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Archive for February 12th, 2012

Cultures Of Corruption

No, I don’t mean politicians.  I mean CHEESE!

About three weeks ago I was watching The Food Network and some fella was making fresh mozzarella.  It look simple and delicious and one of my all time favorite things to eat is a caprese salad.  So, being the foodie that I am, I starting looking into the science behind fresh pulled motz.

Here’s a recipe if you’re interested.

I actually made three batches and settled on the hot water cooking method over the microwave process. It made for a smoother, more uniform cheese. But try it and get the kids involved. My family devoured the end product within a few hours each time and my oldest took a pound home and used it for a Pizza Margareta – which I heard was “awesome.”

I’ve made a few pounds of neufchetel which disappears in about a day (a gallon of milk makes about 2 lbs.)  I’ve mixed it with roasted garlic and chives, topped it with jalapeno jelly and mixed it with fresh berries.  It’s so damn easy to make that I have a new batch brewing as we speak.  But to make aged cheeses much more equipment and supplies are needed.

Anyhow, one thing led to another and I have been making more complicated cheeses and gathering equipment. The first thing I had to do was build a cheese press. Obviously I could have bought one but they start at about $100 and go way up from there. So I searched around and finally built  this one mostly out of things I had around the house:

As you can see, I have cheese being pressed there. It was my first attempt at Farmhouse Cheddar.

Here’s the final product:

Now all there is to do is flip once or twice a week and it should be ready in about a month. Since then I found another recipe for the same style cheese and it’s drying and waiting to be waxed tonight.

I’m going to try my hand at making a Spanish Manchego infused with saffron tonight. It’s a brine cured and rubbed cheese so it’s a different aging process than waxing. It’s more complicated too insofar as I have to control both the temperature and the humidity through that aging process.

My son-in-law had an old refrigerator in his garage that, much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve modified into a “cheese cave.”  In order to control the temperature I had to get an external thermostat which, as luck would have it, a home beer making friend happened to have an extra.

Anyhow, I’ve go about $100 into the whole project to date (not including ingredients) and I’ve almost gotten everything I need. I made cheese molds out of things I found at the Goodwill store and I already have most of the cooking utensils (after all, I am a foodie.) I can make a pound of cheese for about $5.00 which, if you haven’t been paying attention, is about 30% less than what one pays for commercial crapola.

Anyhow, I’m planning on starting another blog just for cheese making. I find it a fascinating process and rather a mystical mix of science and alchemy. Too, the patience needed is quit Zen.

I also hope to find other local cheese makers and see if I can get a cheese club going here in town. If one already exists I can’t find it.

BTW, if you live in Missoula and you want to try your hand you can get supplies at Chapman Home Brew. The owner used to run the now defunct Lolo Peak Winery. Her supplies are limited but she has enough on hand to get started. I’m hopeful she can build the trade here so we have ready access to good ingredients locally as opposed to buying over the internet.

Anyhow, if you’re interested in making cheese – either as a beginner of an expert – drop me a line or leave me a note. I’d love to talk to you.

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