Friday, March 30, 2012

Making Cheese in Thailand

It's definitely a challenge!

JEM is an American who has lived in Thailand for many years.  (We are not using his full name or posting his picture at his request.)

He began to study Chinese in 1970, and he now works as a US Library of Congress Certified Braille Transcriber.

There is a profile of him at his website and it explains how he ended up there:

I grew up in the town of Morristown, NJ, the home of the original  'Seeing Eye' guide dogs for the blind, founded in 1929.

I watched  persons who were blind and had come to my small town from all over the world to train with their new dogs.

I realized at a very young age that these persons were as normal as anybody else; they just couldn't see very well.

A series of chance occurrences in Thailand, drawing on this background, led me to work for the (blind) founder of the largest foundation for the blind in SE Asia … chances that only occur when you get up and go places.

View from JEM's balcony.

This is the area where I live - in one of the 'deluxe' rooms.  I have a large bathroom where I have a stack of Rubbermaid-type storage boxes for a kitchen counter and a similar stack on my balcony where I have the electric wok and a 1300w round-type convection oven.

Apartments in Thailand often have no kitchen as there is so much street-food available that many never bother to cook - I bought my own refrigerator but a couple of batches of cheese draining cuts into my available food space.

View from JEM's hallway of the Buddhist Wat next door.

Forest Wat in Ubon

Can you buy cheese in Thailand?

Cheese / queso is used in the tropical countries of Mexico, Central and South America, so climate is not the total answer. Fresh made cheeses (paneer) are a big part of the SE Asia / India diet  - but once you get to SE Asia and Japan, China, etc. it seems to have completely dropped from the diet, even though in Islamic countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia beef is part of the diet.

Pizza / mozzarella is now consumed in Thailand along with 'ham & cheese' sandwiches at my local 7-11 (one slice of ham and a slice of pale yellow process cheese).  There is a big import tax on dairy products, but if you buy at the Makro in at least 1 kg (2.2 lb) quantities (Makro is the Dutch-based equivalent of Costco / Sam's) the price of Italian and Dutch/Danish cheeses is not so bad.

A young girl's first day at the School for the Blind in Lampang, Thailand, taken in 2003.

JEM's homemade Neufchatel

How did you get interested in making cheese?

I have long experiences visiting Cabot Creamery in VT and lived near and visited Rouge et Noir in Marin County, CA.  That is from where my interest in cheese making stems.

Also, because of import duties, imported cheese in Thailand is very expensive and the local cheese, other than the industrial type, is very limited.

What are you making?

My cheese making is very limited, as I have no kitchen. I make a batch of cheese which I liken to Neufchatel from 6 liters (1 1/2 gal) of raw milk (which I pasteurize in two 3L (3Qt) batches ) then use mesophilic and flora danica cultures. After a few days draining, I press and let dry in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. Then, I either eat it or give some to Thai friends.

Milk used for drinks in Thailand

I have an excellent daily source for raw milk. The place I buy it (in a 6L (1 1/2 gallons) plastic pouch) sells it for drinks made from coffee, tea, or fruit powders and the style is that the milk is boiled. It goes for 135 baht per 6L pouch which is about $4.50.

A 6 liter (1 1/2 gallon) pouch of raw milk.

Sterilizing tools

Milk brought to room temperature

Adding Fresh culture

Fresh (mother culture) starter.

I do not have a hot plate -- I use my electric wok as a double boiler to pasteurize the milk in my two 4 liter (1 gallon) stainless steel pots in 3L (3 quarts) batches... I cool down the pots in an ice bath before adding the cultures and later the rennet.

Heating milk


Draining in refrigerator

After draining

Ready to eat

Do you have a press?

Very make-shift - just 2 small plastic ice buckets one with holes punched in the bottom and a 6 liter (1 1/2 gallons) water bottle about half-way filled with cement ... about 10 pounds or so.

Do you make anything else?

I use the mesophilic and flora danica cultures and the cheese result just depends upon how long I can keep it in the refrigerator before it gets eaten.

I was tasting my Fromage Blanc and I had this sensation that it tasted familiar but I couldn't place it - I later decided to give it some more flavor with some garlic powder (not garlic salt) made here in Thailand and some Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning which I bring back with me each USA trip.  When I mixed that up and tasted it, it became obvious: it tasted just like Boursin with the exact same crumbly texture -- not smooth like cream cheese but that is probably from the guar gum anyway.

JEM's yogurt

I like to occasionally bake some bread using some of the no-knead methods.

My favorite thing to make these days is sauerkraut -- never made it before in the USA but it comes out real good and healthy to boot.

Well, we'll save that for another article!  Thanks, JEM.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Using Vacuum Sealers to Age Your Cheese?

Photo courtesy of Tara Tarbet at Welcome Home Farm
It's all about the taste!

If the only reason you aren't making a waxed cheese is because of the waxing process, go ahead and buy that vacuum sealer.  It might be the answer to your prayers.  Many folks are doing it and they love it.  We don't.

It isn't because we sell cheese wax.  We know better than anyone that waxing can be bothersome, bandaging can be messy and leaving the cheese with it's natural rinds requires ongoing attention.  But,our mission is to help you, the home cheese maker, make the best cheese you can.  You work hard to make it, you wait patiently for it to age and when you finally eat it, we want it to taste as good or better than the cheeses you love.

Jim Wallace and his wife, Robin
We leave the final word on issues like this to our technical advisor, Jim Wallace (  (We try to be consistent with our policies, so one of us isn't telling you one thing and another is telling you something different.)  So, I asked him to explain to you why we don't recommend vacuum packaging:

What is available to most of the home cheese making folks is not a permeable film so it is bad for aging. I am very much aware of the fact that the big boys do the film packs for aging but they use a selective permeability that works just fine for their cheese. Home cheese makers do not have access to that.

I had tried vacuum packaging myself but the results produced some pretty nasty smells and flavors (as well as textures) that were quite coarse.

I have done parallel agings (same batch but different coverings) and found that natural rinds/wax/vacuum packaging all produce different cheeses.

My other sense of using the vacuum pack has been in bringing cheese back from overseas. In the beginning, I thought I had to do this to get it into the country but I found that some pretty awesome cheeses tasted very inferior with just 5-7 days in the pack.

So, that said, here are some other arguments, both for and against vacuum packaging:

Arguments in Favor:

From a local farmer and cheese maker:

All of the large manufacturers are using this  method primarily for its effective quality control and mold reduction and it is nothing new.  Kathy Biss (Practical Cheesemaking) turned me to this method a decade ago and it is really marvelous and simple. 

There is sufficient air within a cheese for aging and curing. Vacuum packaging large cheeses is more convenient than waxing.

Often times a waxed cheese will develop mold beneath any fault in the wax. This occurs easily with handling of cheeses during aging.

I vacuum pack large cheeses and wax individual pieces prior to sale.
Cliff Hatch, Upinngil Farm

Excerpts From the Forums:


I just opened a 2 year old cheddar that was vacuum sealed and it was wonderful.
Forum participant, Cheese Forum

I’ve bandaged, waxed and vacuum sealed; and here are my thoughts on the subject.  ... I personally prefer the vacuum sealing method - this after resisting the trying of it for a very long time because I felt that waxing was just the right way to go.
...I had a lot of cracking problems with wax, and mold formation in the cracks.  I’ve had none of that with vacuum sealing ...  I have had no dissatisfaction in flavor, moisture or texture since going to vacuum sealing.  And, I’ve not seen any cheeses with mold on them either.

...Vacuum sealing is much easier, faster, not as messy, and you can see what you’ve got at any time during the aging.  Another thing is that humidity in your cave becomes a moot point if your cheeses are vacuum sealed. Nor do you have any rind to deal with.
Forum participant,  Rick Robinson's Discussion Forum

I don't mess with wax anymore, as it never worked very well for me...mold under the wax, leaking, cracks in the wax. It just wasn't worth all the time, effort and expense to me. I really like vacuum sealing and don't have losses due to cutting away a lot of rind due to drying out or mold.
If you wax or vacuum seal your cheese, you don't need to worry about controlling the humidity levels, that is necessary for natural rind cheeses.
Forum participant,  Keeping a Family Cow

Suggestions for Using

I have used my vacuum sealer plenty. Something you need to remember is that you are lowering the atmospheric pressure on the cheese inside the bag. Even the best rind on the outside is holding back moister. Once you put it into the vacuum the whey on the inside is now pressurized, and is forcing itself out past the rind.
Forum participant: Cheese Forum

If you ever do vacuum pack for aging, you must keep it out of the bag for at least 2-3 hours before eating to let the cheese find equilibrium in the new environment and aerate out. If there are ammonia or similar flavors, you can also age it for a few weeks not in the bag and in a cave to let all those flavors mellow out and a little moisture evaporate.
Forum participant: Dairy Goat Forum's moisture that's your enemy when vacuum sealing. If there's leftover whey in the curd, any mold or other formation of undesirables on the rind, no salt balance reached in the wheel, etc, it will be a failure. ... One good way of doing it is to pre-season the rind by killing off any bacteria/mold on it, either chemically or by making an inhospitable place. One good way to make the rind inhospitable is to let it sit and dry off for 3-4 weeks, eliminating the moisture bacteria need. It may be easier to use wax... just depends on your situation. I just wanted to make the point that vacuum sealing is a viable option.
The gist of how to get it to work if you want to try is to:
1) Take out of mold, put in to room at same temp and 70-80% relative humidity for 1-3 days. This is to dry the rind out a little.
2) Put into 85-90% relative humidity room at 55 and watch the rind, treating any outbreaks of mold. When a thin shell looks like it has formed all around and the surface is dry to the touch, then you can vac pack.
Forum participant: Dairy Goat Forum

Arguments Against:

Excerpts From the Forums:

I never got the hang of vacuum packing cheese.  It must have been too wet or some such. They always turned into something rather gross while my waxed wheels were great.  The wax still breathes.  The plastic does not. I learned the hard way that I did not want to vacuum pack.
Forum participant, Dairy Goat Forum

Last fall over the course of a couple of months I made and packed five different cheeses into vacuum bags. One cheese started to grow some mold after about a month, so I opened it up and immediately noticed a rancid or sour smell. I cut off a small piece, ate it, and the result was not what I wanted. I ended up opening all the other cheeses I had packed in bags. I ended up throwing out four of the cheeses.
Forum participant, Cheese Forum

I experimented with waxing some of the cheese I made and vacuum sealing some other. I thought that the vacuum sealed cheese never developed the flavor that the waxed cheese did. It wasn't that the vacuum sealed cheese was bad, it just was never really tasty like the waxed cheese. I thought that the vacuum sealing actually stunted the aging process in the cheese.
Forum participant, Keeping a Family Cow  

... I was rolling along stocking a good amt of wheels to age in wax with no bacteriastat painted on and then someone talked me into vacuum packing right after rind formation and the entire group that I did that to went to the chickens. Too much work to risk it.  It was a sorry loss.  I had 5 day air dried rind after 24 hour brine soak and no trouble with waxed only the ones in plastic.
Forum participant, Dairy Goat Forum

Loleta Cheese Factory

As Jim explained above, the issue is permeability.  Commercial cheese makers have access to permeable films, so they can make award winning cheeses.  For example:  Judy Schad at Capriole uses vacuum sealing as one of the steps in making her fabulous goat's milk cheeses like Mont St. Francis and O'Banon.

The film that comes with home sealers is impermeable.  The assumption is that you will be freezing meat and vegetables-not aging cheese!  Cheese wax is permeable (ask anyone who has waxed a moist cheese).

There is no question that cheese will age inside a vacuum bag.  The cheese itself contains enough oxygen for the process to occur.  However, as cheese ages, the sugars, fats and proteins break down and combine in new ways.  While they are doing that, they offload certain compounds including ammonia, acetic acid and all kinds of different volatiles.  When these compounds are trapped in the cheese by an impermeable film of plastic, they have an effect on the taste of the cheese.

You may love that taste!  If so, you're all set.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mike Vrobel's Grilled Brie

Mike Vrobel
Don't tell anyone, but he has never made cheese! 

We'll have to change that.  We are sending Mike Vrobel a Mozzarella Kit, so he will have no excuse.

He told us- he did accidentally make butter one time. It was supposed to be whipped cream, but he got sidetracked while the mixer kept on whipping the cream!

Mike has a great cooking blog called DadCooksDinnerHe makes supper every night for his wife and three children at their home in Copley, Ohio.  (Don't you love that?)

In the "About DadCooksDinner" section of his website, he writes,  "I focus on grilling and rotisserie cooking because I'm a guy, and cooking over a live fire satisfies deep seated Y chromosome needs."  From the comments on his website, it seems a lot of men can relate to that.

By Keven Anderson, the house artist for

Mike believes in cooking real food with simple recipes, so you will find things like Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Dry BrineSlow Cooker Turkey Thighs with Beer and Onions, Salmon Saute with Tequila Orange Sauce and hundreds more of his mouth-watering dishes.

The post that first caught my eye was the one below.  I know you'll agree with me that it looks like a heavenly treat:

Plank Grilled Brie with Honey and Thyme
By Mike Vrobel at DadCooksDinner

Ever have a favorite recipe...that you forget?

Years ago, my go to appetizer was cedar plank Camembert. I'd pull a smoking plank with a big round of cheese off of the grill, and amaze my guests. "What do you mean, you're grilling the cheese?"

I stopped making it. I don't know why; it just drifted out of my memory.

Last month Christopher Kimball talked about secret Thanksgiving recipes on NPR. His favorite appetizer? Brie with Honey and Thyme, microwaved until bubbling. A simple version of my old favorite.

*My favorite part of the show? Mr. Kimball made cornflake stuffing. Yes, stuffing made out of breakfast cereal. Why make cornbread just for stuffing, when you can substitute cornflakes?

That wasn't the favorite part. Asked if he'd confess, he said "I would lie, of course. The prerogative of the cook is, when someone asks what's in it, you don't have to tell the truth."

I know what my Christmas appetizer will be. And maybe New Year's as well. Sure, I could use the microwave, but you know me - the grill will already be fired up. I'm going back to my old standby, and plank grilling some cheese.

Recipe: Plank Grilled Brie with Honey and Thyme

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sulguni - A Stretched Curd Cheese

Similar to Mozzarella, it is very popular in the Republic of Georgia

We are very excited that Maria Schumann of Cate Hill Orchard in Vermont sent us this recipe.  (She will be having the upcoming singing and cheese making internship we mentioned in our March Moosletter.

Maria traveled to Georgia in the early 2000's where she fell in love with all things Georgian, especially the cheese.

This past summer, after she began milking her own sheep, she searched far and wide for the recipe for Sulguni (a stretched curd cheese which is sometimes brined and given the moniker- "pickled cheese").

Finally, she wrote to a company in New Zealand which makes it - Colchis Ltd.  The owners, Nina and Marina Kandelaki make 2 kinds - semi-hard and smoked.  They sell it at various online locations and at their website -

Nina sent Maria a detailed recipe which she had adapted for using with 13 gallons of milk (much less than they usually use per batch).  It seems amazing that she would take the time to do this!  However, at this point, we know enough about the integrity and generosity of cheese makers to never be surprised. 

We thank Nina for this wonderful recipe and we thank Maria for sending it to us.

By Nina Kandelaki at Colchis Ltd

I have not actually tried making sulguni out of sheep's milk, so I don't know if it will work the same as with cow's milk as we do it. (I know that goat's milk is not as good in terms of getting a nice stretchy curd, so I'm not sure if it'll be the same with sheep's milk ... though people in Georgia do make it from sheep's milk, so it should be okay.)

Adding starter:

Anyway, we use a buttermilk starter for our cheese because it gives it that nice sourish taste, but you can, of course, feel free to experiment with other ones.  What we do is inoculate about 200mls (3/4 cup) of milk (any milk-it doesn't have to be raw or unhomogenized) with about 20mls (4 tsp) of buttermilk the night before cheesemaking and leave it in a warm place such as a hot water closet, or wrapped in blankets near a heater.  Ideally, the milk being inoculated shouldn't be straight out of the fridge, but room temperature is fine.  It takes about 8 hours for the starter to be ready.

Now let's assume you're working with 50L (13 gallons) of milk.  First, you need to heat it up to 37.5C (100F), and once it's that temperature, add the starter.  How much starter you add depends on what type of sulguni you want - basically, the longer you want it to drain (thus achieving quite firm curds and making a harder cheese) the less starter you add.  I think for you this is probably the best way to go, because soft sulguni can be very tricky to get right.  So, for 50L (13 gallons) of milk, I would add maybe 50-70ml (1/4-1/3 cups) of starter and stir it around.

I should have mentioned that it's a good idea to make it in a chilly bin or some kind of insulated container because the warmer the curds are kept, the firmer the cheese will be.  Also, you need to wait about an hour before you add the rennet, and the temperature of the milk should not be lower than 37C (99F) when you add it - and, of course, the less milk you have, the faster it cools down, so either make it in a container which will keep the warmth in, or do it on the stove so you can heat the milk back up to 37C (99F) when you need to add the rennet.  Of course, this is to get the curds firm.  If you just wait an hour and add the rennet when the milk is colder, you'll you'll just have a creamier texture - so maybe that's what you're after.  There's really no wrong answer, as you probably know sulguni comes in hundreds of different varieties because everyone has their own way of making it.  It just depends on your taste.

Adding rennet:

Now, rennet ... I guess this will be a trial and error situation because I cannot give you an exact amount without knowing how strong it is.  We use a vegetarian rennet (which tends to be stronger than animal) and I use a concentration of 0.4mls (6 drops) for every 1 litre (1 quart), so for 50L (13 gallons) it would be 20ml (4 tsp) of rennet.  I'm not sure where you can get it in the States but I guess if we in little ol' New Zealand have a hobbyist cheese shop which sells it, then I'm sure you guys will too!  It can be a little expensive though.  (Note: We sell all kinds of rennet including organic vegetable rennet and it isn't expensive!)

You add the rennet into a glass of warm water (about 37-38C (99-100F)) and stir it with a spoon, and then very quickly you pour it into the milk, stirring as you go, and when you finish pouring, stir it some more.  Then, you leave it to set.  How long you leave it before cutting determines what kind of cheese you get - the longer you leave it uncut, the softer the cheese will be.  So, if you're making a hard(ish) cheese, you want to cut the curds very finely (as fine as they will get) as soon as the milk has set.  The way you judge that is by doing a clean break test - basically, you stick your finger in and break the curds and it should...well...break clean!  It's hard for me to explain but have a look at the two pictures at the top of this page -

Cutting the curds:

Once a clean break is achieved, you cut the curds.  I recommend doing this with an egg beater or whisk - just stick it in and stir it around until the curds are all broken into about 2-3ml (1/10 inch) pieces.  They should be tiny, kind of like the pulp in orange juice.  Then you leave it for about 20 minutes to drain.

Draining the curds:

After that time, you'll see that the curds have all sank to the bottom and all that's left on top is whey.  Now you need to start draining it.  We do it with pumps but what you can do is simply get a jug and a sieve, take out some curds and whey with the jug and pour it over the sink so the whey gets poured out but the curds are left in the sieve (you can also save the whey and make ricotta from it), then return them to the rest of the curds and repeat the process until there is as little whey left as possible.  Of course, whey will just keep on coming out for the next few hours so you don't need to be too thorough, just do it often, every 20-30 minutes or so and try to get as much whey as you can.

As time goes by, you will notice that less whey is coming out of the curds, and the curds are firmer, and eventually they start to matte.  You're on the right track, but try to keep them from matting (just break them up) so they drain better.  Ideally, the temperature in the container should be about 30-35C (86-95F).  You don't want it to get too cold.  In fact, up to 37F (99F) is fine but don't let it get hotter than that or the bacteria might die.

Stretching the curds:

Once the curds have gotten to the point of matting, or when you see that they are hardly producing whey, you have to start doing stretch tests.  So, boil some water, take out a little piece of curd (about a centimeter or two) and put it in the hot water.  After about 20-30 seconds, take it out and try stretching it.  It's really hard to say which is just the right amount of stretch, but basically "stretchy but not too stretchy!"  You just have to develop a feel for it.  Anyway, once it starts stretching, you're ready to make cheese.  (The process should have taken about 5-8 hours.)

What you'll need now is some hot water, ideally 75C (167F), at least not colder than 65C (149F).  And lots of it.  I'm not sure what is the best way to go about it in your case (we have a vat and pumps)...but 50L (13 gallons) will make about 5 kilos (11 lbs) of cheese, and if you want them to be about a kilo each (2 lbs), then you'll need about ten kettle-fulls of hot water.  Also, you'll need - 1.  a large bowl to hold both the water and the curds, and a sieve or colander, preferably a plastic colander.  2.  a plastic dinner try to stretch the curds on.  3.  salt  4.  thick rubber gloves and probably fabric gloves to wear underneath.

What you do next is break up the curds if they are matted.  You don't want any large pieces because they won't heat through, and you want to try to get them mostly the same size so they heat evenly.  Before you start stretching, it's a good idea to cover the curds with quite a bit of cold water to stop the acidifying process, and just leave them in the water until you finish.  If they become quite hard to fish out from the water then you can definitely pour some off.  You don't actually have to do it at all, I generally don't but it doesn't take us very long to get through 50L (13 gallons) of cheese because of our set-up, so it wouldn't have time to over-acidity.  Anyway, now the stretching!

Take out the curds with the sieve or colander.  How big you want the cheeses to be is entirely up to you but traditionally they come in wheels weighing about 0.5 - 1 kilo (1-2 lbs).  Ours are usually about 600 grams (1.3 lbs).  You then put the curds in a large bowl or bucket and pour hot water over them.  The curd : water ratio should be about 1 : 6.  Well, it depends how hot the water is, of course.  You will see if the water is not hot enough or if there's not enough of it as the curds won't stretch.

It takes about 40 seconds to a minute for the stretching to begin.  Making sure you've got your gloves on (fabric gloves underneath too for extra protection against the hot water), stick your hand in the bowl, lift it out with some curds and check that they are stretching.  If they are, you pour out the contents of the bowl into your colander, give it a little shake to remove excess water, then transfer it onto your tray.  Then salt it, and how much salt you use is once again up to you - for 500 grams (1 lb) I would use maybe 2 teaspoons.  Then, you begin to knead it like a dough, and I don't know how best to explain this...I tried having a look at some videos on making mozzarella but it isn't quite the same process.

Basically, you fold the curd mass over itself about 12 - 16 times, and then form a ball by folding the edges underneath.  It doesn't actually have to be a ball, it just needs to be folded somehow so it's smooth on top.

Molding the cheese:

Then you put it into a container of cold water, just to cool it down a little bit so it doesn't need to be in there for more than a minute or two.  The traditional shape of sulguni is round, but it doesn't really matter what shape you make it.  You'll need a mold of some sort, like a baking tray with a removable bottom.  It should legally be bottomless so the cheese can keep draining but if it's quite hard, there won't be an excess of liquid, so you could get away with pretty much any container - even a regular soup bowl, but then I do recommend that you check on it from time to time and pour off the liquid if there is any (there still should be a little bit even with harder cheese).

With a bottomless mold, you should turn the cheese over after a couple of hours to get an even texture on top and bottom.  The important thing is to not leave it in water like mozzarella.  So, you let it sit overnight and then you're done!  Ideally, you'd keep it in a cool room but it's fine at room temperature provided it isn't too warm.

Colchis Cheese

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ricotta Salata with Shannon Olson

It's "comfort food" in the long, cold North Dakota winter.

We interviewed Shannon last May and posted her recipe for dry buttermilk cheese.

At that time, she had 3 websites:  North Dakota Kitchen (recipes), A Southern Belle with Northern Roots (lifestyle), and Christian Living By Grace (spiritual).

Since then, she has added a deeply personal website, Shannons Pig Tales, a collection of stories about growing up with a narcissistic parent.

These days, Shannon and her husband are empty nesters, both their children having grown up and moved out (the last one only one month ago.)

So, now that she has some time, Shannon is hoping to tackle some of the "harder" cheeses.  Naturally, we hope that when she does, she will take some of her gorgeous pictures and share her experiences with us.

Ricotta Salata
By Shannon Olson at North Dakota Kitchen

I am in love with this cheese!
So far everyone that has tried it, has asked for more. Wonderful salty, sharp just perfect for snacking or with a good crusty bread.

This recipe is from Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll.

For this recipe I started with whole raw milk, skimming the lovely cream off the top and setting aside for another use.

Prepare your butter muslin, line a colander and place in a bowl to catch whey.

Mix 1 tsp citric acid that has been dissolved in 1/4 c cool water into 1 gallon whole milk.
In large pot heat to 185- 195 degrees, Do Not Boil. Stir often to prevent scorching.
Mine came together at around 192 degrees.

As curds and whey separate turn off the heat. Make sure whey is not milky.
Let set undisturbed 10 minutes.

Ladle curds into butter muslin, tie corners in a knot and let hang 20-30 minutes.
(AT this point you can now add 1 tsp salt and 1-2 Tbs cream and store in fridge for whole milk ricotta)
If not... skip instructions in parenthesis and continue on.

Remove ricotta from muslin and add 1Tbs cheese salt.  Press into muslin lined ricotta mold and put a saucer and glass of water on top.  Press 12 hours.

Unmold and rub surface with salt, cover and refrigerate. Turn cheese and rub with salt every day for 1 week.
Remove any mold with salt water dampened cheesecloth. I did not get any mold.
If cheese becomes too soft, dry surface and re-salt.
I kept my cheese in the butter muslin wrapped loosely and in the mold, stored in the fridge top shelf.
Age 2-4 weeks.
Warning if you taste it you won't be able to stop!

Now with that left over whey why not make a batch of English Muffin Bread!

Monday, March 12, 2012

30 Minute Mozzarella with Carly & Jean

Making Sense out of Making Mozzarella ...

Carly and Jean describe their blog, Making Sense of Things as, "A thought-provoking blog about how to live a meaningful life."

They are certainly authorities on that particular subject because they are devoting their lives to making a difference in the world.  They currently call France their home base, but they have just returned from doing volunteer work in Palestine.

Prior to meeting each other 2 years ago, Carly worked as an engineer and Jean worked for NGOs (non-governmental organizations) all over the world in developing countries - Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Cuba, DRCongo, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kenya, Occupied Palestinian Territories, North Korea, Salvadore, Zambia and more. 

Their blog is fun and interesting with articles about all kinds of subjects.  Examples:  John Cleese on ‘Alerts to terror threats in 2011 Europe’ – very funny!, Why we’ve decided to stop buying food from supermarkets…, Who is the ‘authority’ that said that Coca-Cola was safer to drink than raw milk?, etc.

Last summer, we posted their article about Making Brie.  At that point, they had already made cultured butter, yogurt and cottage cheese.  Since then, they have made kefir, kefir cheese and, now, mozzarella:

How to make mozzarella at home
By Carly & Jean at Making Sense of Things

You might remember this post from the New England Cheese Making Supply Company… they liked our ‘How to make brie cheese at home’ post so much they posted it on their site and sent us a Mozzarella & Ricotta kit.  We were so excited to try another type of cheese at home so this post is how we made it. The great thing about making mozzarella is that it’s quite simple, fairly quick and you can eat it straight away!

The following instructions are essentially from the New England Cheese Making Supply Company, with our own notes and experiences added. They have an excellent website for trouble shooting,, and even have a cheese tech, who can be contacted through their ‘contact us’ page to answer your questions. Check out this page for extra information though. Their kit definitely makes things easy, too, as it comes with all the ingredients (except milk), a thermometer, muslin and instruction booklet. It’s a great place to start for your first cheese making experience. From their kit we can make 30 large mozzarella cheese balls!!

Choose your milk carefully

First, a word of caution about choosing your milk… you can use cow’s milk or goat’s milk but make sure it hasn’t been ultra heated. The first time we used pasteurized farmer’s milk but we discovered that they over pasteurized it (over 77.5°C/171.5F), which destroys the milk proteins, and the cheese becomes lumpy instead of silky smooth. We were pretty disappointed to waste that milk but we’ve learned our lesson and now just use raw milk to be sure. If you want to pasteurize your raw milk yourself, just heat it to 62.5°C/144.5F) and cool it quickly before starting the recipe.


    3 3/4 L (1 gallon) milk
    1 1/4 cup cool water (chlorine free)
    1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
    ¼ rennet tablet or ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet
    1 teaspoon cheese salt (this is optional – you could substitute herbs if you want!)


    large pot (stainless steel or non-alumunium or non-cast iron pot)
    dairy thermometer
    slotted spoon
    long knife
    glass bowl

How to make your mozzarella

We like to prepare everything near to the pot and stove top by doing the following:

    Pour your milk into your pot and place on the stove top (don’t turn the burner on yet)
    Put your slotted spoon, thermometer and long knife nearby for easy access.
    Dissolve the rennet into ¼ cup (62.5ml) of water. Stir and put to the side.
    Mix the citric acid into 1 cup (250ml) of water until dissolved.

Add the citric acid solution to the milk, stirring vigorously.

Heat the milk to 31°C/88F while stirring (if your milk is pasteurized, heat to 32°C/90F).

Remove the pot from the burner.

Slowly stir in the rennet solution with an up and down motion for approximately 30 seconds (but definitely no longer than 60 seconds – be careful not to stir too long as this will essentially cut the curd as it forms and create the same effect as over pasteurized milk… a lumpy ricotta texture).

Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed for 10 minutes (5 minutes for pasteurized milk).

Check the curd – it should look like custard. Use your hand to gently pull the side of the curd away from the pot to check. If it is too soft, let it set for a few more minutes.

Cut the curd with a long knife that reaches to the bottom of the pot – cut parallel lines in one direction and then cut in rows perpendicular and slightly at an angle to those cuts to create a pattern of squares.

Heat the curd to 41°C/106F while slowly moving the curds around with the spoon.

Remove from the burner and keep stirring slowly for 2-5 minutes. We did ours for 3 ½ minutes. The longer you stir, the firmer the cheese will be. Note: this is where you will realize if the milk has been over heated during pasteurization. If it has, it will be lumpy and look a bit like cottage cheese. If it hasn’t it will look like soft, silky cubes.

Pour off the floating whey and ladle the curds into the glass bowl, draining as much of the whey as you can without pressing the curds too much.

Microwave the curds for 1 minute.

Drain off the whey again, add the salt and gently fold the curds into one piece.

Microwave the curds for another 30 seconds, drain again and stretch the curd. It must be 57°C/135F to stretch properly so if it isn’t hot enough, microwave for another 30 seconds. We had to do this a few times…

Stretch the cheese until it is smooth and shiny – the more you work it the firmer it will be and now is a good time to taste it!

We then formed our cheese into a ball but you can make it a log, braid it or even make small balls which is called Bocconcini – this is what we’ll do next time! We’ll mix them with olive oil, herbs and garlic… yum!! (kind of like our kefir labneh balls)

Then you need to submerge the mozzarella in 10°C/50F water to cool for 5 minutes and then ice water for 15 minutes. This cools it down, helps it keep its shape and protects the silky texture from becoming grainy.

Eating and storing your cheese

We cut slices of tomato and mozzarella and simply drizzled it with olive oil and dressed it with chopped parsley which was delicious!

You can store the cheese in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, stored in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can freeze it and reheat when ready to use.