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Cheese Making

March 6, 2011

Well, as I mentioned before I have been putting off my posts about cheese-making adventures. Over the past few months I have been gifted various tools in the art of cheese making: the basic kit with cultures, cheese making book, and a cheese press. 

The beginning of the cheese making ride started with Mozzarella, then hard cheeses like Gouda, Cheddar and Manchego, and now that I have found a source of goat’s milk – Goat Cheese

There are 2 basic requirements of home cheese-making

1) Good Quality Milk. Farm fresh milk straight from a cow would obviously be best, but lets be honest, 95% of us don’t have access to that on a regular basis. The most important factor in your milk selection is finding milk that is NOT Ultra-Pasteurized. Most milk that we drink on a regular basis is Ultra-Pasteurized, meaning that it is heated to a higher temperature for a short period of time, killing enzymes and proteins in the milk which are essential for cheese making (but making it easier for the big dairy companies to transport and store). Pasteurized milk will work, although can sometimes be harder to track down. I was happy to find JD Country Milk that sells pasteurized milk at small local grocery stores and farmers markets that works just great. (Whats even better is that they come on returnable glass jugs… like having an old school milk man around… I swear it makes the milk taste better.)

2) Enzymes and Starter Cultures.  

a) Rennet – an enzyme used to separate the curds and whey (yes, just like Little Miss Muffet)

b) Starter Culture – a bacteria added to help convert lactose into lactic acid. This contributes to the flavor and aroma of the cheese

These are most easily available online. Most sites sell in bulk which is hard unless you are commited to making lots and lots of cheese. The best source for the casual cheesemaker is Ricki’s Cheese Making

These elements all come together to create some delicious cheeses. With varying temperatures and techniques are all it takes to create different types of cheeses.

Mozzarella is the quickest, taking only about 30 minutes to make. Hard cheeses take 3-4 hours to make, and then anywhere from 2-18 months to age. So far I have attempted 3 hard cheeses and sampled one – Gouda – which ended up a bit dried out and salty, but is delicious over pastas or bread.

It all really feels like one big science experiment, and there are definitely times its hard to trust that this will actually produce an edible product (like when you are called to leave dairy sitting out on your counter at room temperature for 48 hours…..). But at the end of the day you have to trust that all those enzymes and good bacterias are doing their job and creating something safe to eat. 

As the experiment continues I hope to be better at sharing the experience with you – expect more details on Goat Cheese soon! And any specific cheese requests are always welcome!

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