Saturday, March 1, 2014

Leila Hobbs (9) - Science Fair Winner!

Leila Hobbs

Recently, Micaela Hobbs wrote to us about her daughter's project in her school's science fair.  Leila is 9 and in the fourth grade at Colham Ferry Elementary School in Watkinsville, Georgia.  Leila's entry was the winner of her grade level, so she and the fifth grade winner advanced to the district level.

We just found out that Leila won at the district level and she will now advance to the state competition!  We are thrilled for Leila, of course!  We'll keep you posted in the Moosletter about the results.

We asked her mother to tell us more about Leila:

What was her science project?

Her project involved analyzing the yield of cow's, goat's, and sheep's milk in yogurt cheese.

I am a former chemistry teacher, so we looked into the chemical process behind the lactic acid coagulation in yogurt. We had to start with yogurt because none of the local sheep or goats were milking in December. I was only able to find sheep's yogurt online and a local farmer had some frozen goat's milk, so we made yogurt from that and some regular cow's milk from the supermarket.

We then strained each batch overnight and weighed them. We did three runs of each type, so we had a lot of cheese to eat and share!

Unfortunately the goat's milk had been frozen a while so the flavor was not the best, but since we were just looking at yield and not taste, it was fine.

I got interested in cheese making a few years ago and Leila has always been a cheese fanatic. So when she picked this project, it worked out really well because I already had your book and some equipment. Her results were impressive.

She predicted the sheep's yogurt would yield the most and it really did. The sheep had an average yield of 49%, the cow had a 29%  average and the goat a 22% average. We have a small 20 acre farm and she has decided that one day she would like to get some sheep of her own and make cheese.

Everyone agreed the sheep cheese was the tastiest!

Her project will now advance to the county competition so we are keeping our fingers crossed!

Checking the initial mass

Checking solids with hydrometer

Checking temperature of yogurt

Stirring cheese salt into yogurt

Final mass and whey volume

Finished project

How did Leila begin making cheese?

This is the first time she has done it herself. She has watched me in the past. I haven't tried any hard cheeses yet. I have a press now, and Leila wants to give it a go.

When I first got into cheese, my girls were very young and it was a bit tricky to have them in the kitchen. They wanted to help, but we're not really able to do much. Now that Leila has such an interest and is extremely competent in the kitchen, we will definitely be doing more.

We are going to try different stains of yogurt and we have done some chèvre that was fun and tasty. We have really gotten addicted to the yogurt cheese. Her goal is to master cheddar and Parmesan which are her favorites along with chèvre. She actually ate a lot of chèvre when she was a toddler because she was allergic to cow's milk. Fortunately she outgrew the allergy, because there are very few cheeses she has tried that she hasn't liked.

Our neighbors have sheep and we will try to get some milk from them when the lambs come. In her words "Cheese is the absolute most wonderful food in the world!"

With her press

Milk source?

My neighbor has a flock he raises for meat. He said at one point if I wanted to try and milk some ewes he wouldn't mind. It would really just be an experiment to see what is involved. He hasn't done it himself.

The sheep's yogurt we used in the experiment came from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in New York. I have read that Tunis sheep are good milkers and heat tolerant, so when my girls are older, we may try our hand at a small flock of our own.

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