drain it as much as possible and then pour it into cheese containers. After turning the containers once, a plastic was put in to give the cheese a nice texture. They were then weighed down to drain and consequently put into salt water for a bit, then left in fridges till the next day to dry and finally packed up to be sold. We also made mozzarella, which is only heated up to around 40 degrees for 3 hours or more and then kneaded in hot water to be rolled up into balls. About twice a week, yogurt is made. They call it yoghurt but it’s more like a yoghurt drink, the yoghurt as we know it is rather hard to come by here. making yoghurt is the worst but also the best, because it takes almost the whole day (waiting for many hours as it has to cool down after heating up the milk, and adding things at different stages) but you get to try some in the end (yummm). Interestingly only two or three flavours are produced. Diego says people don’t like to try new stuff, their favourite is strawberry and next comes peach. Now and then they make raspberry, too. They tried Guanávana (soursop) and pineapple before but it didn’t sell well.
When Pablo first took me out into the next town to sell the products I envisioned him with a stall waiting for people to come and buy. Things work differently here and so what happens is that local producers go right to shops and sell their products for cash.
I had a good time at the farm, learning how to make cheese and how things work in a small production in Ecuador. Thanks for the opportunity, Pablo.
Making queso fresco
Making yoghurt drinks