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JANUARY 16, 2009   

Adventures in cheesemaking

Cheesemaking ingredients on tableMy mozzarella cheesemaking kit arrived a couple of days ago and today I bought a gallon of milk at Dave's to make my first batch of delicious homemade cheese. I got out all the ingredients— citric acid, rennet, salt, water, milk—and started dissolving and stirring.

Stir the citric acid into the milk

Pot of milk on stoveI was cruisin' at this point—dump a gallon of milk into a big pot, add citric acid, stir and heat. Notice the most important ingredient at right: a glass of red wine for the cheesemaker.


Heat to 90 degrees

MIlk on stove, thermometer shows 80 degreesSo far, so good. Keep stirring, keep heating for about ten minutes. When the temp hits 90, take off the stove, stir in the rennet, cover and let sit for about five minutes.

Curds and whey

Curds and whey in potThis is good. The curd is like a big hunk of white custard floating in the watery whey. I've used a long knife to cut the curd into chunks which you stir and heat to 105 degrees.

This is good

Stretching cheese like taffyI've poured off the whey, ladled the curd into a bowl, dunked it in hot water and am now kneading and stretching it like taffy. Success! This is exactly how it should work.

The oh-so-manly rubber gloves are to protect my hands from the 135 degree water and cheese. I'm wearing a sweatshirt because at this point the temperature outdoors was 1 degree and inside the house about 63.

This is bad

Bowl with crumbly cheese in itYikes! After adding a teaspoon of salt while kneading and stretching the cheese it lost its smooth texture and got all crumbly. It looked like crap. I tasted it and it was kind of sour...

...sour, like it might taste if you sprinkled in a teaspoon of powdered citric acid instead of salt. Oops.

At this point I was disgusted and ready to call it a day. But at Joanne's urging I pulled all the partial containers of 2%, 1% and whole milk out of the fridge, just enough for another batch of cheese. I decided to give it another try.

Mix, heat, stir, cool, drain, mix, heat, stretch, and...

This is good

Ball of mozzarella in my handAfter kneading, stretching and adding salt this time I got this nice ball of smooth, shiny cheese.

A gallon of milk makes about 3/4 pound of cheese.


This is delicious

Hunk of mozzarella with spices on topHere's the final product. It's smooth and a bit stringy, like mozzarella cheese is supposed to be. I sprinkled some dry Italian spices (parsley, basil, etc.) on the top to add a bit of flavor.

At supper I sauteed zucchini, onions, summer squash and mushrooms and topped it with a couple of slices of my fresh mozzarella. Excellent.

I'm already planning another batch using organic milk from the West Side Market. Can hardly wait.


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