curds and wheyOctober 6, 2007
Seriously, I never really had any idea what curds and whey were…until I tried cheese curds in college, then I sort of got it. Now I really get it, because I MADE CHEESE. You heard me right, I made cheese, with milk, on my stove, in my kitchen.
I started my quest with this recipe and a brand spankin’ new insta-read thermometer. Unfortunately, the insta-read was totally jacked, which resulted in my adding key ingredients at the wrong temp, more than once. Which resulted in this:
Not too pretty. It’s like a freaky brainy thing.
Determined that failure shouldn’t be my only memory of attempted cheesemaking, I decided to try again. Having a good idea of what went wrong and why the first time around was valuable…and this time I succeeded! Go me!
My observations, which the first-time cheesemaker may find useful (now that I’m a wise second-time cheesemaker, lol):
- It’s not a bad idea to half the recipe for your first attempt.
- The recipe says your milk will start to curdle around 88 degrees. If it’s not curdling, don’t add the rennet; your thermometer is almost certainly jacked.
- When you get to the part where you’re nuking the curds repeatedly, if they’re not stretching, keep nuking. I think I had to heat mine 5 or 6 times — then magically, the cheese was all smooth and stretchy like it was supposed to be.
- Don’t be shy with the salt. Salt away.
- Don’t discard your whey — you can use it to make ricotta. Just heat the whey to around 200 degrees, then scoop out the new curds that will form, and drain in cheesecloth for a little while…voila! Ricotta! (this also needs to be salted!)
Since I halved the recipe I didn’t get a whole lot of ricotta, but heck, I figured it was worth a shot!
Also? It’s very amusing to throw, “when I was making cheese…” into a conversation and watch the reaction. It launches you into a new level of crunch-dom. Heh. (And they thought you were crunchy before…)
I wasn’t sure how to store homemade mozzarella, so I cut half into chunks and put them in salted water (like you buy it at the store) and wrapped the other half. The next day I grated it and put it on pizza, but sadly it didn’t melt the way I felt it should. All in all, though, a success.