Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homemade Cheese

A lot of people give me grief about my obsession with making things that are available at the grocery store. And they do have a point. Why bother taking the time to make cheese when you can go to the store and have it instantly. Well there are reasons. Very good reasons in fact. But the bottom line, as with everything I write about, is because it is healthier.

To make cheese one has to start with a whole milk with low pasteurization. Pasteurization is the process of heating and cooling dairy products with the intent of killing bacteria that is harmful to humans. The idea was first suggested by Franz von Soxhelt in 1886, but first successfully processed by the processes namesake French microbiologist Louis Pasteur. The process not only eliminates many risks to human consumption (including bovine tuberculosis, which was a common cause of death at the time), but it also greatly extends the shelf life of milk allowing transportation across continents to occur safely.  On one hand pasteurization is a great process, but on the other it allows companies and stores to stock milk products from all over the world for much longer than nature intended. Local organic milks tend to be lower pasteurized because they don’t have to travel as far to reach their destination (still slightly pasteurized for safety mind you). The point, if you are going to make cheese find yourself some good local milk (the cheese will not only taste better but might not work if too much bacteria is killed off).

The number one reason (at least for myself) is that homemade cheese is actually less of an irritant to the system. A person can control the amount of whey that is removed from the cheese (whey being the sugar in milk that most people are allergic to). And also any cheese you make at home will be preservative free.

On Sunday my friend Julia and I set out to make some mozzarella (the easiest and as a first timer it’s the safest bet). We used the recipe from Barbra Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” bought our three ingredients and set to work. Yes it only takes three.

(sorry its blurry)

1 gallon whole low pasteurized milk (anything but ultra will work)
1.5 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/4th cup cool water
1 teaspoon liquid rennet dissolved in 1/4th cup cool water

1 large stainless steel pot
1 slatted spoon
1 large glass bowl
1 good thermometer

Pour the milk into the pot and slowly heat to 55 degrees, at which point add the citric acid. Continue to stir and heat gently until temp reaches 88 degrees. Then add rennet and stir. The milk should start to curdle and separate from the whey (which admittedly looks pretty disgusting). Once the temp reaches 100 degrees start transferring curds to the glass bowl. Use the slatted spoon or hands (careful its hot) to squeeze as much water out as possible. Microwave for one minute. Kneed the cheese to remove more water. Microwave 30 seconds, kneed, microwave 30 seconds, kneed. At this point the cheese should start to get stretchy like taffy.  Ours did not, we blamed it on a faulty thermometer. Salt to taste and you are done.

(if I look a little manic its because the cheese was HOT)

Despite our cheese looking like a head of cauliflower it was quite delicious. We made some capreese salads for dinner and then watched a movie and snacked on the left over cheese.


(dinner with cheese)