Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cheese


Des got me a cheese making kit for Father's Day, and we just got around to making some cheese from it. The process is slightly less arcane than it sounds, as the kind of cheese we made - mozzarella - is the second-simplest cheese in the world (ricotta is #1 by my estimation). For those curious about the steps, they are:
  1. Heat milk with a tiny amount of citric acid to 88F.
  2. Add a tiny amount of a natural enzyme, rennet, to the warm milk.
  3. The rennet performs a minor chemical transmogrification, gelling the milk into something that resembles a loose custard. You wait a few minutes while this occurs.
  4. The custard is just milk solids suspended in a yellow fluid called whey. You drain off as much of the whey as you can. This is tricky but it turns out a simple wire strainer (and some patience) works great.
  5. You now have a big bowl of ricotta. You could stop here, but if you want mozzarella, you heat the results in a 185F water bath. You dunk chunks of the prenatal cheese in the water, getting it hot enough to melt. Then you knead the hot cheese, developing the texture and forcing out the remaining liquid.
  6. Put the cheese in ice water to cool. This is important if you want the cheese to maintain its shape.
There isn't much to it, but I will say that we probably won't be making all of our own cheeses in the near future. For one, it's a messy chore, consuming several pots, bowls and spoons very quickly. It also takes a fair amount of time; it was about 1/2 hour for our first try. Finally, a gallon of milk, which weighs about seven pounds, turns into a despair-inducing 3/4 pound of cheese. I'm sure the math is the same for cheese makers all over the world, but organic milk ain't cheap and watching most of it go down the drain is disconcerting. Mozzarella has a very high water content, so I'm interested to see what tiny percentage of milk is kept in harder cheeses like cheddar.

Our next stop is ricotta. We've already been there, but more as a rest stop on the way to its more advanced sibling. I'm willing to try other cheeses if anyone is particularly interested in other varieties.

4 comments:

Greg said...

Transmogrification!

morrisonbaby said...

I've never tried making cheese at home, but I did make it in one of my food science classes in college. And I worked at a cheese factory for a few months after college (I didn't do any cheese making there though).

Cheese is the reason there's a whey industry. Pretty much every cheese plant also makes dried whey, to make some money off the byproduct. And now so many things use whey protein as an ingredient, it’s more of a commodity itself.

Okay, I think that's a long enough comment....

Jeanette

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Paul: I'm impressed with your cheese and mushrooms both (less so with the bubbly water, but I'll wait for you to prove me wrong).

On what to do with the whey, here's what that book I mentioned, "The Country Gourmet," by Sherrill and Gil Roth counsels: use it to cook pasta; use it instead of water in bread recipes; feed it to your pets (let them drink it or moisten dry food with it); dilute it with water use for watering houseplants--maybe you could make super-techno bubbly whey in your electric watering can?

So, that's what they say. The book overall is one of our old standards, a local-seasonal tome before that was all the rage.

Cheers~ Brett

Dreama said...

Interesting to know.