Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cheese Making

I haven't read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (although I checked it out from the library for the third time last week. Hopefully I'll get it read this time!), but since I made my first batch of cheese about a month ago, everyone has mentioned the cheese making in the book. Can't wait to get to that part!

I had heard about the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll (who incidentally taught Barbara Kingsolver and family how to make cheese) and ordered a copy to investigate. Quickly after receiving the book, I ordered some supplies from the author's internet store New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. The supplies for making mozzarella aren't fancy. All you need to order is citric acid and liquid rennet, and the store sells a mozzarella kit. I didn't get the kit, because I knew I was going to experiment with other cheeses as well.
When my sister-in-law was here last month, I told her about my cheese making plans, and we took our first stab at cheese making together (Kate is helping Auntie C in the photo). It was so much fun and so good! And did I mention how easy? It took less than 30 min from start to finish. Even if you have no plans for taking up cheese making as a hobby, you should definitely at least try fresh mozzarella. If you want the full recipe, you can find it here.

First we poured a gallon of milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized - we used cream line milk from the natural grocery store) into a large pot and slowly heated it to 55 degrees. Then we added a citric acid solution (1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water). We kept the milk on the stove until it reached 90 degrees. At that point we added 1/4 tsp liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup water and continued to heat the milk until it reached 100-105 degrees. Almost like magic, the milk started to really separate. It was really exciting and fun to see the process working.
I never really understood the concept of curds and whey, but I do after making cheese. The curds looked like thick yogurt and definitely separated from the liquid whey (see in the photo on the left?). We scooped the curds out with a slotted spoon and put them in a glass bowl (that's both of us scooping out the curds in the photo to the right). We then microwaved the curds several times, draining the excess whey and kneading with a spoon each time. After the last time in the microwave, we salted the cheese and kneaded it until it was smooth and stretched like taffy.

We rolled the cheese into little balls, ate half of them warm (oh-my-goodness -YUM!), set a few in bowl of ice water to cool them rapidly, and sliced the cooled cheese up for our dinner salad.

I'll share some of my other cheese making adventures as I experiment. I'm starting with simple soft cheeses and would like to someday try a hard cheese. I've already suggested to Matt that he build me a cheese cave. Like most of my other endeavors, he just laughs, rolls his eyes, and enjoys the fruits (or cheeses!) of my labors.


Penny said...

how fun! I must try and make some paneer which is an Indian soft cheese. Mozzrella does sound good though.

Dawn said...

I'm so impressed! I've been wanting to make cheese after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ;) One of my favorite tastes of summer is a plate of fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes drizzled with oil and vinegar...yum!

Astarte said...

YUM!!! I'm totally going to try this, maybe once the kids are in school so I can do trial-and-error in peace.

Jennifer said...

HI. I been eagerly awaiting this post, and must I say, it was well worth the wait! Amazing.
The process is alot like Paneer making, but I don't need to take the temperature and adding vinegar or lemon juice to separate the curds is enough.
Paneer recipe here-
Paneer photos here!

MamaBird said...

Wow, that looks delicious (the entire salad). I read Kingsolver's book and have been wanting to make cheese ever since. Thanks for the links and the how-to -- and looking fwd to your other cheesemaking adventures.

ames said...

Homemade Insalata Caprese! You have officially won my heart, I must go make cheese right now, looks like fun!

Barbara's book is on my list, and I think that cheese making book may be the exact one I got my dad for Christmas a few years back. He said it was a good one, I may have to check it out for myself now too :)

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