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March 25, 2009

Curds Our Whey #1 - 30-Minute Mozzarella

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When I committed to making the monthly cheese, I knew it was going to be in the crunch of tax season when the #1 cheese was to be made and posted. I knew, yes, but I guess I didn't remember how busy it gets for a CPA at this time of year.

So, I hope you will forgive me for doing this one late. I WILL make the #1 30-Minute Mozzarella in April, along with the April assignment too!

Cindy Ruth of Baked Alaska is our fearless leader, and she will be posting about the March cheese, I am sure. She also has some great recipes on her blog.

April 27, 2009

Curds Our Whey #1 - 30-Minute Mozzarella

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A group of us on Slow Travel are doing monthly cheesemaking, and this was the March assignment. So, I am doing double cheese duty this week because our April assignment is on Wednesday! But, just like you can't be too thin or too rich, there is no such thing as too much cheese!

30-Minute Mozzarella
from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll

Yield: 3/4 to 1 pound.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 level teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
1 gallon pasturized whole milk
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon lipase powder,dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water and allowed to sit for 20 minutes, for a stronger flavor, optional
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet(or 1/4 rennet tablet) diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1 teaspoon cheese salt(optional)

Instructions:

1. While stirring add the citric acid solution to the milk at 55 degrees F and mix thoroughly. (If using lipase, add it now.)
Note: You may use skim milk, but the yield will be lower and the cheese will be drier.If you use lipase, you may have to add a bit more rennet, as lipase makes the cheese softer.

2. Heat the milk to 90 degrees F over medium/low heat. (The milk will start to curdle.)

3. Gently stir in the diluted rennet with an up and down motion, while heating the milk to between 100-105 degrees. Turn off the heat. The curds should be pulling away from the sides of the pot; they are ready to scoop out (approximately 3 to 5 munutes for this.)

4. The curds will look like thick yogurt and have a bit of a shine to them, and the whey will be clear. If the whey is still milky white, wait a few more minutes.

5. Scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and put into a 2-quart microwavable bowl. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible. Reserve the whey.

6. Microwave the curds on HIGH for 1 minute. Drain off all excess whey. Gently fold the cheese over and over (as in kneading bread) with your hand or spoon. This distributes the heat evenly throughout the cheese, which will not stretch until it is too hot to touch (145 degrees inside the curd).

7. Microwave two more times for 35 seconds each; add salt to taste after the second time. After each heating, knead again to distribute the heat.

8. Knead quickly until it is smooth and elastic. When the cheese stretches like taffy, it is done. If the curds break instead of stretch, they are too cool and need to be reheated.

9. When the cheese is smooth and shiny, roll it into small balls and eat while warm. Or place them in a bowl of ice water for 1/2 hour to bring the inside temperature down rapidly; this will produce a consistent smooth texture throughout the cheese. Although best eaten fresh, if you must wait, cover and store in the refrigerator.


My first try at making cheese was not too successful. The cheese didn't ever firm enough to form it into a mozzarella ball. It had more the consistency of ricotta, which the book said could be because the milk I used was not the right kind.

Although it didn't turn out as expected, we did enjoy the mozzarella (aka ricotta) cheese on pizza with pesto, grilled chicken, halved cherry tomatoes, and cashews on a Boboli thin crust (no, I wasn't ambitious enough to make my own crust).

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April 29, 2009

Curds Our Whey #2 - Whole-Milk Ricotta

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This was the second monthly cheese made by our little Slow Travel cheesemaking group. It turned out to be pretty easy - so easy even a rookie cheesemaker (like me) could make it.

Now my biggest problem is which recipe to choose for my very first ricotta! I am thinking of just adding some fresh herbs and eating it au natural.


Whole-Milk Ricotta

Yield: 1 1/2 - 2 pounds.

Ingredients:

1 gallon whole milk
1 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
1 teaspoon cheese salt (optional)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Instructions:

1. Add the citric acid solution and salt into the milk and mix thoroughly.

2. In a large pot, directly heat the milk to 185 to 195 degress F (do not boil). Stir often to prevent scorching.

3. As soon as the curds and whey separate (make sure there is no milky whey), turn off the heat. Allow to set, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.

4. Line a colander with butter muslin. Carefully ladle the curds into the colander. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese has reached the desired consistency. The cheese is ready to eat immediately. For a creamier consistency, add the cream at the end and mix thoroughly.

5. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

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May 27, 2009

Curds Our Whey #3 - Mascarpone

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Mascarpone with Culture

Yield: About 1 lb

Ingredients:

1 quart pasturized light cream or half-and-half
1 packet direct-set creme fraiche starter

Instructions:

1. Heat the cream to 86 degrees F. Add the starter and mix thoroughly.

2. Cover and let set, undisturbed, at room temperature for 12 hours, or until coagulated.

3. If a thicker curd is desired, ladle the curd into a colander lined with butter muslin and drain in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours or longer, depending on the desired consistency.

4. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.


Wow! Could this be any easier?

When the 12 hours was over, my cheese was still pretty "loose", so I decided to let it drain overnight.
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That was a good choice, I think, because there was a lot of liquid in the bowl in the morning.
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You can kind of see the consistency of the finished cheese.
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Now the question is what to make with it. Stay tuned - I will post about it in the next couple of days!

May 30, 2009

Mascarpone - What to make?

Since I made the monthly cheese that our Curds Our Whey group was assigned for May, I have debated what to make with it.

Most people use mascarpone for desserts, but one of our Slow Travel members, Palma, suggested using it on pasta, along with lemon zest, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese. Since I love pasta, I thought this was a great idea!

If I were really ambitious, I would have made my own pasta. My second choice was Trader Joe's lemon pepper pasta, but I was out of it. What I did have in the cupboard was another TJ's pasta, spinach & chive, so that is what I used.

I didn't measure, but I think I used about half a cup of mascarpone, zest from two baby lemons, and juice from three baby lemons. I mixed it together in a pan and added the cooked pasta to the pan to mix it with the sauce. Then I sprinkled the top with grated Parmesan cheese.

This photo doesn't look nearly as good as it tasted! Definitely a great way to use mascarpone!

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I have more mascarpone in the fridge, so as soon as I figure out what to make, I will post here again.

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