Cheesemaking!

Yesterday I had a great food day:

  • I helped Zack with his first CSA distribution for Red Fire Farm in Jamaica Plain.  The produce is gorgeous, and it was great to see so many people excited about lovely, local, sustainable food.  Cannot wait until Friday!
  • I took a beginner’s cheese-making class at Brookline Adult Educationwith with my good friend Stephanie.

The class took place in the Brookline Highschool teaching kitchen.

Teaching Kitchen and fellow intrepid cheese-makers.

The teacher of the class, John Thompson, lead us through making mozzarella and ricotta within the three hours of our class, with a recipe pamphlet and hands on guidance (we all needed it). In the end most of us were successful and went away with delish homemade cheese.  I am totally stoked about making my own cheese from local raw milk.  Here are the recipes and pictures for these easy cheeses (the recipe’s are based off of Ricki Carroll “Cheese Queen” book “Home Cheese Making“)

Mozzarella:

1 gallon whole milk (not ultrapasturized- often organic milks are)

1 1/2 tsp citric acid

1/4 rennet tablet

big pot

thermometer (read at least 80-120F range)

cheese spoon

colander

microwave friendly bowl

patience

stove

1.  Put a gallon of milk in a big pot.

2.  Dissolve 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid in 1/2 cup water.

3.  Add the dissolved citric acid to the cold milk.

4.  Heat the milk slowly to 88-90F.  (be careful- if you overheat the milk, the curds will not clump nicely and will refuse to meld together)

5.  Dissolve 1/4 tablet of rennet in 1/ cup of water.

6.  Add rennet to the hot milk solution.

7.  Use the cheese spoon to gently mix the milk solution for 30 seconds.  No over stirring, you want the proteins of the whey to get all clumpy and tangled to each other.

8.  Turn heat to low and let set for 3-5 minutes.  At this point a reasonably firm curd should form.

9.  Keep the temperature of the solution between 100-105F. Make sure to measure the liquid part and the whole way down to the bottom of the pot to get an accurate temperature reading.  Don’t let it get too hot!

10.  Now use a knife to cut 1 inch squares in the curd (from surface to bottom of solution).

Some biochemical explanation: The citric acid and heat are there to denature the proteins in the milk, leading them to precipitate out of solution. The rennet catalyzes the coagulation (firming up) of the curd.  This gives rise to the curds (precipitated protein) and whey (leftover liquid of the rest of the milk).  You can see this in the picture.  The curds are this flaky white globby stuff floating in the yellowish liquidy whey.

Curds and whey, thick enough to cut.

11.  Maintain the temp between 100-105 for 5 minutes.  Stir a tad- if even that.

12.  Transfer curd to a colander or bowl, using a slotted cheese spoon.

Curds draining in colander.

13.  Keep the whey for making ricotta!

Yellowish whey with residual fine curds.

14.  Allow the curds to drain- lots of whey needs to come out of it.  Let is set in the colander and then move it around a little bit (gently) to allow whey to come out of various crevices in the curd.

15.  The curd should be getting firmer.  Keep draining the whey from the curd.  *Gently* press the curd to aid whey runoff.   At this time, you will need the patience ingredient to lovingly drain the whey from the curd without smooshing the curd.

16. Once your curd stops draining whey, put it into a big microwaveable bowl and microwave fro 1 minute on high.

17.  Once again, drain off whey.  It should be still coming out of your curds.  Wait…. yeah there’s still whey draining, pour that off.

18.  Microwave it again.

19.  Drain the whey.  Let it set.

20.  Repeat carefully, try not to make your curds too hot (steaming) at this point.

21.  Once your curds are not draining off any whey and seem to be drier- it is time!

22.  Microwave it 30 seconds, then knead it like bread (put some muscle into it).  It should begin to get plasticky.  If it breaks up and doesn’t behave like play-dough, it is either not hot enough or it still has too much watery whey in it.

23.  Knead it and then heat it up to about 135F in the microwave (it should be really hot to handle!)

24.  Knead it again and it should begin to be smooth, supple, and slightly shiny (the shiny part seemed variable for everyone).  The way you can tell that it is just right is if you can stretch it like taffy and it doesn’t break too easily.  Once it’s there, mold it into whatever shape you want- if it becomes less malleable, heat it up again so you can mold it how you like.

Mozarella in the final stages of kneading.

25.  And there you have it- homemade mozzarella! You can eat it!

Ricotta:

Two gallons of whey (leftover from two mozzarella batches- we pooled ours in class)

1 tsp citric acid

big pot

slotted cheese spoon

cheese cloth

stove

thermometer (in the range of 150-200)

1.  Heat the 2 gallons of whey to 200F.

2.  Dissolve 1 tsp citric acid in 1/2 cup water.

3.  Add the citric acid to the whey and stir briefly.

4.  Let the whey stand at 200F for 10-15 minutes.  Just cover the pot.

5.  Put cheesecloth in a collander and pour out the whey mixture into the cheesecloth, to strain the ricotta from the residual whey.

6.  At this point I think you rinse the ricotta to get rid of residual whey (will leave a flavor) and the citric acid tart. We didn’t do this and ended up with delicious tart ricotta.

Ricotta strained from the whey.

Biochemical explanation:  After the mozzarella making there were still dissolved proteins is the whey.  We put the pH even higher with more citric acid and the temperature even higher to denature and precipitate those proteins.  Then we just strained them out of the residual whey.

Homemade cheese snack!

So, when I got home, I was starving from my very eventful day, and dug into my homemade cheese. Theresa and I sampled both the mozzarella and ricotta on some crackers with our homemade marmalade.  It was surprisingly fresh tasting and really good. Yum!  I am revved up and going to invest in a cheese making book and endeavor into making my own cheese from local milk, sometime in the near future. I will keep you posted.

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