John Lennon was once quoted as saying, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Wise man, that John Lennon. I know that my life always seems to fly by and before I can get a blog post written, I'm off to another activity. So pardon my tardiness but this should have been completed back in late April. Yes, I said late APRIL (hangs head down in shame). What can I say? I've been busy living. ;)
Anyhow around Easter time, I was singing the blues and my friend Cate took it upon herself to break me out of my funk by graciously inviting me to her family's home and vineyard (Twisted Roots Vineyard) in Lodi. I took her up on her offer and am so glad I did. Her family was so hospitable and friendly, Easter dinner was delicious and look at how beautiful the view from the patio was:
Though we were just a hop, skip and a jump away from Sacramento, it felt like we were much farther away. I relaxed, drank some wonderful wine and came back refreshed. Anyhow, this same awesome friend recently hosted a cheese making night at her own home here in town. Her and my friend Katie allowed us to pick what kind of cheese we wanted to make and assisted us with instructional tips. We made mozzarella, cream cheese and chèvre. (Can you guess which one I made?) Anyhow, all three types turned out outstanding. The chèvre and cream cheese had to sit overnight but the mozzarella was pretty much devoured while we hung out afterwards. It was a night of giggles, chatter and cheesy goodness (sorry, I couldn't resist!).
Can't wait until the next party!
[The mozzarella recipe we used is posted below. Stayed tuned for the chèvre recipe in a follow-up post.]
30 Minute Mozzarella (recipe by Ricki Carroll, New England Cheesemaking Supply Company)
-A 6 to 8 quart stainless steel pot. Aluminum or cast iron will not work.
-A stainless steel or strong plastic slotted spoon.
-A two quart microwave safe mixing bowl
-A thermometer which will clearly read between 80 - 120 degrees F.
Make sure the milk you use for this cheese is NOT ULTRA-PASTEURIZED. Homogenized milk will work fine. Fresh farm milk will also work well but we encourage you to try with 1 gallon of store bought whole milk first. Low fat milk will work but the cheese will be drier and less flavorful.
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1/4 tab or teaspoon rennet
- Crush 1/4 tablet of rennet and dissolve it in 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water and set aside to use later.
- Add 1.5 tsp. of citric acid (diluted in 1 cup cool water) to 1 gallon of cold milk and stir well. (Add the citric acid solution to the empty cold pot.)
- Now pour cold milk into your pot quite quickly to mix well with the citric acid . This will bring the milk to the proper acidity to stretch well later. Next heat this milk to 90F. As you approach 90F you may notice your milk beginning to curdle slightly due to acidity and temp.
* NOTE: if you're having problems with milk forming a proper curd you may need to increase this temp to 95 or even 100F.
- At 90F, remove the pot from the burner and slowly add your rennet (which you prepared in the previous step) to the milk and stir in a top to bottom motion for approx. 30 seconds, then stop. Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed for 5 minutes.
- Check the curd, it will look like custard, with a clear separation between the curds and whey. If it's too soft or the whey is milky, let it set for a few more minutes.
- Now cut the curd into 1 inch squares with a knife that reaches the bottom of the pot. If a drier cheese is desired, carefully cut and stir this curd to release more whey.
- Place the pot back on the stove and heat to 105F, while slowly stirring the curds with your ladle. (If you will be stretching the curds in a hot water bath then heat to 110F in this step.)
- Take the pot off the burner and continue slowly stirring for 2-5 minutes. (More time will make a firmer cheese)
- Then scoop the curds with a slotted spoon into a heat proof bowl to be used in the microwave. (If the curd is too soft at this point let sit for another minute or so)
- You will now press this curd gently with your hand, pouring off as much whey as possible. Reserve this whey to use in cooking. (We used gauze as a filter for this portion)
- Next microwave the curd on high for 1 minute. You will notice more whey has run out of the curd. Drain off all the whey as you did before. Quickly work the cheese with a spoon or your hands until it is cool enough to touch (rubber gloves will help since the cheese is almost too hot to touch at this point)
- Microwave 2 more times for 35 seconds each and repeat the kneading as in the last step. Drain all of the whey off as you go.
- Knead quickly now as you would bread dough until it is smooth and shiny. Add salt near the finish.
- At this point the cheese should be soft and pliable enough to stretch like taffy. It is ready to eat when it cools.
- Form it into a ball and drop it into ice water to cool and refrigerate.
- When cold, you can wrap it in plastic wrap and it will last for several days but it's best when eaten fresh.