That's Just Cheesy

Our recent cheesemaking adventures are courtesy of Ricki's Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit.

Yes, you heard me – cheesemaking. Making cheese. At home. It's not born in that plastic wrap, you know.

The Midden ordered our cheesemaking kit online, and managed to track down a farmer who sells real, honest-to-goodness raw milk. *Gasp* Raw? It's unsanitary! It's dangerous! It's...pretty darn delicious, to be honest.

We started out with the simplest cheese to make. No, not Velveeta. Ricotta. We poured an entire gallon of the raw whole milk into a big pot and added 1 tsp. of citric acid and 1 tsp. of cheese salt, both of which came with our kit. Then we stirred while heating the milk up to 195˚ exactly, using a thermometer and handy trick devised by Alton Brown.

As you can see, it starts to curdle and separate pretty fast. It's really cool to watch. Here's a shot of the curds and whey that's make you wonder why Miss Muffet couldn't just wait till the cheese was ready:


Next, we lined a colander with a cheese cloth and ladled the curds in:

Then we tied up the cloth and hung it to drain. The amount of time you let the whey drain determines the consistency of the cheese; more draining, firmer cheese.

To be honest, ours was fairly firm right from the start – maybe too much time in the pot? Too hot of a temperature? Cheese is apparently pretty finnicky, so I'm not sure why. But it crumbled nicely, and we mixed it with herbs and olives to spread on french bread:

Oops, wrong picture. (But isn't she cute?) Here's the cheese:

The leftovers found themselves stuffed into shells with pancetta, capers, and a lemon-butter sauce:
Our egos overinflated with the ricotta success, we moved on to mozzarella. Same ingredients, different order, temperature, and process. First, we dissolved the citric acid into a cup of water, and a bit of rennet into 1/4 cup of water. We poured another gallon of raw, whole milk into a pot, stirred in the citric acid solution, and brought the temperature up to 90˚F.

Once it reached 90˚, it came off the burner and we added the rennet solution, then covered the pot and let it sit for five minutes.

Here's where things seemed odd; we thought (based on pictures) that we'd find a pot full of thick curd floating on top a little bit of whey. Not so much – here's all the curds we got (you can see how much whey is still in the pot):

At this point, with the curds still in the pot, we were supposed to cut the curds with a knife into pieces. The Midden gave it a shot, but the curds clung to the knife – in fact, the more she tried, the more unified the curds became in their effort to merge into one big Super Curd.

Onward. We heated the mixture back up to 110˚ while, as the directions indicated, stirring with a spoon, (or in my case, batting a giant lump around the pot), then removed from heat and continued stirring for five minutes.

After separating curds and whey – which was as simple as grabbing the Super Curd – we gave it a waterbath. Actually, the Midden attacked it with a knife on a cutting board, and then we gave its pieces a waterbath. (Sounds like something the CIA might do, doesn't it?) The pieces were dunked into water heated to 185˚, then came the fun part; the stretching.

Not bad, right? Take that, Super Curd. We formed the cheese into a ball and dunked it in ice water for ten minutes.

And how did it taste? Both the ricotta and mozzarella were really good! Neither are particularly flavorful cheeses, but I think you can really tell it's made with raw milk. It's very creamy and has a buttery taste.

Here's the mozzarella (isn't this a pretty shot, with great lighting? It wasn't taken in the bathroom for optimal lighting. Okay, yes it was.):


Kaitlin Ward said...

Why do bathrooms always have the best lighting??
You're after my heart, for using Jersey milk. AND raw, of course.
What a great experiment!

Michelle Schusterman said...

Thanks, Kaitlin! It was really fun.