Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Say cheese!"

We've been milking our Nigerian goats for more than a year now. Though we've always known there are lots of things to do with the milk besides simply drinking it, they've always been a little intimidating for the learning curve they usually involve. But today, after watching YouTube videos and reading several accounts, I finally tried my hand at cheese-making.

I have fond memories of loading my plate with a few mozzarella balls every Friday during my two years studying in Italy, and, really, I haven't had anything that tastes like what I remember since that time. So, though it might not be the easiest of fresh (non-aged) cheeses, I had to start with mozzarella. The first step, of course, involved obtaining a gallon of fresh milk. It was harder than one might think since the boys consume the half-gallon we're currently getting each day practically as soon as it's out of the goats. Thankfully we have a nice store of frozen milk from the Rosemary's and the boys' time in Wisconsin in May. They got to drink thawed-out milk for two days until I had a full gallon to work with.

A gallon of the freshest Kleinshire goat milk

The next step involved adding some citric acid and carefully heating the milk to 90 degrees. Then I added rennet, the product that causes the milk to form into curds. It's a delicate process, and I must say that I was especially nervous when Rosemary came home an hour into the process and casually informed me that the thermometer was probably off by about ten degrees.

Nonetheless, a solid curd did form in the pot of milk after about an hour. I was able to cut the curd, heat it to 105 degrees, and then ladle the pieces into the colander.

The curd separated from the whey.

According to numerous Internet recipes, the next step involves evaporating most of the remaining whey by heating the curd in a microwave. But since I think this would zap many of the enzymes that make making cheese worth it in the first place (and since we don't have a microwave anyway), I opted for the time-consuming old fashioned method. This involved dipping balls of the curd in water heated to 170 degrees and squeezing and massaging the remaining whey out of them.

Dipping the mozzarella balls in hot water to get rid of every last bit of whey.

When the balls were finally stretchy, like mozzarella should be, then the process was finished.

Stretchy mozzarella, just as it should be.

In the end, I had five tiny balls of mozzarella cheese. Frankly, it was a lot of work, and I was surprised by how little cheese a gallon of milk yielded.

This is all the mozzarella that a gallon of milk yields. I think I'll experiment with a finer straining device to ensure that I'm getting all the curds separated from the whey.

BUT... Rosemary's discerning palate pronounced the cheese phenomenally good. A little more salt next time, though.

Rosemary's discerning palate pronounced the cheese good.

AND... the byproduct is not worthless. For starters, the whey can be heated a second time, to 200 degrees this time, and then strained.

The whey draining from the ricotta cheese.

This produces five or six ounces of ricotta cheese, to which I added some more salt, per Rosemary's instructions, and some Italian seasoning. It will taste delicious spread on some sort of bread tomorrow.

Ricotta cheese, the finished product.

AND... even the remaining byproduct is not worthless. The doubly strained whey can be used for any cooking endeavor, perhaps tomorrow's bread.

Cletus isn't so sure about the whey.

A lot of work, to be sure. But very tasty too!

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