Friday, September 11, 2009

Vinegar Cheeses

Today, with the girl's (dairy goats) milk I decided to make cheese. An idea for an Italian dish is brewing in my head and exactly where it's going I'm not sure but first I need some cheese. I want one to put inside a Semolina noodle, home-made of course. I've mixed the noodles including some chopped basil to add color and flavor and since I need to write this blog and mow the lawn, I've thrown the dough in to a Ziploc bag and placed it in the refrigerator. I'll let you know how I made them and what I ended up doing with them next week. But for now, we had better just talk about cheese.

I didn't want to make Mozzarella, stretching the rubbery mixture until it has a gleaming shine. After all, I do need to mow the lawn since it is to rain tomorrow and if the not yet fully formulated recipe in my head ends up calling for it, I'll just use some from the freezer.

So getting out my Cheesemaking Made Easy book by Ricki and Robert Carroll, I decided on Queso Blanco. It's easy and I've yet to get my Messophilic culture going and I promised myself that I wouldn't buy anymore instant cultures. So, I can't make my beloved Feta and doctor it up to make a filling for the noodles. I have some instant Thermophilic culture left but it takes more time than I have today.

(frothy fresh milk in the pail)

Besides, for those of you that haven't made cheese before Queso Blanco is a great one to start with. Since this cheese is mild and takes on the flavors of the foods around it, it might just be lovely inside a noodle with a little Parmesan instead of Feta.

In my cheese pot I placed a gallon of goat milk and put it on the stove warming it to 184 Fahrenheit. Why 184 not 180 like the recipe calls for? Well, I'm not sure if my thermometer is off or our altitude is changes things but I have to go to a little higher temperature or my milk doesn't turn to curds and whey in any of the cheese recipes I use.

When I had the right temperature I added a 1/4 a cup of vinegar and gently stirred it in. Nothing! Well almost nothing. The pitiful amount of curds sinking down under the milk wouldn't hardly fill a fourth a cup so I added a little more and a little more until I had close to a half a cup.

I know the Mont-Laurier Benedictine Nuns could tell me why I needed more vinegar as their book is rather scientific and they actually take the time to test the acidic level of the milk before making cheese. I have the feeling that the nun making cheese probably has another nun to mow the lawn for them. As for me, I'll just have to wait to find out the answer to that burning question until another day when I can sit and re-read their book titled Goat Cheese.

This photo is to show you how the milk transforms into snowy white curds and yellowy whey. It fails to give you the full effect because of poor lighting and the cameras insistance on either flashing too much light into the picture or not enough. Sorry! In this cheese the curds are small and mixed throughout the whey. In many other cheeses the curd will be one large mass and you cut it with a knife into squares while it is in the pot with the whey. But, I'll show you that another day when I'm making a different kind of cheese.

I've lifted the curds up for you to see how fine they are in a vinegar and milk cheese. To save time, I line a wire strainer with a double thickness of cheese cloth from the hardware store, since I'm not using cheese making, cheese cloth.

I then use the cheese ladle that has holes in it to scoop up the curds and place them in the cheesecloth lined strainer. The handle is handy to gently shake back and forth to speed the separation of the curds and whey. Below the wire strainer is a stainless steel strainer to catch any curds that may tumble out of the tilting wire strainer. The strained curds are placed in a bowl and I ladled several more scoops into the wire strainer. When I've gotten the bulk of them, I pour the whey with the remaining floating curds through the strainer. When drained I add the previously strained curds as they have not completed straining and allow them to drain. The recipe says to tie the four corners of the cheesecloth into a knot and hang to drain for several hours or until the bag of curds stops dripping. I find I can use far less cheesecloth and cut the draining time to about twenty minutes using the above method.

(Queso Blanco cheese)

I added a bowl below the strainers to catch the whey. Usually I would have given it to the pigs or chickens but today I used the whey to make another kind of cheese, Ricotta.

It is similar to Queso Blanco cheese in that it is also uses vinegar. You are suppose to use 2 gallons of fresh whey not more than an hour old and 1 quart of milk along with 1/4 cup of vinegar. I had just used a gallon of milk to make cheese so I definitely didn't have 2 gallons of whey. I decided to alter the recipe. If the alteration to the recipe didn't work, I'd give the mixture to the pigs. They would have gotten the whey if I had not decided to make cheese anyway.

Only half wasn't quite right either since curds and whey made up the original gallon of milk. I filled what I thought was a two quart container with the whey and dumped in it to the cheese pot. Pouring the rest of the whey into the same container I was surprised how much it filled it, almost full again. Something wasn't right. I looked at my supposed 2 quart container and it read 1.75 quarts instead of 2 quarts. That's weird, I've had that container for years and I've never read the measurements on the side. Why would anyone make a pitcher that held 1.75 quarts? Of course you could ask why would anyone buy a pitcher that only held 1.75 quarts? But that's neither here not there right now and so instead of adding a pint of whole milk to half the recipe, I added another quart. Okay, so the recipe wasn't exactly halved but like I said earlier what was the worse thing that could happen. The pigs ate my failed attempt at altering a cheese recipe. I could live with that.

( Ricotta cheese)

The recipe said to heat the 1 quart of milk and 2 gallons of whey to 200 Farenheight and then add 1/4 cup of vinegar. So of course, I went to 204 and added 1/4 cup of vinegar. Wait a minute, your thinking, that isn't half the vinegar amount. True, but remember the Queso Blanco cheese had to have double the vinegar so I figured why would this be any different?

The straining the curds from the whey was done in the same manner as before and as it turned out I had a cup of Ricotta cheese. Not bad, when the 2 gallon recipe said to expect 1 to 2 cups of cheese. This was my first time making this recipe. Okay, that sounded dumb. Of course it was the first time, I just made the recipe up.

To find out what I do with the Queso Blanco and Ricotta cheeses you'll have to wait until Tuesday because it is four thirty and now I really need to get outside and mow the lawn.

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