Day 35: Say Cheese!

Hanging up ricotta so it can drain

Okay, don’t hate me. I spent today making cheese and taste testing 15 different cheeses. Tough day at school.

Cheesecloth packages of ricotta hung up to dry

We started our morning making ricotta, which has a simple formula: Milk plus some kind of curdling agent whether it’s citric acid (what we used) or rennet. Put it over a heat source, and you’ll eventually get cheese with a bit of finesse. Luckily, my partner, Lissadell, is a cheese aficionado, and has made ricotta before and seamlessly took us from pure milk to perfectly sized curdles. (Which made me happy because several students had to repeat this process until they got something that actually looked like ricotta.)

The makings of ricotta

Then she balled up the curdles in cheesecloth and hung it up to remove all the whey, or residual liquid. While other people tried to save the whey:

Nick having a little too much fun

To complete our lesson on Italian cheese (before we started tasting French ones), we played with mozzarella curds, and made balls of this cheese. It’s addictively fun, minus the part when you have to soak these curds in boiling hot water and plunge your hand in the water to retrieve them.

Mozzarella curds

The hot water makes the curds soft and pliable so you can stretch it, giving mozzarella its characteristic “stringy” nature–but at the expense of my tender skin. Chef told us to keep a bowl of ice water next to us.

“First submerge your hands in ice water, then the boiling water,” was Chef’s advice.  Gulp.

His hands have weathered many a hot pan, and his hands were swimming in this water as if it was a relaxing bath.  Me? You could hear me yelping each time I put my icy hands into this bubbling torture bath. But it was fun to stretch the cheese like this, which only happens when the curds are wet and hot:

Chef stretching mozzarella cheese curds

We finished a relaxing day of making cheese with a sublime 15 cheese taste test. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Lissadell so happy.

Lissadell smiling at her cheese plate

The cheeses that smelled most like a barn were the ones I like most. And the runnier the cheese, the better (in my opinion).

TIP OF THE DAY: Cheese should be served room temperature (except fresh cheeses like fromage blanc, which should be slightly chilled) so you can taste every note in the cheese.

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4 responses to “Day 35: Say Cheese!

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