Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Monday, October 02, 2006

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.

Mondo Pizza



At 17:52, Blogger rodger said...

Mmm, I loves me some mozzarella but I didn't know it was that easy to make. I'm jealous...and that pizza is making me hungry!

At 20:53, Blogger Ur-spo said...

It is so fabulous that you are learning to make cheese! I am envious. Keep us a breast of how it goes.

At 02:14, Blogger Tony said...

I'm with Rodger...I'm hungry now. Can you whip up another batch of cheese and make a few extra pizzas this time?!

What a neat process. I am surprised that my brother-in-law has picked up on this. He's goten into French bread making, has a nice stash of wines in a wine frig. All he needs is the homemade cheese. Hmmmm! Thought for an x-mas gift.

At 11:51, Blogger mark said...

Here we believe we can cook. We can, freeze things from the garden, have been making bread for years, we make pickles, jams, salsas, all that stuff and NOW YOU, Doug, tell us about Cheese making! We drive 70 miles to Tillamook just to get Cheese Curds and it sounds like we can make it at home for God's sake! WE are going to try this while it's raining here in Portland this winter. I'm beginning research immediately. THANKS.

At 11:52, Blogger mark said...

I MEANT to say also: That's one Thick Pizza and now me too is hungry.

At 07:58, Blogger Gary Lee Phillips said...

Yay! I figured out how to syndicate you into my Livejournal account so I'll see your posts in a timely manner instead of when I remember to look.

This looks like fun. Thanks for the link to your supply place, we'll be checking it out. Of course, I'm not astonished at your success. I watched the Frugal Gourmet make mozarella on his program years ago. ;p

Reminder: Weaver's Guild Show is now open in Woodstock at the Old Courthouse. Thursdays through Sundays, now until Oct. 29. Reception tomorrow (Oct. 8) 1 to 5 pm with food and music.

At 10:40, Blogger Doug said...

Hi Gary,

Leon and I were l=planning to check out the Weaver's Guild Show tomorrow afternoon. Hope to see you guys there.


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