Feta Part II

After the feta was hung (Part I), I lined two molds with cheesecloth, salted the curds and spooned it in their new resting place for the next 16 hours, some new square molds I picked up. I was able to load both molds at once in the press and the whey really started to flow. Instead of going full-out with the weight, I started by adding only a few inches of water in the gallon jug I have hanging for weight. Every few hours I topped up the water to slowly build pressure on the cheese. This helps stops a lot of the milk fats from getting strained out with the whey.

After the prescribed time, and then some, from the Junket recipe, I was left with two blocks of feta tightly packed in the cheesecloth. These aren’t really ready to eat, although the scraps I had were delicious, though bland.

Bricks of feta straight from the press

They have to be pickled in a brine for a couple of days. 5 tablespoons of salt and 600ml of water later, the brine was complete. Nothing fancy, but apparently it does the trick.

The bricks were cut into 1 ½” cubes and stuffed in a 1L sterilizer jar. Brine poured over, cap on, cheesy photo of the sun shining through the glass taken, in the fridge.

Blocks-o-feta! Just like lego, but they don't hurt your foot when you step on them.

Cheesy photo, as promised, of the finished product

I don’t know how feta-y tasting this will be as we don’t have goats (we’re sticking with breaking only one bylaw for now). In a few weeks I’m going to take a drive up to Arthur, Ontario to buy some goat milk from a farm, and I’m sure the resulting cheese will be a lot more Greek (without the riots and bailouts).

Feta Part I

I won’t go into too many details in this post as it is very similar to the cheddar cheese making process. For feta cheese, you add plain Greek yogurt containing active bacteria cultures to inoculate, rather than buttermilk. The other difference is that the cat stayed away for most of the process. She must be part German and sick of anything Greek.

If you want the exact recipe for this cheese, visit David B. Fankhauser’s website (http://biology.clc.uc.edu/Fankhauser/Cheese/Feta.htm). He is the author of all the Junket recipes which come in the packet.

The inoculation takes only an hour until you add the rennet. The mixture of yogurt, rennet and homogenized milk needs to sit overnight to get a clean break. Once this is achieved, you follow the curd cutting process the same as the cheddar, but you do not set the curds with additional heat. Instead, I just gently stirred every few minutes for half an hour or so. By doing this, the curds contract and start to expel the whey they are holding.

Once the majority of the whey was decanted, the curds were strained in cheese cloth supported by a fine mesh strainer. The corners of the cloth were pulled up and tied off so it can hang for a few hours. The cheese is currently hanging, and once it has drained enough, it will be on to part II which includes molding and salting. The hook on the cheese press for the weight is doubling as a hanging apparatus for the feta:

By Monday we should be eating a fresh feta cheese in our salad and hopefully not be spending the rest of the week sick on the toilet from it.

Cheddar cheese! No whey! Yes whey! Part I

I posted last week about a mozzarella I made with Junket rennet and homogenized milk from the grocery store. This time I decided to take the plunge into making a hard cheese. The recipe I followed actually comes with the Junket rennet and it’s quite easy to follow, but there are quite a few opportunities to cock it all up.

Timing and temperature. The two most important things when you’re making cheese. Poor timing: starting at 6am before work. To start the whole process, you have to warm 4L of milk to 20°C very slowly. When you’re trying to get ready for work, feed chickens, and keep a crying cat who can smell the dairy in the air back, it can feel a little rushed. One wrong move and the cat is swimming in a vat of warm milk, and you have to tip it all down the sink (put the strainer in to avoid clogging the sink with your feline saboteur).

The chickens are eating and the cat has turned her attention to fluff on the floor, so now is the perfect time to inoculate the milk. For this recipe, the bacterial that will start to multiply in the milk and give it its flavour, is from active culture buttermilk. 1/4 cup is enough to inoculate the whole batch. The only problem lies with what to do with the remaining near litre of buttermilk. “Make buttermilk pancakes!” you say. We did. Revolting.

So back to the cheese. Warm milk, buttermilk added, lid on, warm place for 12 hours. Go to work, get home and move onto the next phase: forming curds. At this point, the inoculated mix smells just like a mild cheddar and it starts to get exciting!

Note how nothing is happening, but it smells delicious:

The milk has to be warmed to 30°C slowly and a half tablet of rennet that was dissolved in a 1/4 cup of water is stirred in. Lid back on, off the heat, wait for coagulation. The instructions say one hour until you get a clean break (curd formation) but my milk didn’t feel like following instructions. Instead, I waited 4 hours (one of which went by quickly by watching an episode of Edwardian Farm). It’s now 23.15 and I want to go to bed. The milk decides your bedtime in cheese making, and last night it wasn’t feeling sleepy at all.

Once the clean break is achieved, you have to cut the curd into cubes with a clean knife and then place it back on the heat:

Slowly pulling the curds up from the bottom of the pan with a very clean hand, you’ll eventually heat up to 39°C and hold the temperature for a few minutes. This sets the curds, and by setting at a higher temperature, a harder cheese will form, hopefully.

It’s now midnight and you have to scramble to clean everything, boil the cheese cloth for sterilization purposes, set up the press, and keep the cat, whose interest in the fluff has waned again, back.

Line the dollar store tupperware mold with cheese cloth, strain the whey from the curds, add curds to mold, nest the matching tupperware container on top of the cheese, and press. This is when you start to get really annoyed. You realize your table isn’t level, and the whey is dripping on the carpet. Somehow, from the other side of the door, the cat has sensed the spill and is crying while bashing the door in. A wooden spoon and some cardboard help level the device off, and the whey starts to flow into the waste pan.

The weight on the end of the press is a 1 gallon jug of water, which, through the lever, creates quite a bit of pressure on the mold. After sleeping and going to work, I removed the cheese. Unbelievably, it looks like a cheese!

I cut the extra bits off to create a level top to make waxing easier in a few weeks. With a healthy helping of non-iodized sea salt, I rubbed the outside before wrapping it in a sterilized tea towel, and placed it in the fridge to let it age.

Over the next week or so I’ll replace the tea towel with a new one every day. A rind should, fingers crossed, form and then I’ll post more pictures, including the waxing process.

If you have some extra milk, like having your life controlled by the aforementioned dairy product, you should have a go at making some cheese. I’d recommend adding sedatives to the cat’s food first.

Homemade Mozzarella

I was going to post some pictures of the cheese press I’m making, but while assembling, things went pear-shaped and I’m reconstructing today.

So to make up for it, I thought I’d write about some mozzarella I made a couple of weeks ago. This is a really simple recipe that you can find all over the internet. I mainly followed this Instructable (http://www.instructables.com/id/Great-Mozzarella-Cheese/). You don’t need anything fancy for this recipe from an obscure cheese shop. Big stainless pot, sieve, spoon and microwave is all you need.

As for ingredients, don’t rush out and milk a cow for raw milk. Store bought whole milk (homo) works fine. Apparently 2% and skim milk work as well, but I wanted the full-fat taste for this one. Two more important ingredients for this recipe are rennet and citric acid. I managed to find some liquid calf rennet, but I ended up using Junket brand Rennet Tablets (http://www.junketdesserts.com/). Most grocery stores carry them in the baking aisle. I found them at Fortinos in the end. The citric acid comes in a powder form and I already had some from making mead (the summer solstice mead in our cold room will be a later post). Citric acid is sold at Bulk Barn and some grocery stores in the spice aisle.

The trick to making mozzarella is getting the temperatures spot on. Too hot or cold, and the rennet won’t set the milk and you’ll be dumping 4L of milk down the sink (been there, dumped it). Once you’ve got the curds to form and removed it from the whey, you end up with something that looks more like the mozzarella you see in the shops:

Through kneading and heating the curd in the microwave (temperature is extremely important), the cheese releases more and more whey while starting to stretch. Stretching the cheese is very important to get the mozzarella consistency, it’s also a lot of fun. This is the point where you’ll get really excited and realize you’ve actual made cheese! People around you may just roll their eyes, but hopefully operate the camera for you.

I added some salt and immersed the cheese into cool water. After a few minutes, it was chopped up and put on homemade pizza (I take zero credit for the pizza. My long suffering wife is the talented cook in this house).

The whey that is leftover, should be kept covered overnight in the pot. The next day you can make a simple ricotta cheese by boiling the whey, and straining off the liquid for 1/2 an hour through cheesecloth.

This recipe yields a pound of mozzarella and half a pound of ricotta from 4L of whole milk. The mozzarella is best used within a week and the ricotta within a few days (you can freeze the ricotta for another day).

I’ll have to get this press going so I can post about the cheddar I want to make. The wax is in the mail, the milk is in the fridge, but the press is in pieces.