The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cheese

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G-man's picture
G-man

Cheese

I started down the road that led me to this site a while ago, now. I lurked for a couple of months before signing up and starting to talk, so I've been here for about 2 years. When I first started lurking here, I really had no idea that my general approach to life would be changed so much by simply being on this board.

When I first started turning out bread, the texture was like bricks and this site really helped keep me from giving up. Most of you know that feeling, I'm sure. Thanks to everyone here the bug bit me, and now I bake regularly. But that isn't all I do. Baking my own bread and seeing what I could do with some flour, salt, water, and yeast inspired me to branch out. I’ve reached a point where I want to know what’s involved in every part of the process of getting food from farm to plate.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to start making my own cheese. Now on here we tend to advise people to start with an easy recipe or a recipe they like and do it over and over until they get it right, then go from there. I took that same approach and started small. Mozzarella is about as easy as it gets.

I bought a gallon of whole milk, vat pasteurized since ultra-pasteurized milk doesn't work for this, some liquid rennet, and citric acid. I also grabbed some lipase powder, which is what makes cheese "sharp". It isn't really used for mozzarella, but I'm not going to stop at mozzarella.

I put the gallon of milk in a large stock pot and heated it up. When the temp hit about 55F, I added my citric acid, dissolved in 1/4 cup water. When the temp hit about 88-90F, I added the rennet, one drop dissolved in about 1/2 cup water. Rennet is extremely potent stuff. I stirred it in and turned off the heat, covered the pot, and walked away. After about 10 minutes I came back to this:

  

 That’s curds and whey. At this point it was time to separate the two of them. I poured it into a colander lined with cheesecloth over my 5 quart Dutch oven. The curds are very small and can slip through the gaps in the colander. After I strained it, I wrapped up the curds in the cheesecloth and squeezed out as much liquid as I could. This is the result:

 

The yellow liquid is whey; it’s got a whole lot of the water-soluble proteins and some sugars from the milk. It smells just like warm milk. It’s very good for you, and people pay good money for jars of whey protein in health food stores…this is the same stuff in liquid form. You can drink it as is, use it to make ricotta, or use it to water your plants. Although it is quite tasty, I opted for that last usage since my garden needs more health food than I need an extra gallon of liquid in my fridge.

After separating them, I heated up the whey to about 140F and put the proto-cheese back in. It needs to be stretched and folded, much like dough. As it’s stretched and folded, more liquid comes out and the cheese gets more and more stringy. During the stretching and folding is when the salt gets added. Fresh mozzarella is only stretched and folded a few times before it’s thrown in brine. String cheese is mozzarella that’s been overstretched. I was aiming for string cheese, so I was fairly pleased with the results, though the picture isn't the best quality:

  

All in all, I’d say it was a success. I didn’t add quite enough salt so the flavor was very mild. The flavor was also very, very different than any cheese I’ve purchased at the store, including fresh mozzarella. It tasted a bit like the milk that was used to make it, which was awesome. One gallon of milk made about a pound of cheese and over 3.5 quarts of whey.

Next time I’ll add more salt. When I get the mozzarella just right I’ll move on to something like provolone that needs to be aged. Eventually I’d like to make cheddar and Swiss, but those require a lot more expertise and patience.

dwcoleman's picture
dwcoleman

Nice job, I always thought that mozzarella was more difficult to make.   I've made about 4-5 batches of cheddar, I didn't age them since they were eaten too quickly. 

How did you heat the milk, I started off with the stovetop but quickly moved to a hot water bath due to temperature control.  I use much more rennet dilluted in a lot less water for my cheese.

Here is the cheddar recipe that I use, very basic steps since it's just for me.

3.89L milk

1/4t mesophilic starter powder

1/4t CaCl

1/2t rennet mixed with 1T cool water

1/2t kosher salt

Heat milk to 85F, remove from heat, add starter powder/CACL, let sit for 1 hour.

Stir in rennet, and cover for 1 hour.

Test for clean break, cut the curd.

Heat to 100F, "cook" for 30 minutes.

Drain curds in cheesecloth(i use butter muslin) for 30 minutes.

Cheddar for 2 hours.  Cheddaring for me, means to cut the cheese into curd sized pieces, and place in a stainless steel bowl.  Float the bowl over very very warm water in the sink.  The heat will pull more whey out of the cheese, check every 20 minutes and pour off the extra whey and stir the curds.

Add the salt and toss gently, press the curd into a solid block or leave it as is.  For a firmer curd, you can leave the cheese out to air dry on a rack for a few hours before refrigerating.

 

 

 

G-man's picture
G-man

I used my stovetop to heat the milk. Every step was fairly brief and I had my procedure planned out, so I was prepared for the next step well before it was time to make things happen and I only had to deal with heat for a very short period of time.

HeidiH's picture
HeidiH

I've been making acid-based cheeses lately, sometimes with rennet, sometimes not.  One of the great benefits is having whey for making bread.  It gives the bread an added oomph. 

There's a kind of "continuum" among recipes/traditions for quark/ricotta/paneer/etc.  Varying instructions for which acids to use, what temperatures to aim for, etc.  You're right.  Whatever I end up with doesn't taste like the store-bought equivalent -- but isn't that true of our breads, too?  And like the breads, even the "failures" are delicious.

In any event, homemade bread spread with homemade soft cheese and homemade fruit butters can't be beat.  And homemade pizza with homemade fresh mozzi-like substance (no, I haven't really conquered the fresh mozzi yet) is to die for.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

side note. Whey SD breads always seem better than the plain water ones for some reason when it comes to the SD tang flavor.   Also to ad to your note,  if you are not making bread soon you can always freeze the whey since it freezes well too.

Yogurt whey, when used with Yeast Water, gives the bread a slight SD tang not otherwise there from the natural yeast.

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

Great going! For the stretching phase, you can also heat the curds for a few seconds in the microwave.

About two years ago, I took a cheesemaking class at a local Sur La Table store  and we made ricotta, paneer, mozzarella and butter in about three hours.  It was a good introduction to making cheese at home. Since then,  I've been making queso blanco, a salty, milky, acid-and-heat-curdled  cheese, every couple of months, based on the recipe at aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/e-216.pdf.  The funny thing is that, since I use milk from grass-fed cows, the cheese turns out a very light shade of yellow, not white (=blanco).  I call it queso casi (=almost) blanco.

ssorllih's picture
ssorllih

When we had cows on the farm in the winter the cows were on hay and the  butter was nearly white but come spring and the cows were  back on the pastures the cream would get darker and the butter would get more and more yellow. I can't recall that the taste changed greatly but the color was very butter yellow.  

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

I buy the fresh pasteurized milk from a local producer  www.clearspringcreamery.com/ at  farmers markets. They sell it from April through December. It's always the same light lemony color but I've noticed seasonal variations in creaminess, yield, and  amount of vinegar needed to curdle the milk(protein content?) The taste is always good, much nicer than any other milk I've tried, but the cheese is usually better in cold/cool than in the hot weather.

ssorllih's picture
ssorllih

The Tillimok Creamery in Tillimok, Oregon claims that the unique taste of their cheeses is the result of the pasturage and feed stocks. I have no doubt about that because if cows get into wild garlic the milk will taste of garlic.