Blessed are the cheese-makers…
A few weeks ago I booked us in for a cheese-making workshop with one of the local community colleges. You know we like our food, and we’ve been toying with the idea of making cheese for a couple years now. (As my friend Ailsa said, “Ah, the last Amish skill you don’t yet possess.” It’s part of our long-term strategy to accumulate skills we can put to use when the revolution comes and society collapses.) So last Saturday the Snook and I headed off to Alexandria with a selection of aprons, tea towels, and sharp knives. There were 11 of us there on the day, and our teacher was Zigi Ozeri. He gave each of us a big handout full of recipes for various cheeses. (Do you know how easy it is to make mascarpone? I’m never paying $6 for a tiny tub of it again!) Zigi talked us through some of the strange equipment and ingredients we’d be using, and then we got stuck in! It was like being back in high school Home Ec (which was fitting, because we were using a school kitchen). We split into three groups, each of whom made a fresh mozzarella and ricotta from 4 liters of milk. Zigi also made a labne from some yogurt. A lot of cheese-making is standing around waiting for stuff to get to temperature or curdle or whatever, so we had plenty of time to socialise. We finished the day with a meal of homemade pizza, salads, and lots of cheese! I took some photos…Here’s the Snook measuring out 4 liters of milk from a giant bucket. No, we didn’t get raw milk. Zigi made it very clear that it’s illegal to sell. (I was sad.)
The milk went on the stove over a low heat along with citric acid and lipase. (This recipe is very close to the one we used.) It took a while to get up to the necessary temperature to start curdling.
At the right temperature, we added the rennet. Not long after, we had proper cheese curds and whey!
After cooking, draining, salting, and stretching, we formed it into a big ball of mozzarella and put it in a salt brine. Yay, cheese!
We put the whey back on to boil to try to make some ricotta. We didn’t have much protein left in there though, so we only got about 2 tablespoons. Here’s the Snook draining the world’s tiniest batch of ricotta in a cheesecloth.
Each group also made a pizza and some salads to accompany our cheese. We sliced up our mozzarella and put it on top of ours. It was great!