Friday, April 30, 2010

The beginning of my journey

Let’s step back to the beginning. No, NOT “In the Beginning. . . rather, the beginning of my journey into the world of cheese making.

As I mentioned before, I have always liked to cook. In recent years, the number of TV cooking shows has exploded and there is even a cooking channel devoted to, what else, cooking. (Go figure) In one episode of “Kitchen Nightmares”, Chef Ramsey taught a kitchen crew how to make mozzarella cheese for their Italian restaurant. While they didn’t show the actual process, I figured that if they were going to make fresh mozzarella everyday, it couldn’t be that hard or take very long. SOOOO, Geek George did what most geeks do and went to the Internet and started looking for recipes/instructions for making Mozz. I quickly learned that almost all roads to home cheese making leads to one place. The Cheese Queen, Rikki Carroll. (More later) It seemed that no matter where I went to find a cheese making kit for Mozzarella on the Internet, Rikki Carroll’s name was there and her “30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit” was the recommended path for beginning cheese makers.

It didn’t take long to part with the $24.95 plus shipping and anxiously await its arrival on my doorstep. I continued to read about cheese making and paid particular attention to milk selection. I don’t have a source (yet) for farm fresh milk so I am forced to use store bought. So far I have used whole milk from Winn Dixie, Publix and Wal-Mart. Due to the volume they sell; I have found the freshest is usually at Wal-Mart. Although Public is a close second and has one of their dairy plants nearby. (update: Friday Publix milk was dated for May 12, Saturday morning at Wal-Mart the milk was dated May 19)

This was my first attempt at making any type of cheese. I have made 10 batches since I started and have gotten mixed results. The first batch was so soft that when I cut it the sides bulged out and whey formed droplets on the cheese (I didn’t drain it long enough). The second batch was more like tasteless plastic, (I drained it too long and worked it too much.). I poured two batches down the drain because the curds didn’t look like the pictures (I later learned that they would have still worked if I had put them in some cheese cloth and let them drain until they stopped dripping.)

I ordered some lipase powder and tried that for extra flavor. It works. (Just remember to use ½ tablet of rennet instead of ¼ the recipe calls for). I have been using 1/8 tsp per gal mixed into ¼ cup of unclorinated water 20 minutes before adding it to the milk just before adding the rennet.

Liquid smoke works if you like the smoky flavor in your Mozzarella. I used 1tsp per gallon of milk, stirred in just before adding the rennet. Try to find a liquid smoke without molasses or vinegar. I found one with just two ingredients: water, natural hickory smoke concentrate.

This kit does have everything you need to make Mozzarella and Ricotta except for the milk and a pot to heat the milk in. or the microwave safe bowl and microwave. Or the knife to cut the curds. Or a spoon to stir the milk. Or plastic wrap for the finished product. Or measuring cups and spoons. Or the gloves it suggests you use to stretch the mozzarella so you don’t burn your hands on the 135degree curds. Or the ice for the ice water bath at the end. I think it assumes you have a range and refrigerator because they aren’t in the box either.

The instructions included in the kit are simple and illustrated and include some recipes for using the cheese once you make it. (Unless you eat it all before it even has a chance to cool). Although it says it is a “30 Minute” recipe, using store bought milk the 5 minute curd set up time after adding the rennet has been at least 10 minutes and as long as 30 minutes using ¼ tablet of rennet. Adding the Lipase and ½ tablet of rennet, setup has been fairly consistent for me at 10 minutes. On average, it has been taking about 45-50 minutes from start to in the mouth.

Hope you have enjoyed this post. I do enjoy and am encouraged by comments if you are so inclined to do so. Also, if you would like to be notified when I update this blog, click the “follow” button and add you email to the list.

Thank you for reading.

1 comment:

  1. You Irishman, with the gift of gab. Your blog is so enjoyable to read. Informative and funny! Now I know where Katie gets her writing skills--love her blog too.
    from the Cheesy Geek's old(est) sister.