#24 Learn to make cheese

So I love cheese, like reeeeally love cheese. In fact I think cheese is pretty much magical. My dream holiday consists of drinking red wine and eating cheese…

Having had a lovely time recently making jams and pickles I went back to Green Living Australia to do a cheese making class.

There essentially 3 basic techniques for making cheese and once you master those you can making any type of cheese. The main difference between the cheese varieties is the bacteria used. For instance a feta and a Camembert are the same, except for the type of bacteria that cultures the cheese.

For any cheese you start with milk – it’s best to have non-homogenized milk i.e. milk in which the natural fat hasn’t been a whizzed up by machines. It is very important that the milk is pasteurized so that you have control over the bacteria that culture your cheese. For a long time cheeses made with unpasteurized milk (raw milk cheeses) were not allowed to be made in Australia, this is now relaxing but is still strictly licensed due to the safety risks.

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It is also highly important that your work area is sanitized and it is recommended that you work with single piece stainless steel equipment, as lots of nasty bacteria get up under the edges of the heat-resistant plastic spoons and ladles most people like to use.

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Ricotta

The first cheese we made was a lovely ricotta – did you know Ricotta actually means “re-cooked” as traditionally it is made from the waste whey from mozzarella making. In this instance we used milk though.

After mixing the milk and culturing ingredients the mix is heated. Curds i.e. solid lumps then form.

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The curds are then scooped out of the pan using a slotted spoon and placed into cheese cloth which is hung for around 50 minutes to drain.

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The result is creamy rich ricotta, which we mixed with parsley and ate with crackers.

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 30 minute Mozzarella

This was the one I most enjoyed making as it’s more hands on. The recipe and instruction for how you do this can be found here.

Again you heat your milk and culture until curd forms. You then test for a “Clean Break” where you make a T-shaped cut in the surface and lift a section to see how the sections pull apart.

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We then cut the curds into small cubes using a long spatula. During this process a lot of whey (the liquid) comes out of the curd. You can separate the curd from the whey.

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This simple quick recipe uses a microwave, you heat the curd up and then essentially knead the cheese, as if it’s bread.  This was the fun part – although it’s quite hot.

226Whilst kneading a lot of whey also comes out of the cheese. As it cools it stiffens and you need to re-heat it in the microwave and continue kneading about 4-5 times. It’s ready when you can stretch it out and it has that classic mozzarella texture, you then sprinkle in some cheese salt.

227When it’s ready drop it into cold water in the shape you want it to hole and voila you have mozzarella! This was the creamiest richest mozzarella I’ve ever had, it’s amazing!

228Feta

The process for making Feta is similar to the mozzarella. You form and cut the curds in a similar way.

229Once you have cut the curds you line feta baskets, or a colander, with cheese cloth and gently pour the curds into the baskets. They then need to drain for around 5 hours. Once drained they can be cubed and salted and are ready to eat.

Such a yummy day!

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