Saturday, June 9, 2012

We made cheese.... yes! CHEESE!!!

To me, cheese is a kind of magical substance that appears at the store and seems way beyond the capacity of any normal, modern, non farming, person to make unsupervised.

Oh, I was wrong! Not only can you make it, you can make it in 30 minutes!

It turns out, to make delicious mozzarella cheese, this is all you need:
- A gallon of whole milk
- citric acid
- rennet (I got liquid vegetarian rennet, because real rennet kind of grosses me out)
- salt

I got all of this at whole foods for a reasonable price (although I had to ask for help finding stuff), and I have enough rennet and citric acid for many many more batches.

So- what do you do? Turns out most of it is pretty simple.

Combine 1.5 tsp citric acid with 1/4c water. Also combine (separately) 1/4tsp rennet with 1/4c water. Pour the milk in a large pot and slowly (this will require only low heat) bring it up to 55 degrees - as a warning, this is really not very hot at all so be sure you're taking the temperature as soon as you start heating. Once it hits 55 (Fahrenheit), pour in the citric acid and keep heating. When it hits 85, put in the rennet. Continue to heat, but stir very very gently and only occasionally- you want the curds to be able to form. 

Keep heating (to around 95-105) and pretty soon, the milk will start to seem clumpy and thick, and separate from the side of the pan.
When this happens, stop heating it, and just let the curds sit there for about 5 minutes or so, so they can separate from the whey in peace.

Now, this next part was actually the hardest for me- you want to get the curds out and leave behind the whey. You can gently scoop it into another bowl using a slotted spoon, but depending on how big the slots are it can get a little tough towards the end.

Now, here is where we start to use modern technology to make this stuff happen fast (a trick I learned from SimpleBites). Take the bowl with the curds and stick it in the microwave for 60 seconds. Lots of whey will come out, so drain it off carefully. (I have no pictures of this part because I was busy trying to do things like drain off whey without dumping all the cheese on the floor). Fold it over to distribute the heat, then put it back in the microwave. Sprinkle with half a tsp of salt. Repeat this microwaving (not the adding of salt) until it starts to look like melted mozzarella (I had to do it more times than the original website did- don't despair, just keep going!). 

You should get to a point where you can stretch it a long way without breaking, when that happens, you're ready to make it into little balls! (or a big log, or whatever). Just roll it in your hands while it's still hot and melty.

Then of course you have the important dilemma of what to do with all this awesomeness.

We decided to make turkey slider patties (a current addiction) and grill a lot of veggies. We did peppers, onions, carrots, and zucchini, while they were hot they were tossed with garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dry basil (fresh would have been awesome). 

 Then we cut the balls into little pieces (they were a little big) and tossed those in, and served it on a bed of baby spinach. So delicious!!

It would also be amazing on homemade pizza (like our bbq version!) or about a million other things... give it a shot!

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