We did it!  We can now officially be considered hippies. We made our own cheese!  (Though hippies probably don’t blog about their accomplishments…)
We had toyed with the idea before, but I was inspired anew while reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on the plane home from Seattle (which I highly recommend, even at half-way through).

Aside from a gallon of milk, the only ingredients needed to create your own cheese are citric acid and rennet. Barbara recommends getting supplies from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, which I’m sure is a wonderful resource. However, when we stumbled upon them both while shopping at the Good Earth last weekend, we took it as a sign. (The idea of buying a pre-assembled starter kit didn’t seem rogue enough for us.)
The idea is simple: slowly heat up the milk, add the citric acid and rennet, wait for the curd to form, and remove it and squish it into a big ball. Easy, right?

Well, our first attempt didn’t go so well. It turned out like this:

Poor Alex had to undergo my customary reaction to all cooking experiments gone bad - “I’m never cooking again!” I was pretty depressed.
But not depressed enough to keep us from trying it again the next day. We refused to be bested by the “easy” 30-minute mozzarella that consumed at least 3 hours of our previous night.
Making a few adjustments based on some quick internet research, we immerged from the process successful (and with a lot less mess)!

The end product was quite tasty as well!  We’re now inspired to keep experimenting with our technique, as well as try new types of cheese.

And since it’s all clear in the city code, I’m thinking a pet goat might be in our future…
For those interested, I’ve included a summary of the recipe below, along with some tips for avoiding our traumatic first-time experience. We followed the 30-minute mozzarella recipe recipe from Animal, Vegetable Miracle.
Step 1: Pour 1 gallon milk (any kind, just not ultra pasteurized) into a stainless pot. Put in a food thermometer and start heating gradually over low even heat.
Step 2: At 55°F, stir in a mixture of 1 1/2 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water.
Step 3: At 88°F, stir in a mixture of 1/4 tsp rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water.

Tip: Make sure to only stir once or twice at this point. Then just walk away – no more stirring!
Step 4: Wait until all the curd has pulled away from the sides of the pot and collected in a mass, and the whey around it is clear. This should happen around 100°F to 105°F.
Tip: This is where we made our fatal mistake the first time. Wait until the whey is completely clear and the curds are basically all congealed together. Our thermometer appeared to get stuck at around 95°F the second time around, so I would worry more about the look and less about the actual temperature.
Step 5: Spoon the curds out of the pot in batches into a microwave safe bowl, and squeeze the curds to remove much whey as possible (very important!).
Tip: Do whatever you can to get the whey out. I think this was another major problem in our first attempt; we mixed too much of the whey with the curds, so they never congealed into a solid ball in the next step.
Step 6: Wearing rubber gloves, begin the heating and kneading process:
  • Heat the curds in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Press the cheese to remove more whey.
  • Repeat about two more times, heating for about 35 seconds and then kneading again to remove whey.
  • Add salt to taste, and continue kneading a bit to the desired texture.


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