Wednesday, May 28, 2008

#230 - Say "Cheese!"

Making My Own Mozzarella


This is the sixteenth change in my month-long pledge to give up plastics for Crunchy's Extreme Eco-Throwdown.

Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet? If you haven't, you should. I read it this past month for Green Bean's Bookworm Challenge and I loved it! It is the story of one family eating locally for a year in southwestern Virginia. And one of the things Barbara did during that year was to learn how to make her own soft cheeses.

So I figured hey, if she can do it, so can I. You know, because I'm exactly like a well-known, published author with a homestead. Minus the "well-known", "published", "author" and "homestead" part. But back to the cheese...

Luckily, Barbara is not stingy with the details. She tells the reader exactly where she learned her craft and from whom - Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking Supply. So I hopped online and ordered Ricki's "30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit" for $24.95. I was so excited to get my package and start making my plastic-free mozzarella!

And then I opened the package. And found?

Really?

Do I even have to tell you?

A shitload of plastic. The rennet tablets come in those plastic/foil pouches, the thermometer is housed in a plastic sheath, and the citric acid comes in a plastic pouch, as does the salt. To top it off, the whole kit is then placed inside a ginormous plastic bag before being deposited in the nifty little cardboard carrying box. So much for plastic-free. But, it is a kit that will allow me to make up to 30 pounds of cheese, so hopefully that will be less than what is normally used to shrinkwrap my premade mozzie. And in the future I will be sure to order the ingredients individually so as to at least avoid the ginormous plastic bag.

Rant over, details begin here.
So this Memorial Weekend I gave it a shot. Sure as shit, about 45 minutes later (I'm a slow learner) I had turned a gallon of whole milk into a little over a pound of fresh mozzarella cheese! Basically, all I had to do was heat the milk on the stove, pour in some of the citric acid and rennet, wait for magic to occur (about 8 minutes), scoop out the curds, recite "Little Miss Muffet", squeeze out the whey, nuke the curds and pull them like taffy.
Really, it's easier than it sounds.

So we had homemade pizza that night (using my own dough, of course) and fresh basil from my deck. Can't wait for those tomatoes to ripen and I'll have a 10-foot meal! ;-) Well, kind of.

Anyhow, if you're thinking about trying this, it may not be everyday-easy, but it is a lot of fun. Be sure you have some heat resistant gloves to wear when you're pulling the cheese as it's pretty hot. Although I'd stay away from wool gloves, as they might add some texture you're not used to finding in mozzarella.

Just my $0.02.

13 comments:

Wendy said...

I have the same kit! And made some mozzarella last year. It was a lot of fun, but I agree it's not "everyday" easy, as I haven't made any sense. My kit came with a recipe booklet, and I used the whey to make the bread. It was SO yummy!

Now that you've made cheese, you should try making some yogurt. On an easiness scale it's slightly easier than the cheese.

Lori in Webster Groves said...

Hmm. I've been thinking about making my own cheese and yogurt but had mentally dismissed it as being too hard to do. Guess I'll have to rethink that now...though I'd like to find a way to do it without all that plastic...

JAM said...

I have the same kit too, and instead of pulling with my hands I mash with a wooden spoon along the side of a glass bowl - it takes the heat factor out of it. I have made it a reasonable amount, but I find you have to eat the mozz right then, by the next day it's sort of hard and rubbery (or maybe that's just my skills coming through). I want to try yogurt but I have not gotten around to it.

heather t said...

Thanks for the cheesy review - I wondered how hard it realistically is if you're not a world-famous published author with a homestead.

That said, making yogurt is so easy! I've done it twice now, let the second batch go without starting a new batch off of it and now I am CRAVING it! Weird! Melanie at bean-sprouts.blogspot.com has a great easy recipe.

I made my second batch on the stove because I hated watching the microwave and I think the micro wasn't any faster.

Green Bean said...

wow. My hero. I wanted to do it ever since reading the book but never got around to it. I bet that pizza was YUMMMMMMY!

eco 'burban mom said...

Do you have to use raw milk, or any regularly pasturized milk. I remember Barbara saying something about it, but can't exactly recall. I wonder what my kids would think of it??

Anonymous said...

but how did it taste?

Burbanmom said...

It tasted great! Just like mozzarella. The only difference being that next time I would definitely add more salt.

You can use any fresh milk that isn't ULTRA-pastuerized. This will usually be from a dairy closer to home, as the extra-long shipping time is what requires other milks to BE ultra-pastuerized.

Ricki also gives a recipe where you can use powdered milk and swears it tastes just as good!

Heather @ SGF said...

That sounds soooo good. I've thought about making cheese, but it's just so easy to order it from our local dairy. Well, I did make yogurt cheese once. Does that count?

MamaBird said...

Ooh! Oooh! I have been wanting to make chez since I read Kingsolver's book! Thanks for trying it out, normal person without a trust fund. I am going to go down the yogurt path first and then chez but I feel inspired thanks to you. Rock on...

badhuman said...

My fiance and I tried this and loved it! It was really easy and you can make a lot of cheese with one kit. Plus it was just fun pulling the mozz.

daharja said...

Our family is having to go cheese-free for medical reasons (I'd explain, but it's complicated). I don't eat the stuff anyway, so it's not a lot to miss. But you hardly ever see cheese NOT packaged in plastic, so that's a real problem.

The other real problem is medicines. They're all tin-foile wrapped or plastic wrapped, and I have NO IDEA how to get around that, apart from quit them, which in some cases is not possible.

Plastic really seems to be such a huge part of our lives, doesn't it? The irony is not lost on me when I go to the supermarket, and I bring my own reusable bag (of course) but even the (recycled nonbleached paper) toilet paper comes wrapped in plastic. *sigh*

I think I need to read more Fake Plastic Fish for ideas. I'm not ready to go entirely plastic-free yet, but the stuff gives me the willies!

Robj98168 said...

Thanks for the cheesy review (OK I said it) It's not easy being cheesy! I have never had the desire to make cheese althought it would be nice to find cheese in bulk around here with no plastic wrapping.