Friday, January 22, 2010

The Cheese Queens of Okemos

Among the many activities planned for the Clark family visit was one I've been dreaming of since reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." We, humble suburban family in middle America, made cheese. In the kitchen. And it was good.

Barbara Kingsolver describes it as "easy", and multiple websites said that it would take a half hour, but I just couldn't believe that mozzarella could be produced from milk so effortlessly! Until I read up about it in preparation for the event, I didn't understand that there were quite a few soft cheeses that can be made without aging and without expensive equipment. I did need to buy "rennet" (we went with the veggie kind) and citric acid, which (truth be told) pushed the price of our batch up to about $14 dollars, but if I make it even once again, it will be totally worth it financially speaking.

The brave girls went to work in the kitchen, stirring and testing the temperature so as not to overcook the milk. The menfolk stayed a safe distance away, in the living room, watching the Jets accomplish the impossible! I can't blame them for not getting involved, considering the incredible football game and the prospect of having to acknowledge what curds really are. But for real, this cheese thing was nothing short of miraculous. Check out the curds and whey!

Honest and true, if we had been a little less nervous, we could have done it in about 25 minutes. And after N pulled and shaped and pulled again, it looked an awful lot like spectacular cheese. And with a little salt, it was freakin' awesome. S and I feasted on little cheese slabs on tomatoes with olive oil, and we were very happy. So happy, in fact, that we endeavored to take the next step and turn the leftover whey into ricotta.

Now, I had read that this was not so easy, and more than one website said, "Don't try it, it doesn't work." But after much heating and stirring and straining through cheesecloth, we ended up with about three tablespoons of darned good ricotta. If you paid us by the hour, that cheese was worth about $36 per pound. But let me tell you this....there is nothing, I mean nothing, like a bowl of pasta covered in your own stinkin' kitchen cheese. Seriously.


Nicole said...

We had such a fun day! I'm glad to hear the ricotta came out well too. Yummy!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr