Saturday, September 18, 2010

Forays in Cheese Making

Something I've always wanted to spend more time studying is cheese making. I dream of taking a course or interning on an idyllic farm somewhere. Like that will happen...but it's on the list.

Through the years I've experimented with a few easy cheeses. Creme fraiche, quark and different types of ricotta. Seeing milk become cheese before my eyes never ceases to amaze me.

Ricotta is a simple process requiring no special starters and minimal equipment. Most important is the thermometer. Taylor makes a wonderful oil/candy thermometer that I really like to use for just this purpose. It's large, easy to read and clips firmly to the side of a pan. A heavy saucepan, colander and cheese cloth or butter muslin are the only other tools.

Once the milk has reached the proper temperature an acid is added. Through trial and error, I've discovered vinegar is preferred over citrus. When I've used citrus juice, I've had mixed results. Recently, and I don't remember where, I heard (or was it read?) the acidity level of citrus varies by season. Interesting, no? I now always use vinegar and have great results.

Add the acid to the milk with a gentle up and down motion to thoroughly incorporate it. Once carefully mixed there should be a clear separation of curds and whey as in the picture below.

Carefully ladle the curds into a cheesecloth or butter muslin lined colander and allow the whey drain. I prefer to use butter muslin. It's very finely woven and such good quality, I wash it with kitchen linens and reuse it.

The leftover whey is a favorite in the Yellow Hen House.

After a bit of draining, gather the cheesecloth and hang it to drain. and drain to your preferred texture.

There are many lessons to be learned in cheese making - even in simple ones made in the home kitchen. I look forward to sharing my many trials and (hopefully) few errors as I expand my knowledge. Using unpasteurized cow milk, goat milk and starters are but a few of my aspirations. All of this I hope to share here.

Back to what's important. How do you best enjoy this homemade cheese? The answers are many.

But in late summer, garden tomatoes, basil, garlic and a splash of grassy olive oil on a round of fresh crusty bread is heavenly.

What more is there to say but stay tuned!

1 comment:

Georgine said...

So, what do you do with the whey? This looks good. I still remember the farmers cheese you made for the market. YUM!