Monday, March 31, 2008

So You Wanna Cut the Cheese?

Gross, I know. But it was so much more exciting than Ricotta Cheese Making, 101. I've been wanting to make Mozzarella Cheese, but after buying the raw milk and carting it home to Georgia, I soon realized I was going to have to send away for rennet and citric acid powder. When life gives you raw milk, make ricotta! It doesn't require anything more than utensils and lemon juice or vinegar. So away I went.
I found some instructions on the internet, and because it seemd so easy, I decided it was worth a try. Naturally I documented the experience. The hardest part of the entire process was finding raw milk. I work at an agricultural college, in the deep south. Farms abound. Unfortunately, raw milk does not. I contacted a professor from UGA in the area who informed me that because of health issues all the milk is sold pastuerized. BUT - when I was in SC over Easter, I found a little Mennonite store that sold bulk items and local dairy items. Lo and behold, there were my gallons of raw milk. It was from Holsteins, which aren't known for their high fat content, but it would do. I put them in a cooler with ice to make the 5-hour trip home to south Georgia. (the gallons of milk, not the cows)
To make the cheese, I poured a gallon of the milk into my large stainless steel pan, and inserted my candy thermometer. The directions said to heat the milk to 200 degrees F, stirring every now and then to prevent scorching. When the milk reaches the correct temp, add 1/4 cup white vinegar or lemon juice. If the milk is at the correct temp, the milk solids should begin to separate from the whey immediately. If not, just keep stirring and they will separate when it reaches the correct temp.
Guess what? It worked!! This is what it looked like in the pot. You turn off the heat, and let it sit for about 15 minutes.I lined a colander with flour sacking, and placed it over a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot into the lined colander. I let mine sit for a bit, because it was very hot!Then wrap up the cheese and let it drain. I suspended mine in a smaller plastic colander over a smaller bowl in the fridge for a few hours.Later I took it out and lightly salted it and readied it for my homemade pizzas.

John's lasagna pizza (before the mozzarella)

My white pizza


It was really easy, and the ricotta I made not only tasted wonderful and fresh, but it had a firmer texture than what you buy in the store. I HATE runny ricotta!! I put what I didn't use into an airtight container and then into the freezer. Now to buy the mozzarella cheese making supplies!

9 comments:

Jenny said...

My mom took me to the little Mennonite store where you bought the milk. They had a ton of stuff I needed, like whole wheat flour, carob chips, sea salt, flax seeds, and quinoa. It's amazing how much stuff I ended up buying out of such a small store. This place is going to save me a lot of trips to Whole Foods, which is a 45-minute drive.

Julie said...

Cool! You get into more little (or big) projects, that make me think, ooh, I want to try that. So easily distracted.

Julie said...

You never cease to amaze me. I haven't seen anyone make cheese since I helped my grandmother when I was a little girl. I remember her buying the rennet tablets . . .I thought they were candy. Your pizzas look yummy. Do you have a good pizza crust recipe?

(Not-So) Cynical Gal said...

Totally impressive! Just watched a show on the top ten cheeses on Fine Living. Mmmmm.

Kelley said...

You make it look so easy, I wonder if I can talk my husband into making some. (and promptly turning it into lasagna) I'm not the big cooker in our family...he cooks, I bake.

Beverly said...

That's so neat. I need a dinner invitation. Your food pics are so tempting. I didn't realize it was so easy to make ricotta.

April said...

Please don't tell me that the yellow strainer is tupperware from 20 years ago...because my mom had the same one if it is. On another note, I noticed the silpat liner on what I believe to be a Williams & Sonoma cookie sheet....I LOVE mine!

April said...

By the way, I didn't intend for the tupperware comment to sound rude...I actually cracked up because I remember using it as a child...I meant it all in good fun :)!

Theresa said...

I have been wanting to try this forever. I didn't know it took a whole gallon...that makes expensive ricotta for me since it costs $7 for a half gallon of raw milk here! We are lucky that laws here allow it and the milk from this dairy tests with less bacteria etc than the pasteurized milk so we feel safe about it. Maybe I will try a half recipe. Another friend told me that she added honey to it and used it for a pastry filling (like in Danishes).