Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the fine art of cheesemaking

"...most people find the idea of making cheese at home to be preposterous.  If the delivery guy happens to come to the door when I'm cutting and draining curd, I feel like a Wiccan."
Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

This weekend, I really understood how Barbara felt.  It wasn't the delivery guy at the door, but a new neighbor.  And we actually hadn't started the real cheesemaking yet, but were just pasteurizing the milk.  Steve stepped out on the porch to talk to him, which I thought was a good move.  Wouldn't want his first impression of us to be too.... accurate. 

We ordered this kit from Ricki, the cheese queen (what? you didn't realize there was a cheese queen?), at the suggestion of Barbara Kingsolver herself.  Her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, was pretty life-changing for Steve and I as far as our eating habits.  We love making our own food, so making cheese from scratch sounded super fun. 

 And, I am pleased to report that it was super fun.  First, we bought raw, unpasteurized milk.  We found it at a little shop in South Carolina that sells lots of local foods.  We pasteurized the milk ourselves on the stove.  Most store bought milk is pasteurized at a temperature that is so high it kills all the stuff you would want for cheesemaking, so we pasteurized our own at a slightly lower temperature. 

We added rennet and citric acid and brought the whole thing to just the right temperature for curds.  Then we let the curds set up for a few minutes, and then cut them and stirred and heated some more. 

The next step is to separate the curds from the whey in a colander.  We poured our whey down the sink this time, but I read that you can use it to make some things, like bread.  Next time I'll probably try it because I felt bad having so much waste.  

Note: the curds are not cute and they smell like baby spit-up. 

The next part is the most fun- you heat the curds and then pull and stretch them like taffy.  Then you work in the salt or herbs or whatever you like and form the cheese into its final shape.  I don't think that our curds were hot enough when we started this step, so we had to form them very quickly, so we just made balls.  Next time, I would like to try a braid, or tiny balls that I could marinate. 

Because the curds cooled off so fast, our final cheese was not as smooth as it should have been.  BUT, it tastes just like mozzarella cheese!  How exciting!  We are going to try again very soon to hone our skills. 

Steve got an email at work last week from someone who wanted to interview him for a staff newsletter because she had "heard that he was interested in the fine art of cheesemaking."  Apparently if you make your own cheese, word gets around. 

Tomorrow I'll be sharing pictures of the new bag I've been working on, as well as our freshly painted dining room.  Today, I am making chicken stock for a few last pots of soup before it gets too warm.  Sigh.  I love the spring, but I miss the soup. 

Happy Tuesday!

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I leave town for a few days and the dining room is painted and you make homemade cheese!?!



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