Years ago our family lived in a neighborhood on a corner lot. A good portion of our backyard was consumed by something I was growing, either a garden or fruit trees. We noticed one day that a neighbor was walking down the road and glancing at my garden. Each time we saw him go by his glances got a little longer until he was practically staring at the garden with a puzzled look on his face. After about a week of this we finally struck up a conversation with him ( I know we’re a little slow). He began asking me questions about my garden and seemed to be very interested in what I had growing on the back row. Finally he asked me what it was and I told him I was growing broccoli. He got a perplexed look on his face and said, “Oh I’m not brave enough to try to grow broccoli.” John and I chuckled about this later when we thought about it again. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I had to have any sense of courage to grow broccoli! I just tucked them in the soil and let it do it’s thing. I didn’t really get what he was saying, that is until recently. Lately, I had the blessing of acquiring some extra, fresh milk and started toying with the idea of making my own cheese. Every time I thought about it though I had a sense of trepidation. Could this be what my neighbor friend was feeling?? Fear of a food? Hmmmm? I began to research it and it just seemed to be uncharted territory to me. Finally I mustered up the “courage” and boy was I glad I did when I put that first piece of hot fresh mozzarella in my mouth! After you do it a couple of times you get a good sense of how things are supposed to look it’s as easy as cooking anything else. So lets get right to it! I will lay out the steps and explain the process to you. You can do this!
What you will need:
1 gallon of raw or pasteurized milk (not ultra pasteurized)
liquid rennet or a rennet tablet
One large non reactive pot (like stainless steel)
A pair of clean dishwashing gloves
At this point you will heat the milk to about 88 degrees over medium-low heat. (The milk will start to curdle). Add 1/4 tsp. of liquid rennet or 1/4 tablet of rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup of filtered water. Gently mix in the diluted rennet, stirring with an up and down motion. Continue heating until the temperature reaches 100-105 degrees. Remove from heat and wait. You should begin to see the “curds” separate from the “whey” This will happen in one big piece and you will see it separate from the pan with the whey being the liquid part around it. It will look like yogurt and have a bit of a shine to it. If the whey is still milky white instead of clear, wait a few more minutes.
Now at this point you have two different routes you can take: the microwave route or the stovetop route. There is a school of thought that the microwave destroys vital nutrients in our food and can present dangers to our health, but for those that still use it I will put both options next.
Microwave: With a slotted spoon scoop out the curds and put in a microwave safe bowl. Press the curds gently with your hands, pouring off as much whey as possible. Save the whey! Microwave curds on HIGH for 1 minute. Put on a pair of gloves and and drain off excess whey. Repeat this step two more times.
Stovetop: Heat the reserved whey after removing your curds, as in above description, to 175 degrees. With your heavy gloves on, dip the ball of curd into the whey until it becomes smooth and pliable. You may need to break the ball into smaller pieces and dunk it between two spoons as it gets very warm.
It is easier to place a sieve over a container and drain your whey through that. It keeps little pieces of curds out of your whey. Whey is great to culture various things with like sour kraut, veggies or to add to smoothies for a good probiotic protein source.
Enjoy with a nice salad! See I knew you could do it!
Note: Feel free to add herbs such as basil or oregano during the salt stage to add some extra flavor to your cheese.