It’s common knowledge to those with foreign palates that good cheese is hard to come by in Korea. While many expats pine for the supermarkets and specialty stores back home where cheese was plentiful and crackers always had the luxury of being adorned with a tasty accoutrement, we have sadly grown accustomed to our current cheese-less lifestyle. Gone are the days where we could frolic amongst the Brie, Parmesan or Gouda as freely as we pleased. In these dark times, many of us have given up hope.
But one expat, particularly outraged and utterly disheartened by this nonsense, has decided to take matters into his own hands. Doug Huffer is an American living in the countryside in Gyeongju, and he has his very own goat cheese farm.
It all started about five years ago. Huffer lived near cow dairies and would buy milk from one of the farmers, but he missed the variety of cheese from back home. After doing some research he started to make his own cheese from the cow milk. Then, three years ago, he parlayed his newfound knowledge into some land and a few goats and, just like that, Waeg Farm was born. “I chose to raise goats over cows because they’re easier to handle and, to put it simply, just plain cuter!”
The process, he says, is easy. He heats the milk to 63 degrees Celsius, lets it pasteurize for 30 minutes, cools it to 32 degrees Celsius and adds culture. After an hour, in goes the rennet — which coagulates the milk and creates curds — and then anywhere from 12 to 24 hours later he places the curds into molds and lets them drain for a full day.
He says he’s still learning: “Seasonal changes and weather greatly affect the milk, so everything has to be monitored and adjusted accordingly.” These skills take a long time to acquire, especially considering the effect that just a few tweaks can have; slight differences in the draining, heating, pressing, or cutting of the curds can lead to a completely different product. Doug’s current super-fresh recipe tastes similar to cream cheese, but it’s less sweet and a bit tarter in flavor.
It’s a small operation — just one buck, one wether (a non-breeding male), five does, five kids and three newborns — but they’re able to make a couple batches of cheese a week, with the busy season being from spring to late fall. He hasn’t made goat’s milk available for sale yet, but yogurt will soon be added to the menu. In the next few years he hopes to have aged cheeses as well. “They’re stronger in flavor (which is good), but I’d have to build cheese caves for aging,” he says.
If you’re curious to try some of Waeg Farm’s cheese, you don’t have to trek all the way to Gyeongju; they’ll deliver it overnight to any doorstep in mainland Korea, though visitors are always welcome on the farm. There you might get to milk a goat or go on a goat-cart ride, or or you could even volunteer your services and get some hands-on farming experience in the countryside. But if ordering online is more your style, you may also find tomatillos, one of five varieties of heirloom tomatoes, some hot habanero peppers, green beans, sweet corn, artichokes or even a fiery Trinidad scorpion (a pepper, not a bug) included with your order. Huffer likes to add these delicacies as a bonus for his customers.