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Cheese making recipes at home

Cheese making recipes at home – After failing at my first attempt at making mozzarella cheese, I succeeded the second time around.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my less-than-satisfactory effort, so I made some changes and all worked out fine. Basically, the last time I felt that the microwave step of heating the cheese to get it all stretchy, along with the firmness of the cheese curds were the big problems. So here is what I did differently.

First of all, since temperature is important, I boiled some water and re-calibrated my thermometers, then picked which thermometer was best. It turns out the thermometer that came in the cheesemaking kit was completely off, almost ten degrees lower than the boiling point at 212 degrees. I can’t imagine anyone would have an easy time making cheese with that thermometer.

The next thing I changed is I let the curds and whey cook to a higher temperature than recommended by a few degrees, and then let the mixture sit twice as long. This ensured that my curds were nice and firm.

After the curds set, I cut them up with a knife, stirred them a bit, and reheated the mixture to the higher temp for the waterbath, all according to the recipe. I sided with using the hot waterbath method instead of the microwave, and that helped a lot. Last time, the microwave unevenly heated the cheese curds, and they ended up breaking down into a ricotta-like texture. The hot waterbath, even though a bit more time consuming, worked great for getting the mozzarella all stretchy so it could be kneaded and formed properly. It was a lot more forgiving than a microwave.

I also divided the curds into two batches so if I messed up one time, I could still have a second attempt. Both batches turned out, but it was good to have a back-up plan. For flavoring, I added thyme, freshly ground pepper, and salt.

 

Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses

Cheese making recipes at homeSo I am on my way to completing my top 10 cooking goals for 2010. One of those goals was making cheese, and though I will not stop with just mozzarella, I probably won’t be going crazy with home cheesemaking any time soon. I will, however, be ordering the book: Home Cheese Making (shown above) to plan out my longer term cheese projects, but the next attempt will just be a simple ricotta cheese. A while back I made some Italian gnudi (boiled ravioli stuffing) from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, and in that recipe it calls for ricotta. I think I will make some fresh cheese and try that instead.

Chesse Making Failure

Well, making mozzarella cheese is both easier than I thought and harder than I thought. First of all, let me say that I failed to do what I wanted to do: make mozzarella cheese.

Things were going well, and all looked pretty good until the whole microwaving thing at the end. The recipe I used was a quick, 30-minute mozzarella recipe from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, and in the recipe they give the option of using the microwave or a water-bath when getting the cheese all stretchy at the end. I used the microwave, and I don’t think that was a good choice.

Now with that said, I did end up with nicely broken down cheese curds that resembled a ricotta cheese, so I first gave a bowl to each of my dogs and then added fresh ground pepper and salt for me. It tasted really good, so I guess I didn’t completely fail. I just didn’t make the cheese I wanted to make, but did end up with to very happy dogs.

So what went wrong? Well, it could be many things. What I learned today is that in cheese making there are a lot of variables that can go wrong. Your milk may be too pasteurized or not fresh enough. The temp of the milk may be too high or too low. The curds might be too weak or your microwave too strong. I think these last two were my problem, and just browsing the FAQs at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company site gives some indication of how many things can go wrong. I don’t think it is hard to make this kind of cheese, but I think it is easy to go wrong.

So for my next round, I am going to do a few things differently.

 

(1) Chesse Making Failure – Get a better thermometer

The one in the kit I bought was pretty basic and cheap, and I used another thermometer to double check the temp. At one point I had three thermometers in and they all had different readings. Not a good sign. And proximity to the bottom or edge of the pot affected the temp as well as stirring. It was a guessing game regarding the temperature of the mixture.

 

(2) Chesse Making Failure –  I think my curds were too weak

, so the next time I am going to read up on how to fix this.

 

(3) Chesse Making Failure – I won’t use the microwave.

They say the temp is important at the end, and if it gets too hot the curds break down. On the other hand, if it is not hot enough, it won’t allow the cheese to get to the stretch stage for proper kneading. When I heated the bowl of curds in the microwave, the bottom portion of the cheese against the bowl was really hot and breaking down, yet the interior was not nearly hot enough. It’s the same problem with microwaving any food I guess, so I don’t know why I thought delicate cheese would be any different.

I guess I learned a fair amount in this process, and I am not going to give up after one mishap, but I do have mixed feelings about the cheese kit itself. In the package I received citric acid, cheese salt, rennet tablets, cheese cloth, a thermometer and an instruction book. The whole kit seemed a bit on the cheap side though.

From what I understand, instead of cheese salt you can just use non-iodized kosher salt — the key here being non-iodized. The thermometer is a waste really as you probably already have one or will end up buying a nicer one. You may have cheese cloth around too or you can easily pick it up locally. It is really just the citric acid and rennet tablets that are useful, but if you have a good health food store, you can probably find it there too. And once you factor in shipping, the kits seems less worth it yet. I even used the website recipe more than the cookbook that came with the kit.

So that is my first try at cheese making. I hope things turn out better the next time — though I am sure the dogs like it just the way it is. My failure equals their food.

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