Monday, October 13, 2008
I don't drink a lot of milk, due in large part to a lapse in consumption when I was about 9. Prior to that, I could down a few glasses of cold, nonfat milk like it was going out of style. But I was also sick a lot as a kid. One summer, my mom took me to the regional hospital for several tests to see if we could figure things out. One thing the various doctors tried was to take me off milk for six months, thinking I may be allergic to dairy products. They eventually decided that the dairy was not to blame and said I could start drinking milk again. We went straight to a Mexican restaurant that evening, and I ordered cheese enchiladas and a large milk. Talk about getting sick! Needless to say, I never became a milk fan again.
R and I do drink soy milk, and we keep organic milk in the house for the kids, which is running $3.75+ a half gallon. So when everyone remarks about the astronomical rise in grocery costs, I'm nodding my head in agreement. And it seems the big ticket items on our grocery receipts are always cheese and milk, often totaling about $15 of our weekly $45-50 bill. Luckily, when I checked the recipe for making cheese, it specifically warned that the process would not work with "ultra pasteurized" milk, like our organic stuff. Who knew regular milk was so cheap? A gallon of good ol' fashioned milk is about $2.70. So I picked up a gallon of the cheap, pasteurized, non-organic milk and we were ready to rock.
I don't think I did everything exactly right, because my curds never set up well, but the end result was good. I am going to keep working at it, and make some ricotta as well (I've a hankering for ricotta gnocchi) so I'll keep you updated.
The process is pretty easy.
Add citric acid to milk, heat the milk to 90 degrees.
Add vegetable rennet, stir, and let sit on low, or off the heat for about 5 minutes. After the curds have separated and set at the top, cut through them with a knife, and spoon the curds out of the whey with a slotted spoon into a microwaveable bowl.
Drain off any excess whey and microwave for 30 seconds.
Drain whey and knead until the cheese cools. Heat again, drain, and knead.
Once it reaches about 135 degrees, it's ready to knead on the counter. Pull it and knead it like it's taffy. Finally, stretch it out and knead it into a tight, shiny ball, and plunge it into an ice bath until it cools. It's ready to use once it's cool, or you can wrap the cheese in plastic and keep it in the fridge.
You can use the leftover whey to make ricotta, which I attempted to do, but you are supposed to not handle the whey too much, and I had already drained and strained the heck out of it because my curds had not set well enough to spoon out of the pot completely. The ricotta attempt failed, but I think next time, I'll add a touch more rennett and leave on the heat for a bit longer than 5 minutes after the curds begin to set. Trial and error.
I got all my supplies for the 30 minute Mozzarella Kit as a gift from my wife for my 30th birthday earlier this year (but she got it at cheesemaking.com ). I'm planning to master the mozarella and ricotta, and then maybe we'll branch into a hard cheese for fun.