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June 2012

Food for Thought

Say Homemade Cheese!
By Lorinda

Food for Thought archive

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Strands of mozzarella cheese . . . almost ready to eat!

 

This article was supposed to chronicle my disastrous first attempts at making mozzarella cheese, and hopefully conclude with a happy ending as I finally overcame the odds to make a successful batch. So much for planning; my first attempt turned out perfectly!

I used Ricki Carroll's mozzarella cheese recipe, which I found in one of my very favorite books: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver.

Though I have serious reservations about using microwave ovens, I caved in and used ours this time for a better chance of success. I bought citric acid online (though you might try asking for it at your pharmacy or natural foods store) and picked up the liquid rennet and a gallon of pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from our local health food store. Non-homogenized milk still has its thick cream floating on the top, which is ideal for making cheese.

After gathering my courage I followed the recipe, and . . . voilà! I had a beautiful ball of chewy mozzarella cheese. When I've eaten fresh mozzarella in the past, it was always much softer than the firm rounds I usually buy, but this had the consistency of a mozzarella cheese stick, and grated like a dream.

I have to say that the recipe title "30 Minute Mozzarella" was perhaps a little optimistic. Either that or my idea of "gently" heating the milk was too conservative. But I didn't begrudge the time, because eventually the magic happened, and all those lovely fat white curds appeared in the whey. I was still worried, though, because my whey never did get clear. I tried heating it a little more. I tried letting it sit. I tried talking sweetly to it. Finally, I just scooped all the curds out and kept my fingers crossed, and was thrilled when the curds became a taffy-like rope which eventually was coaxed into a ball.

 


Mozzarella curds forming . . . a steamy process.

 


A mozzarella cheese ball . . . at last!

 

After the mozzarella was tucked into the refrigerator, I took a stab at making ricotta out of the remaining whey. After all, a gallon of milk only made 13 ounces of mozzarella. I knew that if I compared the cost of the milk to the cost of 13 ounces of organic cheese I would probably come out even, but it still didn't seem like much bang for the buck. And I really hated to waste perfectly good whey.

Now the whey was clear. I'd definitely managed to get every bit of milk fat out of it, so I gave part of it to the chickens. I foolishly discarded the rest, finding out later that it would have made a good protein drink. It also would have made a good addition to bread dough, or could have been given to my vegetable plants. Next time it will go in a jar in the refrigerator.

 


Ricotta curds are poured into a dish towel to begin the draining process.
A colander will work well, but pictured here is an old food mill purchased at an antique store.

 


Ricotta curds drain thoroughly, hanging from a cupboard.

 


Ricotta ready to eat!

 

Mozzarella and ricotta . . . Italian night at my house! I made yummy little cheesy bruschetta with some of the mozzarella, and then I stuffed pasta shells, using both cheeses. Heaven!

 


Crisp, cheesy bruschetta . . . a great way to serve your homemade cheese!

 

Thanks to my wonderful neighbor, Taylor, who has many adorable goats (see them online at Mighty Pine Acres), the next logical step was trying to make goat's milk cheese. Taylor had successfully made farm cheese before, which is a soft cheese made with goat's milk, vinegar, and salt, but she hadn't tried mozzarella, so I invited her (and her goats' milk) over for a test run. First I went to watch her milk the goats and was amused by their friendliness and cooperation. One at a time they jumped up on the milking platform, and without protest produced beautiful, white, foamy milk. Thank you, ladies!

 

 

The cheese-making process was the same using goat's milk, with one exception: it was a lot more fun to make cheese with a friend! Maybe too much so, since we talked right past the 55-degree mark where you add the citric acid and had to cool it back down. When it was finished, we ended up with a pound of mozzarella and a nice bowl of ricotta. Taylor is much more inventive than I, and added Italian seasoning, garlic, and salt to the mozzarella.

Taylor's goats are Nigerian Dwarfs, and their milk is very high in fat and protein. The goat's milk cheese was richer, more flavorful, and had a beautiful buttery color. It also produced an extra few ounces of cheese. Given a choice, I would definitely choose goat's milk over cow's milk any time.

 


Lorinda and Taylor proudly display their tasty goat cheese.

 

Oh, help me! There's no doubt where this is going. I am helplessly in love with this process and see a new addiction on the horizon. Most cheeses need special cultures added, which I will eventually purchase, but for now I can make soft cheeses. There's a particularly easy recipe for goat's milk feta cheese that I want to try. I've been lobbying (unsuccessfully) to add goats to our growing farm, so if the cheese turns out really good maybe I'll get my way. To be honest, I usually do . . . eventually.

 

Contact Lorinda at mamakinnon@aol.com

Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.

 

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