Monday, June 6, 2011

Farm girl makes her own cheese!

If you know me at all you know I take a lot of pride in making my own food.  My kids have never had hamburger helper, and God willing, they never will.  Generally, our refried beans are made weekly from scratch, our dinner is cooked that night from whole ingredients and i can tell you every ingredient in my ice cream because i made it myself.  I really dig that.

I have made my own bread for a while now (maybe a post on that in the future) and I'm usually pretty impressed when i can make a lunch bruschetta where the tomato was grown in my moms garden, the bread was rising in my kitchen this morning and the vinegarette was emulsed to order. But up until this weekend, the cheese has always been store bought.

Who makes their own cheese?! I'd think to myself.  Surely even the most hardcore of farm to table whack jobs don't expect that I might make cheese!  heh heh heh.... Little did i know the jump from bread making to cheese making is really only a little one!  Its all kitchen chemistry.

So, on Sunday I did it.  I went to the home brew store on Campbell Brew Your Own Brew.  It was the only place I could think of where you could buy citric acid and rennet in one location. The guy who was working there was super nice.  He answered my questions about animal v. vegetable rennet, he walked me around the store to find what i needed and he told me that since i already have non-iodized salt at home, there was really no reason to buy cheese salt.  He invited my husband to a home brew class later in the month.  It was pretty neat.
don't worry shes not dead.

So we got home and put the kids down to nap.

Can you believe you can make a whole pound or more of cheese during nap time? well you can. I followed some recipe i found on Instructables that had a pretty decent rating when i had done my research the night before.  Although, i think it should be said in advance that i already had a healthy skepticism of it because it involved a microwave.  I thought that was weird.  Lots of the commenters did too. They use the stove top and i think i will too next time.

Well the first direction says to put the 50 degree milk in a pot.  Cool, where is my candy thermometer? not in its typical drawer.  "Hey Luis, have you seen my candy thermometer?" "Ya your son took it." SON OF A! After a 10 minute search of the house we find that we blamed Micah a little too soon. The thermometer was in the spice drawer.  When something is put away somewhere weird, its always Luis's fault.  He does that from time to time.  I haven't figured out why yet. 

Ok so test the milk, its still way too cold.  So i put the heat on it.  I am not sure if this was a mistake or not.  once it hit 50, i put in the citric acid/water combo.  Nothing cool happened.  Then the straight citric.  totally cool. looked like instant sour milk.  go team. So i heated it up to 90 (now is a good time to point out my thermometer only labels every 10th degree. This will be good info to have when you flip through those directions and see what im supposed to heat it to later.)

doesnt that make you want pizza?
So the next few directions involve rennet, having it make a "clean break" and then cutting it into squares. You see that picture there? sorta looks how its supposed to look before you cut it right? Well too bad this was after i'd already cut it and it was supposed to be shrinking and sinking.  Before i cut it it was shrinking and sinking... now afterward it was floating and expanding.  What the heck cheese! why arent you doing what you are supposed to!  A smarter me would have probably skipped the cutting and just reheated it up when it started shrinking but noooo im not that smart.  

So after all the boiling and reboiling (to 108 degrees mind you.  ya, thats not labeled on my thermometer), i got to squish out all the whey.  This is akin to playing with spoiled milk. Seriously. you know how it breaks apart into the big lump floating in the yucky yellow water?  Thats exactly what this is.  So i strained it out in some cheese cloth (ya, thats why its called cheese cloth. who knew?)

At this point its worth noting that my hands look identical to my moms circa 1990.  Seriously.  And my mom thinks her hands look like my grandmas. 

That yellow stuff in the pink bowl is the whey.

So after this comes all the microwaving and stretching, during which i became even more skeptical of the recipe because my cheese wasnt stretching as well as it should have been.  I think this is because i dried it out.  I told you i should have stopped with the heating when it started sinking.  Even still i was able to stretch it moderately and shape it into a ball.
Luis had the audacity to go to work before then so i didn't get him to take a picture with the fancy camera.  So iPad pictures it is:

 There is it! My first ball of cheese!  Its not fabulous, but its defiantly recognizable as cheese, so thats to my credit.  And I got i done all during nap time!  Maggie woke up shortly after i took my first bite.  And even though she loves cheese she didn't want to try mine!  I decided that was just her weird sleep position making her grouchy and i didn't take it personally.

Farmer Katie makes cheese.  Soon i'll have my own tomatoes sitting on top of my own mozarella, sitting on top of home made bread with vinegarette dripping down it containing strips of my home grown basil.  This is the epitome of farm to table delicious in my mind.  Although it doesn't involve my livestock at all...   However, this endeavor has lead to lots of discussions about goats.  I think we better see how it goes with the chickens first.  They aren't even laying eggs yet and we are wanting a goat to milk.  Oh brother....


  1. This cracked me up. Next time you go to the Home Brew store can I come too? I think they might have make-your-own soap stuff too. But hey, if you got a goat, you could also make goat milk soap!

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  3. Waiting to be the first to taste your first batch of feta.

  4. you can totally come to the home brew store! i dont really get into beer but they had so many cool things in there i might be able to kill a few hours. Luis wants to take the home brew class too =)

  5. Glad to see you made it to the home brewers store!

  6. Do you have any idea how much trouble we are in if Luis learns to make beer!?