Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Adventures in Cheese

". . .Shobi . . . brought . . honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat. For they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” 2 Samuel 17:27-29

My mom came over to make cheese with me. The cow who normally gives us our milk is not producing at the moment. We've been craving good raw milk. I thought it was just me until Larkin said one morning over a glass of store-bought milk, "If I drink it really fast, it's kind of like fresh milk!" So when my mom brought six gallons of raw milk, we were really happy. Three of those gallons were for our first attempt at making cheese. Armed with Ricki Carroll's book on Home Cheese Making, we tried ricotta, mozzarella, and quark.
We started our quark first. Neither of us had heard of it before, but it looked easy enough and sounded good from the description. Just dump a packet of buttermilk starter into a gallon of 88* milk and let it sit for 24 hrs.
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Then we started the ricotta. Dissolve 1 tsp. citric acid in 1/4 cup cool water. Pour it and 1 tsp. cheese salt into 1 gallon milk. Heat to 185*-195*, stirring often.
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Curds. Exciting!
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Then we had a problem. The curds and whey were supposed to separate until the whey was no longer milky. It was supposed to get clear and bluish. It never happened. We tried holding the temperature at 193* for several minutes, but the whey wasn't really changing. Maybe we stirred too much? I have no idea. Anyway, we finally gave up on the whey getting clear, since we did have a lot of curds. So we took it off the heat and let it sit 15 min., then drained it in cheesecloth.
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Then we hung it up to drain for about 30 min.
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And ta da! Ricotta! It had a good wholesomeness to it but wasn't really flavorful. We decided it would be good on salads with dressing or baked in dishes to soak up the flavor, which I guess is what it is used for. Next time, I think I'll add a couple Tbs. cream, which was optional and we didn't use this time, because it ended up being kind of dry the next day.
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The next day, at the appointed time, we checked on our quark. When we lifted the pan lid, it looked like a solid gallon of plain yogurt and tasted similar too. We dumped it into a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain.
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At this point we were really excited, because the quark was so smooth and had a very pleasant flavor. It would have been good in smoothies or just eaten with berries. But we wanted to see what the final outcome was going to be, so we went ahead and finished the recipe. Since there was so much of it, we took off about a third and put it in its own cheesecloth and hung it up to drain. The other two-thirds was so big we just left it in the colander to drain.
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We let it drain for a few hours and then put it in the fridge in colanders. On top of the small batch, we placed a little plate and stacked some thick bowls on top for weights. We tried to put some weights on top of the bigger batch, but they kept slipping off so we just let it sit in a colander in the fridge.

And then we turned to "30-minute mozzarella." It actually took us much longer than 30 minutes, novices that we are. This recipe was slightly more involved and even used rennet.
Here are the curds coming out of the pot.
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Kneading the mozzarella.
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Miah forming it into balls.
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It was OK. The flavor was alright, but I didn't like the texture. It was pretty tough. Next time, I'd like to try using lipase, which was optional. It's supposed to give the cheese more flavor and make it softer. I think I would like that better. It was fun to make though, and I'm sure that it would go faster with practice.

This morning, we unveiled the quark.
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It was good. It was really good.
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Actually what we unveiled was the smaller portion of the quark. It was rich, smooth, and creamy. It could be sliced into lovely little triangles and served with honey and blueberries. It was sublime. It was hard to stop eating - even all the kids thought so! Later we tried out the bigger portion. It had the same flavor but the texture was not nearly as nice. Next time, I'll divide it into three portions, save one portion as it is, and hang, then press the other two well. This quark was especially exciting for me. I can't usually eat soft cheeses like cream cheese, because I'm lactose intolerant. Since this was made from fresh, raw milk and used a starter culture, my tummy was just as pleased as my mouth. (And my mouth was very pleased!)
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"A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated. Yet it remains, cheese, milk's leap toward immortality."
Clifton Fadiman -American writer

10 comments:

  1. Wow! You guys really went for it! I'm impressed. I've never heard of quark before. I've got Rikki's book, so I'll have to try it. Personally, my favorite cheese recipes are feta, queso fresco and just plain old soured cream cheese. The queso fresco is such a versatile cheese. I think it is much easier to make than mozzerela and doesn't require a microwave. To me, it tastes almost the same. The soured cream cheese is easier to make, healthier (because it is still raw) and more flavorful than ricotta. I wasn't impressed with Rikki's ricotta recipe at all. You can find all these recipes on my blog under (Labels-->recipes-cheese) on my sidebar. The biggest thing I think you need to change about her recipes is the salt content. I use a lot more salt than she does. Another tip, is follow the temperatures exactly, making sure your thermometer is accurate. When we first started, we bought a thermometer from Walmart and we found out (after messing up several batches) that it was 10 degrees off. Yikes! Not good for cheese making. Well, great job, guys. I'm going to go look up the quark recipe now. You've inspired me!

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  2. Wow, that looks like fun! Fun that you can eat is the best kind ;).

    Love,

    Marqueta

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  3. Thanks for visiting my blog! Nice to meet you. Digging for diamonds and making cheese! You guys are up to LOTS of goodness. Thanks for sharing.

    :)Lisa

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  4. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    Wow! This is so totally neat. I was so intrigued with the whole process. I've definitely heard of people making their own cheeses and yogurt, but never checked into the process. Your post is awesome!

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  5. Hey...pretty neat!
    My husband has some kefir going on.
    I don't touch the stuff!

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  6. I had some kefir grains in the fridge that were waiting for some raw milk. I started them, but I don't think it's going to turn out - been sitting in the fridge too long. We did make some buttermilk that turned out great. I love it, but I'm the only one here who does.

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  7. How neat, Sarah! What a cool learning experience too! :) I've never made cheese before!

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  8. Sarah,
    What a great post. Your guark is pretty neat. I have never heard of it before reading here. This makes me miss fresh milk.

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  9. I perked up when I read you could eat the delicious quark. My son and husband are lactose intolerant, too, and miss cheese so much. Thanks. Beth

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  10. I so want to try this. You make it look so easy. I am going to enjoy blog. I became a follower and will be back

    Blessings, Linda
    Prairie Flower

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