Saturday, February 12, 2011

So You want to be a Cheese Maker: Part Six

Things I bought to support my cheese making habit: Part One

Over the past year I have spent a fair amount of cash on my cheese making habit. The picture above is only a part of what I have purchased. This week I'm going through the hardware I've acquired to make cheese. Next week I'll be discussing the "consumables" and a few specialized cheese making items.
This was my first purchase as an introduction to cheese making nearly a year ago. The price at the time of this blog post is $24.95 with shipping an additional $10.60 for shipping to Florida. CONTENTS: Dairy Thermometer (E3), Butter Muslin (U2), Citric Acid (C13), Vegetable Rennet Tablets (R4), Cheese Salt (S1) and Recipe Booklet. Buying the kit saves $2.30 over the cost of the individual items.
The Good: This kit does contain everything needed to make Mozzarella and Ricotta except for the pots and spoons/ladle etc. The instructions are clear enough and have some recipes in the back using the cheese made with the kit. It might be helpful to include the URL for the recipes with pictures on their website, but overall, this is a good kit for the beginner.
The Not As Good: The Dairy Thermometer was not practical for me. With 50-something eye sight, it was difficult to read and did not have a pot clip which means I had ld it in the milk while it reads the temp then take it out to read it. For the Mozzarella this wasn’t a big problem but with the higher temps for making Ricotta holding a 6 inch thermometer in a pot of 180F milk was not a pleasant experience. After the third use, I dropped it on the counter and it broke (it is a glass thermometer). I’m now using an “instant read” thermometer which I’ll discuss later.
The Bad: Shipping costs seem a bit high. One online seller only charges $6.95 shipping for this kit and is further away from me than New England Cheese Making Supply Co. has the same kit at $25 with free SuperSaver Shipping (as of 2/11/11).
Next is my choice of thermometers. As I said above, the glass dairy thermometer that comes with the kit was pretty useless to me. Joan had an “instant read” thermometer and it was ok. It was an inexpensive model from WalMart. It wasn’t waterproof and didn’t have a way to calibrate it. To replace the battery the case had to be taken apart, exposing the innards. There was a wire going from the bottom half to the top half and it broke when I tried to get it apart.
I then purchased a CDN DTQ450 ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer. It is water resistant (I’ve dropped it into a pot of milk three times and it still works). The battery replacement is though a screwed, gasketed battery cover. And the temperature range is -40 to 450 degrees F. The average read time is 6-8 seconds. At $12.69, it is a great deal even though it doesn’t have a pot clip.
The next step up is the CDN Proaccurate Digital Programmable Probe Thermometer. ($21.95)It is made for cooking meats in the oven with a stainless steel probe and cable which leads to the display/control unit. With a temperature range of 32 to 482 degrees F. it is more than adequate for use in making cheese. It does come with a pot clip and has a folding stand and a magnetic back. Two of my favorite features are the count down timer and the programmable temperature alert. The count down timer is convenient for timing your set times for both culture and rennet. The target temperature can be set and the display shows both the target temperature and the current temperature and it beeps when the target temperature is reached. NIIICE!!! The only down sides are that you can’t set it to alert when the target temperature is lower than the current temperature (would be nice for cooling milk for making yogurt), and the stainless steel cable could be a bear to clean if you get milk in the mesh. So make sure you clean the cable after every use.
One of the reasons I chose these two thermometers is that they do read higher temperatures and could be used to check temperature of melted wax and can be used for candy making or deep fat frying.  (Just make sure to thoroughly clean them after every use). 

Two things I bought early on were the Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Skimmer at $10.95 and Progressive GT-3520 International 19-Piece measuring Cup and Spoon Set at $9.95. The skimmer is perfect for stirring the milk and mixing cultures and rennet as well as removing curds from the pot.  The measuring cup and spoon set seemed like a good value with spoons from 1 Tbs all the way down to 1/32 tsp, and measuring cups from 1/8 cup to 2 cups.I also purchased a large strainer scoop from WalMart that is excellent for getting the curds out of the pot quickly. It is a Faberware Scoop/Strainer and was $6.95.  Plastic Colander from WalMart also for draining curds was only $1.95.

One of my favorite purchases for its versatility is the Cuisinart 77-7 Chef’s Classic Stainless 7-Piece Cookware Set. It was priced at $76.45 with free shipping when I purchased it in May of 2010. I was looking for a stainless stock pot to use for cheese making when this came up on my search. The set included 1 ½ quart, 3 quart sauce pans, an 8 quart stock pot and 10 inch skillet with lids. I use the 8-quart for one gallon batches of cheese or yogurt (for yogurt cheese). And often use the 3 quart sauce pan to make ½ gal yogurt batches.  The 18/10 stainless steel is heavy enough to hold temperatures better than the thinner pots I have. I do use the fry pan to cook with regularly as well.

Speaking of pots, I purchased the Heuck 26003 4 piece Stainless Steel Stock Pot Set when I needed to make cheese using more than 2 gallons of milk. (Reminder: an 8-quart pot is full to the brim with 8 quarts of milk in it). At $40.87 I didn’t expect heavy duty stainless steel and I got what I expected; Light-weight stainless steel pots made in India.  Although the lead description says “4 Piece” it is actually an 8 piece set including lids. They nest inside of each other and serve well as double boilers in 8, 12, 16 and 20 quart pot sizes. A plus with this less expensive alternative to 18/10 stainless steel is they do work with my induction burner. The down side is that they do dent easily and I had several small dings on one of the pots when it arrived. As long as you are willing to take a small risk of having dents in your pots, this is well worth the money for the weekend cheese maker.

When I decided to show my cheese making (cough cough) talents to some family and friends, I knew that standing around the stove in our kitchen was not going to be the best experience for them. So I purchased a Max Burton 6015 Portable Induction Cooktop Stove and Interface Disk Combination Set. The price at the time was $139.99 with free Super Saver Discount shipping. (on 2/11/11 it was $159.99). I like that it has 10 power levels with variable temperature controls and a 180 minute timer and the interface disk for using it with non ferrous pot and pans. Putting on the kitchen table was perfect for having 6 people watching the demo and learning how to make cheese. It did take a little getting used to and getting familiar with the settings available took some patience but now I love it for most things when making cheese. The unit is easy to clean and the switches are all protected from spills.

Next week I'll reveal the contents of my "freezer box". (That's the box on the left side of the picture above.)
Until then enjoy the week and happy cheese making.

George (the Cheesy Geek)

>>Disclaimer: I have not "Monetized" this blog. I receive no compensation for posting any links to other websites or merchandise. Prices quoted were correct at the time of publishing the post.>>>

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