Wednesday, February 22, 2012

DIY Cheese

I love cheese. Everything about it. The stinky stuff. The raw milk kind. The moldy stuff. I love cheese. I love walking around DiBruno's, talking to the mongers and sampling a great aged goat from Spain, a blue from Neal's Yard in England, a triple cream Brie from France. And now I love making cheese. The process is easier than you think, and with the help of a home kit, you can have fresh ricotta or mozzarella in less than an hour. Seriously. 

The wifey found the Urban Cheese Craft shop on Esty, and I was instantly intrigued. For $25 you get everything you need (except the milk) to craft multiple batches of your own home made fromage in a convenient Happy Meal shaped box. 

One gallon of whole milk makes one batch of cheese - 1-1/2 lbs - you decide if it's going to be mozzarella or ricotta. We chose ricotta for our first batch, since it's quicker and easier.

Step 1.) Heat the milk, salt and citric acid up to 185* in a big stock pot, stirring often to keep it from scorching on the bottom. Once it reaches temperature, the curds and whey should start to separate. Turn off the heat and let it set for 10 mins. 

Step 2.) After waiting the 10 mins, strain out through a cheesecloth lined colander. You have to work the colander around a bit to get all the liquid out. 

Step 3.) Let the soon-to-be cheese rest and drain in the colander for 30 mins. 

Step 4.) With the ricotta fully drained and cooled, it's ready to be scooped out of the colander. This was a little tricky, as it really likes to stick to the cheesecloth. Patience is a virtue with cheese. Trust me though, it'll be worth it. 

Step 5.) Eat! We spread the ricotta on sliced rounds of warm ciabatta. Having cheese this fresh is really fantastic. Rich and creamy, salted to your taste. This is soooo much better than anything you can buy at the grocery store. Pick up a tub at Claudio's and it'll set you back $10 and still won't be as fresh. DIY cheese is absolutely worth the time if you've got a lazy Sunday coming up soon. 

The gallon of milk yielded enough ricotta for our snack above, plus a mean lasagna I made based on a recipe out of Marc Vetri's cookbook. The lasagna had a layer of the DIY ricotta mixed with spinach, underneath a layer of sauted eggplant, pureed with breadcrumbs and an egg. All this between sheets of home made pasta made the Vetri way. By far the best lasagna I've ever made. I'll post the full recipe later this week. 

Check out the Urban Cheese shop on Etsy.  You can buy kits for queso blanco and paneer, goat cheese and other supplies like extra muslin, rennet tablets, and citric acid. Let me know how your own stuff comes out! Yeah Cheese!! 


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