Thursday, June 9, 2011

Par for the Cheesy

Living out here on the ranch there isn’t the competition for consumerism you might find in the city, but that doesn’t mean we don’t covet things.
At the moment, I desperately want a cheese press and an electric butter churn, as I need to start making hard cheese and it’s a lot of work to clean up my food processor every time I make butter. I have already put my order in for the press. I can’t wait to make our own Cheddars, Jack, and Parmesans, among others.

I am scheming to acquire most of these items around July, as that is when my Jersey cows should both be fresh and I will be swimming in beautiful, healthy, nutritious, fresh, raw milk. Right now, I am only milking 1 goat, part time, because Moose the leppie-calf is 'relief milking' for me, so I don’t have the excess milk to play with that I would like to, or normally do. However, I have enough to make yogurt, ricotta and MOZZARELLA.

Mozzarella can be made in an afternoon and used right away, as it doesn’t require time to ‘cure’ or ‘ripen’. I make some whenever I have a couple of extra gallons of milk and part of it I shred and freeze for pizza, or I cut up, bread them and then all I need to do is quickly cook them for fried mozzarella sticks…the best ever!

I found this GREAT recipe online. There are several to be found, but this is my favorite. The internet is so great for obtaining information on how to do things. I love it. I do.

This recipe is a discovery from the KeepingAFamilyCow boards, which  evolved from a really informative book Keeping A Family Cow. Book and board are an invaluable place to glean information on milk cows and the bounty they produce. There are lots of folk there with a ton of experience in all kinds of farmy things, especially involving cows and real food.

 I know, and am sorry, that not everyone is fortunate enough to own their own goats or milk cows, and gov't interference makes it almost impossible to obtain good fresh raw milk if they don't, but this recipe can be accomplished with commercial milk. With the rising costs of fuel and foods, making more of our food from scratch just makes good sense.

Here is how it's done….

Take 2 gallons of milk and pour into your pot. (Raw is best, but pasteurized will do, just not ultra pasteurized.)

I got my pot from a restaurant supply. They are reasonably priced. I have a few of these, because they are really handy. I have one that is dedicated for making soap, and the rest for cheese. I use two to make the mozzarella, because I will drain the whey into one, for use in ricotta or something else, this afternoon.

Put 2 ½ level tsp of citric acid powder in ¼ c of cool water. ( Citric Acid has many applications, from cheesemaking, to cleaning) Add to the milk and stir for 2 min. I buy it in big containers from Amazon, because it’s a lot cheaper that way, but you can get it online at a cheese supply, with your rennet and other cultures.

Heat milk to 88 degrees. This can be done in a sinkful of hot water, or on the stovetop. Depending on how busy and how distracted I am determines the method I choose that day.

Add 1/2 tsp of liquid rennet or ¼ rennet tablet in ¼ c water and dissolve. Add to the 88-degree milk and stir for about 15 seconds.

Let milk sit for 15 minutes while the milk coagulates. (This is where the curd mat forms and starts to separate from the whey. I always find this really exciting and it makes me happy.) Try to keep it at the 88 degrees. This is where the hot water filled sink might be handy. I use a heat diffuser on my gas burner, and when I turn it off, the diffuser keeps my pot at the same temp.
This is the part that gets risky. Fifteen minutes is plenty long enough to get involved in another project and forget completely that you are making cheese, until your husband shows up for lunch and you have to tell him to make a PBJ because, of course, you are tied up making cheese at the moment. This of course, doesn’t work if you are somewhere other than the kitchen at the time of his arrival.

After 15 min, stick a clean finger, preferably your own, in the mass of curd and see if it comes out clean. If not, give it a couple more minutes. I love to press my hand on the big mat of curd at this point. It’s a tactile thing.

Now, reach in with clean hands and break the curd up into pea-sized pieces. Make sure you get all the way to the bottom.

Let curds rest for 5 minutes. This is another risky spot in your cheese making. It is possible to bunny-trail by changing laundry, or checking out the garden, or picking up that baby blanket you’ve been meaning to finish crocheting…

Apply more heat and increase temp from your 88 to 108 degrees in 15 minutes time. Stir while doing this to try and keep the curd from clumping back together too much. The curd is going to shrink. Turn off heat and stir for another 15-20 min. I don’t stand and stir, I just come back and stir occasionally, if I don’t suffer from another memory lapse. I use my cheese alarm so I don’t overheat the curd.

Place a second pot in sink to catch the whey and cover with a colander. Drain the curd for about 15 min, and then flip it so the smoother bottom is now on top. This can be used for baking bread, cooking potatoes or vegetables, poured on your plants, flavored as a drink, or used to make the best ever Ricotta Cheese. I know it’s the best ever, because our friend, the chef, told me so and he should know.

Mix ½ c of canning salt into 1 gallon of water and heat to 170 degrees.

After letting the curd set, put it on a cutting board and cut into 1” strips.
 Lay the strips criss cross in a glass bowl with a little space between them. (Bowl must be big enough to fit curd plus the 1 gal of water)

Pour the salt water over the curd. I use heavy rubber gloves, but you can use spoons to start lifting and stretching the curd. I can’t take pictures of this, because my camera isn’t fond of either cheese or salt water, so use your imagination here. It’s like stretching taffy. You want to keep doing this until its REALLY stretchy and shiny. If it doesn’t stretch well, I will heat the bowl up just a bit in the microwave. It usually stretches pretty well and you want to stretch out all the lumps and clumps too. Then you can knead it like bread to mold it in the shape you want. I always sort of flatten mine out so it will fit easily in the feed tube of my food processor. This is an easy shape to cut my sticks from also.

I grate a hunk in the Food Processor to use on pizza later. I use it or freeze it. Homemade cheese makes such a HUGE difference in the flavor!

Now, I will grab my bucket of “Boule bread” out of the walk-in and pull out a wad. I make a ball to put on each pizza stone, which are covered with a dusting of cornmeal. As soon as the dough balls come to room temperature, roll them out easily. Preheat your oven to 450.

I have already taken my frozen homemade pizza sauce out of the freezer to put on Randyman’s pizza because he likes tomato sauce crust. I like basil pesto on mine, instead. So do most of the people who have eaten MY pieces of pizza, but my husband is stubborn. Hence the two stones. Leftover cold pesto pizza makes a dandy breakfast, btw.

Toss on your fixin’s, like pepperoni, or homemade Italian sausage, marinated artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, re-hydrated mushrooms and a little thinly sliced red onion. He will put sliced olives on his then I cover them both generously with cheese and salivate like Pavlov’s dingaling dog until it’s cooked and crispy on the bottom and browned and bubbly on top.

 Oh Heavens! It’s so good! You can’t BUY pizza this great! You will find your eyes rolling back in your heads and make noises like Meg Ryan in Harry Met Sally, so if you have kids, be sure you feed them early and tuck them in before you consume this.


  1. Are you kidding me? That pizza looks so freaking delicious!!

    Do you accept guests? :o)

    I wish I could make homemade cheese. I heart cheese.

  2. We accept guests AND pets! date, most of our guests have been pets tho...

  3. I love the feel of curd! And I love that forum - and Joanne's journal. I have always made my mozzarella the quick way, but would love to try this method. I really appreciate your comments about keeping focused, as this is what always gets me in trouble with cheesemaking. I got a great cheese press from Hoegger's and a non-electric butter churn from eBay. That pizza looks so amazingly good!

  4. I just got my Hoegger press, and am still workin on a butter churn! Glad to hear you like your press. Do you have any problem with drainage, since I noticed the base is ungrooved?