Sunday, November 14

Cheese-making adventure

Oh goodness, I must say that Jill and I (and Pat and Catherine) started a great food adventure this morning. Recently, the four of us (and more of our friends too) have been looking into home cheese-making. Jill initially brought up the idea for making homemade cheese, after reading about it in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Over a cup of coffee a few years back, I had found out that a good friend of mine, Trevor, was a cheesemaker. When Jill brought up the idea of cheese-making, I started first by chatting with Trevor and asking him to share his knowledge in the artisan craft. Trevor not only shared with me his cheese-making equiptment, but he also referred me to a fellow cheese maker, Steve Shapson. Though I had been meaning to get in touch with Steve, classes and such prevented me from doing so.

Then, about two weeks ago, Pat, Jill, Catherine and myself (again, with several other dear friends) attended the Milwaukee Mushroom Growers meeting, in Bay View. At the meeting, Catherine happened to be sitting next to none other than Steve the cheesemaker. Steve shared his contact information with Catherine, who then later mentioned that she had met a cheesemaker. An uncanny encounter, to say the least, has led us to our current adventure: 

This morning, the four of us along with two of Catherine's friends, ventured north to Steve's home. He then brought us to his friend's dairy farm. This was the most delightful surprise, as we were able to buy our milk directly from the farmers (Harold and his son). It was so fresh, that it was still warm! The group of us enjoyed raw, fresh milk: like nothing I had ever tasted before. It was something similar to melted ice cream with a different kind of sweet. 
Harold and his cows

There is something so wholesome about making your own cheese, but even more so when you are making it with farm-fresh milk, and with the guidance of a cheese enthusiast. How blessed am I to have been able to have both of these elements in my premier cheese-making experience. Steve shared with us many tips on how to make our cheeses, and also generously shared the appropriate supplies necessary to prepare mozzarella and ricotta. Needless to say, the afternoon has been filled with plenty of cheese-making. Also, with the remainder of our raw milk, we pasteurized it in order to be able to safely enjoy our farm fresh milk for longer. 
Catherine and Jill collecting fresh milk for cheese making
Here are our recipes:
3 teaspoons of citric acid
1 cup plus 1/2 cup of cool water
2 gallons of raw, farm-fresh milk
1/4 teaspoon of sharp lipase powder
1/2 teaspoon of rennet (we used vegetable rennet)

1. Dissolve the citric acid in the 1 cup of cool water. Also, dissolve the lipase With the milk at 55 degrees, add the citric acid solution and mix well. 

2. Heat the milk to 90 degrees over medium to low heat. At this temperature, the milk will begin to curdle. 

3. Gently add the rennet solution. Using a large spoon, stir with an up-and-down motion. Continue to heat the milk until it is between 100 degrees and 105 degrees. Then, remove from heat. At this point, the curds should be able to be easily separated from the whey. 

4. If the whey is clear, you are ready to remove the curds from the whey. However, if the whey is still creamy, allow the curds to set for a few more minutes. When ready, scoop out the curds with a strainer, and place into a microwaveable bowl. Using your hands, press out any excess whey from the curds. Reserve the whey! This is what is used to make ricotta. 

5. Microwave the curds on high for 30 seconds. Then, again use your hands to press out excess whey. Repeat this two or three more times. Sprinkle with salt and gently knead the curds, as you would with bread dough. 

6. Begin to pull the cheese. If the cheese is not pulling well, reheat it again in the microwave. Repeat this until the cheese pulls like taffy. When the cheese is at your desired consistency, you are all set! You can either enjoy your mozzarella warm and fresh, or you can store it in the refrigerator. To store them, place the curds in a bowl of ice water for about a half hour. Then, after a half hour or so, replace the water with a salt water solution (brine). Enjoy! 
Pat pulling the mozzarella (enthusiastically!)
Whey (left over from mozzarella; use within 3 hours after making mozzarella)
1/2 teaspoon of citric acid or 1/4 cup of white vinegar per gallon of whey

1. Warm whey until it is foamy on top, right before boiling (about 190 degrees). DO NOT BOIL. Add citric acid or white vinegar. Remove from heat and allow to set for 15 minutes. 

2. Pour through a cheese cloth and reserve excess whey. Allow to strain for 15 minutes. 

Note: if you are using whey left over from mozzarella, you will not yield a whole ton of ricotta. But what you do yield, surely is a treat! 

Ta-da! Ricotta! "Ricotta" translates literally from Italian to mean "cooked twice". Since the whey is reserved from the mozzarella process, it is re-cooked for you. So simple, and so logical. The excess whey from this process can also be used: simply use in a soup base, or to cook your rice in. There is plenty of healthy proteins left in the whey and it would be silly for that to go to waste. I used my excess whey from the ricotta to make a delicious little "rice pudding". I just covered the bottom of an oven proof dish with uncooked rice. Then, I covered this with about twice as much whey-liquid, and added raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon. I then baked it at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes. Add extra liquid if necessary. So tasty and so nutritious (for you and the planet). 
Pasteurized Milk
Raw Milk
A digital thermometer
A double boiler
Plenty of ice

1. Place a smaller pan inside of a larger pan and fill the larger pan with water so the water level is equal to the liquid level in the inner pan. The inner pan will hold the raw milk. 

2. Over medium-high heat, bring the milk to 145 degrees and maintain this temperature for 30 minutes. Stir regularly to ensure the milk is being heated evenly. 

3. After 30 minutes, remove from heat and place the inner pan in a sink full of ice and cold water. Bring the temperature down to 40 degrees. At this time, place the pasteurized milk into containers and keep refrigerated. 
Pasteurization helps to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk. Though raw milk is a delightful treat and likely not to cause problems, it needs to be consumed within 48 hours of being milked from the cows. In our attempt to reduce our food waste, pasteurization seemed to be the best option (as the three of us won't be drinking a gallon of milk in the next 48 hours...).

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