Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What's so hard about making cheese?

I made it my mission this past weekend to make mozzarella. I looked up some information online and decided it was well within my abilities. Well...I found a few ways NOT to make cheese! Since this blog covers my journey, I guess I have to fess up to my failures and write about them, as well. After all, you can learn just as much from your disasters as you can from successes; sometimes more so.

I found some Junket rennet tablets at Kroger and I was excited, I was afraid I would need to order this ingredient off the internet. After a few tries, I found a source for the citric acid (a local natural foods market). Those were the ingredients I needed to track down before I could get started.

My husband picked up a gallon of whole milk from the store. Surprisingly, the store brand did not mention if it was pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized. The first is alright, the second will not work for cheese making. I decided to forge ahead anyway.

I poured my milk, added the 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid dissolved in tap water and started to heat the mixture to the recommended 90F. Then I removed the pot from the heat and slowly added the 1/4 rennet tablet dissolved in 1/4 cup water while stirring. I anxiously awaited the formations of curds. And I waited, and I waited. Nothing ever happened.

So I changes this up a bit. I bought some distilled water (in case there was chlorine in my tap water that was interfering with the process) and a new gallon of milk, this time it was labeled as pasteurized and homogenized, which should work. I started again, and I even increased the amount of rennet to 1/2 tablet. I also heated the milk to a slightly higher temperature, which is recommended if there is difficulty in creating a good curd. And again I waited. There were some chunks that came to the top, but even after a few hours there wasn't much to write home about. Especially since the process should take 5-20 minutes.

In looking online, I have formulated my next attempt. First of all, there are evidentally different forms of rennet and the Junket brand does not seem to work well for cheese making (though it is supposedly very good for custard making, which I may do so that I don't waste the rest of the tablets from the box). I found a wine store in north Atlanta that has rennet in stock for cheese making, I plan on making a stop by there this weekend.

Also, no one ever seems to mention stirring the milk while it warms to 90F. Out of habit, I stirred the pot to make sure the heat was evenly distributed. Maybe that is a no-no. I want to look for a cheese making book at the wine store this weekend in hopes that it gives more information than I am finding online. It would be nice to have lots of different types of cheese recipes all in one spot.

So there is no cheese yet, but I am far from giving up. I have a few more things I want to try to make sure it goes smoothly. I guess that is the scientist in me coming out, I want to experiment until I get it just right. Hopefully you will be hearing about my wonderful cheese and the great things I make from it next week.

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