Last week we had a rainy day that lent itself to learning a skill that I have avoided for quite some time – cheese making. I had planned to spend this past winter learning all sorts of useful skills that I lack, but apparently I never got to it. So a rainy spring day seemed like the perfect opportunity to start.
First up we made quark, which is basically raw milk yogurt using a higher percentage of starter. And it worked! For the first time we were able to enjoy raw milk yogurt with our breakfast.
Next up I warmed some milk to the temperature specified, stirred in the designated amount of starter and 12 hours later we had buttermilk!
The first real cheese of the day was next – raw feta. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 and I think I made a couple of missteps along the way. Like forgetting to let the curd rest before stirring it or trying to measure rennet x 1.5 while answering toddler questions. Despite my shortcomings the feta did turn out edible and we have been enjoying it atop grain-free pizzas ever since.
As soon as a good deal of the whey was drained out I decided I didn’t want to waste it and made ricotta cheese from the whey. Ricotta means "recooked" in Italian and is simply the whey of a hard cheese (feta) brought to just below the boiling point with a bit of vinegar thrown in. Drain it off and you get a very small, but exciting amount of (free) ricotta.
The next day I was testing a recipe for the spring cookbook that called for ricotta. Because I needed more than the 1/4 lb I had made the day before I decided to make the whole milk ricotta from the Home Dairy book. Unfortunately I think I stirred it too much or made another error because it was a total flop.
All in all, though, it was really fun to finally tackle this skill and I look forward to making (and eating) more homemade cheese. It really isn’t much more complicated than making your own bread.
The book I followed was Home Dairy by Ashley English. I can’t recommend this book enough, by the way. Many of the cheese and cultured dairy recipes celebrate raw milk, so if you like your cheese raw and you want a book that makes it really simple then this is the book for you.
How about you… ever made your own cheese?