I was looking for a clever title for this post, and my tried and true friend, Google, gave me a list of funnies. And hopefully, if you read this whole post, you'll understand why I had to go with that particular title.
Most of you know that Matt makes homemade beer and wine. Some of you have been fortunate enough to receive a bottle for Christmas or have been over to our house to share a bottle (or five or six). Matt is ALWAYS ready to create something and/or try something new.
A few weeks ago, he told me that he wanted me to start making homemade cheese.
Matt: "Here's the deal, I want you to make the cheese, and then I want to eat the cheese."
Me: "Um, yeah, I'm not really into that. Can we make something sparkly instead? Or maybe we can just buy homemade cheese on eBay."
As you can imagine, he was only slightly amused.
Let me explain to you why I was not excited about making cheese:
I have been in the kitchen with Matt while he made beer. - Matt: "This will only take about 2 hours, tops." Me: "We've been doing this for 7 hours. I'm hungry."
I have been in the kitchen with Matt while he made wine. - Me: "Is that burnt honey on the ceiling?" Matt: "Yeah, I cleaned up the majority of it already. It was everywhere!"
Both of these processes are very time consuming and precise. Everything has to be PERFECT. Perfectly sterile, perfectly on temperature, perfectly measured, etc. This is why I don't like to bake. I'm not so much into the preciseness (is that a word?) of measurements. When I was teaching culinary arts a few years back, I baked so many chocolate chip cookies, that I'm just all measured out. I was afraid that cheese making would be similar and that it would be so delicious, that Matt would want to keep it up forever. And even worse, he would want me to make the cheese while he was gone. And I would be stuck with the precise, mundane, process all by myself.
And if you've never met Matt, this might be hard to understand, but he is very persuasive. And very charming. Most people find it very hard to say "no" to him. (Myself included. But if you're the lady that works the front desk at Saraland Water, you have said no to him...and I would like to know how you did that.) So, last Friday, we made our first batch of homemade mozzarella.
Making mozzarella wasn't nearly as precise and mundane as I thought it would be. Of course, you still had to make sure everything was very very clean and you still had to watch temperatures, but there was more margin for error. I like science, so watching liquid turn to solid, with just a little bit of chemical reaction and heat, was pretty cool. Then slicing the curd and draining the whey was really neat (in a weird way, that's hard to explain). Then when we actually got to the step where our product looked (and tasted) like cheese, I was sold!
In about an hour and a half, we had delicious homemade mozzarella. The kit Matt bought (containing rennet, citric acid, cheese salt, cheese cloth, and a recipe book) was about $20 (makes 12 pounds of cheese), and the milk was $3.50. So one pound of mozzarella cost us about $5.00. And I know that you can buy cheese, already made, in your grocery store for about that same price, however, I cannot begin to tell you how delicious fresh homemade mozzarella is. We have eaten it on biscuits, in soup, on homemade pizza, by itself, paired with wine, paired with beer, etc.
We went through the first pound so quickly, that Sunday afternoon, we made another batch. (Which was pretty comical, because Matt took the reigns on the first batch, so the second batch was supposed to be my test run...but he ended up doing most of the work anyway. He blames it on his dominant personality...I thought it was because he didn't want me to screw it up. Either way, I'm OK with it.)
Pictures and brief captions are below.
|There are only two things that you add to the milk to make it curdle: Citric Acid and Rennet|
|Waiting on the milk to come up to 90 degrees. |
We already added the citric acid,
when we reached 90 degrees, we added the rennet.
|Stir and then wait for it...the next step is when it gets interesting.|
|This is the separation test. |
After the rennet is added, stirred,
then left undistrubed for
about 7 minutes,
your milk has turned into curds and whey.
(Little Miss Muffet style!)
|Look closely...we've cut the curd to help separate it from the whey.|
|We slowly stir and let it get up to 110 degrees.|
|When the whey is ready to be poured off, this is what it looks like.|
Not very appetizing, huh?
|But then, after a few dunks in 186 degree water, it starts to really look like cheese!|
|This is when we added the cheese salt, and tasted our mozzarella for the first time.|
|You can form the cheese in any shape you'd like |
(Mozzarella Butterflies?) then put it in ice water for a few minutes
to help them hold their shape.
We chose a simple ball for the first batch.
|The finished product! Simply Delicioso!|
Happy Cheese Making from the Bayou!