Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Project Cheese

What is this, you're asking? Two posts in one day?! I'm sure you are shocked (and by "you," I mean Mr. Blog, because honey, I know you're the only person who reads this and I love you for it). However, this is a long overdue post for a good friend of mine (hi, Stacie) about a little project I did this summer.

A little back story: Stacie and I had glamorous dreams of pimping a Peep, a la Pimp that Snack (we were especially inspired by these) but various other summer activities got in the way (for a quick summary, see my last post). So because I didn't have any afternoons free to make giant marshmallows with Stacie, I apparently thought it would be a better, quicker idea to make cheese (later, I found out that making cheese takes about a month, but I'd already committed by then).

Step 1: Research. I know nothing about cheesemaking (that statement is still true, even after this little "adventure"). However, this man seems to know a lot about cheesemaking, so I decided to trust him and follow his recipes (which, incidentally are also the recipes published in the rennent box).

Step 2: Gathering the ingredients. Milk, cream and yogurt were rather easy to come by, but buying rennet was a nightmare. Have you ever tried to buy rennent in Los Angeles? I live pretty much in the middle of the city where there are no farms, no farm animals and certainly no people remotely interested in anything related to farms or farm animals. I went to three different stores, made a fool of myself miming to several sales associates who spoke no English and continued acting like a fool explaining what rennent was to the three associates who did speak perfect English. Poor Mr. Blog patiently drove me to each store and help as much he could (thank you, honey!). In the end, all the "rustic" and "ethnic" grocery stores failed me and I found rennet at the fancy Pavillions across the street from my apartment. Boy, was Mr. Blog amused!

Step 3: Skipping a few steps. Dr. Fankhauser's website suggested a number of activities one should master before actually attempting to make hard cheese (such as making yogurt, cream cheese, etc.) but I thought to myself, "how hard can making cheese really be?" and ignored all the pre-requisites.

Step 4: Starting aka "I should have learned how to make yogurt"! Here are all my ingredients assembled and ready to go (cream is not really an ingredient, but I didn't have any whole milk so I made my own... that's the same thing, right?). The first step is to inoculate the milk by putting yogurt culture into it and letting it grow until the milk has enough acid in it to react with the rennet. This is the same step one masters in yogurt making. I did not master this step and the results are documented below.

Step 4.5: Starting over. Somewhere in the inoculation process I failed miserably by either putting in too much yogurt or overheating the mixture or something so my milk was over acidified and thus useless. Useless milk looks like this.

I re-did it.

Step 5: Rennent. This step was pretty uneventful. The rennet caused the milk to solidify to the point where I achieved a clean break.

Step 6: Cooking the curds. These taste surprisingly good!
Steps 7 - ??: I forgot to take pictures of this part because I was so excited that I didn't screw up but I pretty much finished cooking the curds, salted them to preserve the cheese, put them in the mold and pressed the cheese.

Here's the mold I used (this is post cheese making):

Here's the cheese after a day in the press, before refrigeration. Cute, isn't it? Here's the cheese after a week (with rind). I was suppose to wax it but I didn't have any, so I just wrapped it in plastic and let it ripen in fridge.
Then I went on vacation and came back and my cheese was ready. It had hardened into a lovely Parmesan-y type product (likely because I didn't wax it to keep the moisture in). It is a very nutty cheese, with a nice rich flavor because I put in the extra cream. It actually turned out much better than I expected and I'm happy with it.

There's still some cheese waiting for you in the fridge, Stace, if you're interested!


Stacie said...

You are a cheese Goddess!!! I can't wait to sample the results. Next, we have to master the art of winemaking! I have complete faith in our culinary/viniculturist abilities. Plus, we still MUST Pimp a Peep! I can't wait to see you and Mr. Blog when I get home :D

Joanna Goddard said...

YUM! this looks amazing.

ps. so cute how you call your man "mr blog" :)

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