Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cheesemaker for a Day

You remember my post on whey?  Well this is the story of how I obtained so much whey. Read on, dear reader. 

Unlike my one day foray into apiculture, I believe that I could actually become an at-home cheese maker for life.  Number one, it's a lot less sticky, and number two, it doesn't require endless hours of hands-on attention.  I started out small, with just one batch of ricotta.  I know cheese making can get a lot more complicated than that, but I found the ricotta to be really easy to make and really delicious to eat.  This is what I did to create the cheese dreams are made of.

Ricotta Cheese
(I got the recipe here.  I halved it and ended up with three decent-sized balls.  I've just included pictures of all the steps.)

1. Add milk (ahem, I used whole), buttermilk (whole again, sue me), heavy whipping cream (have I told you how rich and delicious and creamy this cheese is?), and salt.

2. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes, and then just leave it alone until it reaches 190 degrees. Mine took about 90 minutes. Watch a couple episodes of Mad Men, give yourself an at-home perm, bathe your dog, or just sit and watch it grow. 

3. Once it reaches 190, take it off the heat and let it rest. (Note: I highly recommend using thermometer, but apparently it's not totally necessary, as I was using what now appears to be a broken one. Mine got stuck on 175 for about 20 minutes. After it started to rumble like the boiling mud pots at Yellowstone, I called it 190 and took it off the heat.)

4. Once it rests for an hour, you are ready to scoop out the curds. Put them in a cheesecloth-lined colander in little batches. (See all that yellow liquid? That's whey. Save that liquid gold. You've earned it.)
 5. Tie each batch with some cute string, leaving at least 6 inch tails.  Tie the tails around a dowel rod positioned over a big pot and let the cheese drain for two hours. 
6. After two hours, put the packets of gloriousness: cheese, cheesecloth, string and all into a bowl and refrigerate overnight. You weren't planning on eating this today, were you? Oops. Hope you didn't invite the boss over to try your cannoli. 
7. Wake up, and realize it's Christmas morning. You get to unwrap presents. Wow! Santa left you three beautiful balls of rich and creamy and delicious cheese. How did he know??
8. Grab a spoon, fork, knife, or your bare hand, and take a bite. You will never buy ricotta cheese again. I know it seems like a lot of work, but it's very little hands-on time. Trust the Patti Wagon. Totally worth the effort. 

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