Blessed are the Cheesemakers
Spectacular autumn wildflowers at the Fen - Sky Blue Aster
More autumnal beauty - Fringed Gentian
This weekend was a bit of a bust. I did get to have dinner with friends from out of town on Friday. I also, for my own sanity, stopped out at the Fen Sunday afternoon. The autumn wildflowers were spectacular. Most of my weekend was spent editing a grant proposal. But I also managed to do something new that I have wanted to do for a while now: cheese making. I’ve made one small attempt before. I made homemade ricotta cheese from a recipe in Food and Wine magazine. It was tasty, but I wanted to try something a bit more involved. So recently, I checked out the fine folks at New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
I ordered a beginner’s mozzarella kit. The process is really simple: You acidify milk, in this case with citric acid. Then you heat it and add a mixture of enzymes called rennet. Mine was vegetable rennet, and it came as a simple tablet. The milk is allowed to stand for a bit while the milk solids (curds) separate form the clear liquid (whey). A good separation is called a "clean break", and the result is a custard-like layer on top of a mixture of curds and whey. You decant or filter away the whey, and begin the process of removing moisture (more whey) from the cheese. In my case, this was done by heating the cheese in a microwave, kneading the mass of curds a bit, and decanting the excess whey. The most surprising part was the last step. You knead the mass of mozzarella. It’s a lot like pulling taffy. Form the mass into a round, and dunk briefly in ice water to cool it off. Result: my first batch of mozzarella in 45 minutes. The directions say you can do it in 30 minutes, but then I’m a newbie.
My first mozzarella. I call him Herbie.
What to do with your mozzarella? Pizza, of course, with pepperoni and fresh, sweet red pepper from the garden.