Bzzzz October 21st, 2007

I have to admit that home cheese mak­ing feels a bit like con­duct­ing a chem­istry exper­i­ment in my kitchen.

I mean, with bread bak­ing, I can FEEL the dough. There is some effort behind the whole affair of mix­ing flour, water, yeast and other ingre­di­ents, watch­ing it rise, knead­ing and watch­ing it rise again before shap­ing it with your hands into a final, glo­ri­ous loaf.


With home cheese mak­ing, you do quite a lot of wait­ing about. You mix in spe­cial ingre­di­ents that you must spe­cial order. Every­thing must be kept immac­u­lately clean and san­i­tary. The guru of cheese mak­ing, Ricki Car­roll, even rec­om­mends keep­ing metic­u­lous notes in a cheese mak­ing journal.

Nev­er­the­less, the results of home cheese mak­ing can’t be denied.

Take a look at this 30 Minute Moz­zarella that I made last night with some of the last toma­toes and basil of the year. (In our Zone 7 gar­den we picked about 10 lovely toma­toes just yesterday!)

This salad LOOKS like art, doesn’t it?

The recipe is from, of course, Home Cheese Mak­ing, by Ricki Car­roll. I have been slowly work­ing my way through the book, start­ing with the soft, spread­able cheeses. Now that my fancy cheese press has arrived, I am ven­tur­ing into the hard cheeses.

You can’t really count this 30 Minute Moz­zarella as a hard cheese. And frankly, it’s a lot less work than even the soft cheeses. In fact, it’s ridicu­lously easy.

If you are even a lit­tle bit inter­ested in cheese mak­ing, then place an order with the New Eng­land Cheese­mak­ing Sup­ply Com­pany and give this recipe a whirl. I highly rec­om­mend that you buy the book because the intro­duc­tory infor­ma­tion is quite impor­tant, par­tic­u­larly infor­ma­tion about san­i­ta­tion, ingre­di­ents and heat­ing of the milk.

Look how easy the whole process was. I used the recipe from Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Mak­ing.

Ingre­di­ents I Used:

1 ½ level tea­spoon cit­ric acid dis­solved in ¼ cup cool water

1 gal­lon pas­teur­ized whole milk

¼ tea­spoon liq­uid ren­net diluted in ¼ cup cool, unchlo­ri­nated water

1 tea­spoon cheese salt

How I Did It:

I added the cit­ric acid/water solu­tion to the milk when it was at 55 degrees and mixed it thor­oughly but gen­tly. I slowly heated the milk on the stove to 88 degrees. (It helps that I have a gas stove, I think, because it gives me a great deal of imme­di­ate con­trol over heat.) I gen­tly added the diluted ren­net and mixed again and then heated the milk to 100 degrees.

I scooped the curds from the pot into a microwave­able bowl and pressed to remove the extra whey. (If you are very clever, appar­ently you can reserve the whey for other cheese mak­ing purposes.)



I microwaved the curds on high for 1 minute and again drained off all the excess whey. To dis­trib­ute the heat evenly, I gen­tly folded the cheese over and over like I was knead­ing bread. I microwaved the cheese twice again for 35 sec­onds each, knead­ing after each turn. Then I added the salt, knead­ing it to incor­po­rate it into the cheese.


The recipe says cheese won’t stretch prop­erly until it’s almost too hot to han­dle. I found it very hot, but if I moved quickly, it didn’t feel like it was burn­ing at all. I kneaded until the cheese was smooth and elas­tic. It became nice and stretchy.


(Unfor­tu­nately, I can’t knead and take pho­tos at the same time and the two men in my house were busy read­ing. It was dif­fi­cult to entice one of them into the kitchen to play photographer.)

I rolled the cheese into small balls and placed them into the frig to cool.


The direc­tions say to put them into a bowl of cold/ice water to bring down the heat if you don’t plan to eat them warm, but I for­got that part. Nev­er­the­less, they were just dandy about 30 min­utes later when I made the salad.

What do you think? Does this look like art? Craft? Chem­istry exper­i­ment? Would you give it a try?

Posted In: Cheese Making


Bzzzz October 12th, 2007

I am happy to report that, so far at least, mush­rooms grown inten­tion­ally seem to grow as rapidly as those grown unin­ten­tion­ally, i.e. those that grow in your lawn.

Remem­ber how I just started my mush­room patch a cou­ple of days ago? Well, lookee here.


That shi­itake mush­room is about the size of racketball!

Take another look. (This is the beauty shot.)


I mist the mush­room patch about twice a day, although the instruc­tions tell you to mist it “sev­eral times a day.” I do keep the humid­ity tent in place. And although you might think that the mush­room patch should reside in a dark closet, the instruc­tions say that you just need to keep it out of direct light. So that I don’t for­get it and acci­den­tally kill all those pre­cious mush­room spores, my mush­room patch is liv­ing on the floor of the kitchen next to the cab­i­nets. So far, the lit­tle dogs have taken no interest.

In other news about pet projects…

Remem­ber Steve Mar­tin in the movie The Jerk excit­edly yelling, “The new phone book is here!!! The new phone book is here!!!”

I did my own Jerk impres­sion the other day, yelling “The new cheese press is here!!! The new cheese press is here!!!”

The lit­tle dogs were con­fused, but unim­pressed. I think the UPS guy was just a wee bit curi­ous about why I was skip­ping back to the house with the box.


I waited about three or four months for this cheese press from the New Eng­land Cheese­mak­ing Sup­ply, which was hav­ing some ven­dor issues get­ting these made. They were excel­lent about com­mu­ni­cat­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties and I decided to hold out for this cheese press. I have been work­ing my way through Ricki Carroll’s book on Home Cheese Mak­ing with excel­lent results, so I trusted the source. In fact, we have become addicted to all sorts of home­made soft cheeses thanks to Ricki. My friend Angela said the neufcha­tel is like crack and she can’t stop eat­ing it.

Off to adven­tures in cheese mak­ing now!


Posted In: Cheese Making


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