The Chennai Cheesemaker Making Malagai Podi Cheese & Empowering The Differently Abled - Homegrown

The Chennai Cheesemaker Making Malagai Podi Cheese & Empowering The Differently Abled

Namrata Sundaresan’s ten day Coonoor get-away was never meant to change the trajectory of her life. During her time on the misty hill top she noticed that a family-run organic cheesemaking farm, by the name of Acres Wild, had a cheese-making course. Namrata gave in to her inner foodie and decided that learning to make artisanal cheese would be both a fun way to spend a few of her days in the hill station as well as a nifty skill for the kitchen.

Although starting a cheese shop was not even a remote thought at the time, she quickly picked up how to make Feta, Mozzarella and Haloumi. Back in her city, Chennai, she was talking to her friend Anuradha Krishnamoorthy the founder of CAN DO, a BPO that trains differently-abled individuals on different jobs skills. Then it hit Namrata, “I’ll teach them how to make cheese!” One enthusiastic comment led to the founding of Kase (the german name for cheese) in June 2016 — a great artisanal cheese business that caters to social empowerment and your tastebuds. Namrata now employs five full-time speech impaired and/or deaf women.

The ‘Hot’ Seller

Malagai Podi Coated Cheese
Malagai Podi Coated Cheese

Käse’s ‘hot’ seller is fittingly named Ode to Chennai, an out of this world Malagai Podi coated cheese, which is a soulfully South creation that helped put Namrata’s operation on the map. “The podi is something so South Indian, I think every household has some form of it at every meal eaten at home,” says Namrata. She further adds, “I was thinking of a cheese that pays some tribute to Chennai and is quite unique at the same time and hence the Ode to Chennai! It’s a young cheddar style cheese that is encrusted with a flax seed and chilli podi by Green Peppers.” Namrata’s cheese is not restrained by archaic styles, and rather pairs high quality cheese making techniques with creative spins for the pleasure of your palate. This courage and deft execution are one of the major factors that separate Käse from other contemporary cheesemakers - unafraid of giving people something they want, but they just don’t know it yet.

More Cheese If you Please

Käse now bangs out 20 varieties of cheese, making everything from Creamy Gouda and Soft Cream Cheese to Mint Halloumi and Smoked Mozzarella. In addition to making cheese Käse also produces delectable dips, relish, salads and bread. Even though Namrata still manages most of the cheese making, the talented ladies that work at Käse are now well-versed in art of churning out high-quality cheese. With Kase’s employees satisfied with a steady job they’re great at and Chennai’s cheese fans satiated with Kase’s vast assortment of delicacies it looks like Namrata’s unexpected foray into food from finance was a blessing indeed!

Young Cheddar with Charred Mint
Young Cheddar with Charred Mint

Cheese That Tastes Better And Lasts Longer

It’s hard for Namrata to choose her favourite cheese creation, saying “every new cheese I make is an exciting experience.” As of now that means her favourite slab of cheesy goodness is tied between a Charred Mint Young Cheddar and a Ruby Feta with Blushed Beetroot and Roast Garlic. You see Namrata is no slouch when it comes to cheese, if she makes it she’s going to put her heart and soul into it, plus an arsenal of good ingredients. Moreover, some of the ingredients she adds, like charred mint, help the quality of the cheese survive unwelcoming temperatures. “Chennai is really hot and humid and I was wondering how do we help the cheese naturally rind without getting ruined.” It turns out charred mint and leaves as well as spices help prevent cheese from moulding. So not only do you get unique, artisanal cheese from Käse but it also is likely have a longer shelf life.

And as far as her best dip goes, well, she doesn’t have to choose because “ the Caramelized Onion Cream Cheese keeps on flying off the shelf.” You know what spread you want at your next wine and cheese party.

Ruby Feta (beetroot blushed and infused with roast garlic)
Ruby Feta (beetroot blushed and infused with roast garlic)

Got Milk?

A lack of grass-fed milk in the bustling city of Chennai was an issue Namrata faced early on, as she would not sacrifice the quality of her cheese nor use antibiotics in her cheese. Her strong stance on quality mirrored her will to flesh out three consistent suppliers of organic grass-fed milk with absolutely no antibiotics. Käse’s milk is also unpasteurized because its sources of milk are clean, and using unpasteurized milk gives the final product a rich taste and higher quality.

Namrata’s staunch stance on quality doesn’t end there. Although many people use animal rennet in their cheese, “an enzyme derived from the stomachs of calves, lambs or goats before they consume anything but milk (cheesemaking.com),” Namrata uses vegetable rennet obtained from a type of mold, which she explains is “higher in nutrition and adds a certain quality in the flavour.” Now don’t get squeamish, even though it is derived from mold, there is no mold contained in the final product.

If you’re wondering what rennet is used for, it is added to milk after it has be acidified, which “causes the proteins in the milk to form a curd and allows the liquid to separate and run off (cheesemaking.com).”

All this effort to provide people with delicious organic cheese is why Käse is the Indian cheese company to look out for. Consistent high quality is also why Namrata plans to gradually expand Käse instead of sending her cheese to grocers around the country right now. “We are based on being a local, artisanal, fresh and organic source of cheese and we don’t want to lose our identity. That’s why when we expand we’ll look to tie up with local cheese makers with access to grass-fed cows because we don’t want to send cheese from Chennai.” If you’re not from Chennai Käse is planning their first stage of unhurried expansion to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Coimbatore. Get ready for some out-of this-world cheese with a side of social empowerment.


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