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Holy cow.

It was kismet. A few days at home, sick, reading up on cheesemaking; then I get back to work and, before I can dismiss the idea as the fevered ravings of a feverish fool with a fever, my coworker starts talking excitedly about her friend’s triumph in home haloumi. If that complete stranger can do it, than so can I!

And, well, I can.

Cheese is, in principle, fairly straightforward. You separate the curds and whey, set the curd, then there’s some fancy draining/pressing/stretching/salting/whatever to turn it into the kind of cheese you want. That’s also when you introduce moulds and things. I started with a basic beginner’s mozzarella, primarily because the cookware shop didn’t have the type of culture I wanted and I didn’t want to interrupt their bickering to ask for the right one. It’s an adaptation of the 30 Minute Mozzarella recipe I found on Green Living’s Home Cheese Making section. My basic mozzarella is, technically, not really mozzarella. For a start, it’s made on cow, not water buffalo, milk. Second, it’s not cultured: I separated my curds and whey using an acid instead. But you know what? I don’t facking care because I just made cheese, bitches! YEAH!

The first batch, let me be completely clear, was an unmitigated flop. The curd barely formed, with only an offputting semi-solid glaze appearing on the top of my warmed milk. I researched all I did wrong, and then threw it away with a stout heart and resolve to try again tomorrow. If nothing else, knitting has given me extensive experience in ripping back and starting over.

We are nothing if not optimistic

We are nothing if not optimistic

First up: warming the milk. I used four litres of full-fat, pasteurised, homogenised moo milk. I added calcium chloride, which is strongly recommended if you’re using homogenised milk (and if you got it from a non-specialty shop, odds on you are). I didn’t have citric acid, but I did have a bottle of lemon juice, so I added about half a cup. The acid separates the curds and whey. After I got my milk + calcium chloride + acid up to 32°C, I removed it from the heat and added a dose of vegetarian rennet. It was here that I realised I had completely failed to add any rennet, at all, even a bit, to the last batch of cheese, which is why the curd really didn’t work out. Guh. Being smart is hard.

Clean break!!

Clean break!!

But this time! Success! A clean break! A clean break means you’ve got a really obvious curd happening, and that’s the sign your cheese is proceeding. The curd should look like a big ol’ block of silky tofu bobbing around in the whey, which should be pretty watery. Once you’ve got a clean break, you can beard on. Here’s your curds and whey:

Not sure why Miss Muffet would eat this, but whatever.

Not sure why Miss Muffet would eat this, but whatever.

Chop your curd into giant, misshapen cubes as best you can, and then warm it through. The next step is the mozzarella bit. Scoop out the curds, using a slotted spoon (or pour into a colander or something) and squeeze them into a big squashy blob. Squeeze out as much whey as you can. Then pop it into a microwave-safe container and nuke it for a minute. Pour off the whey that comes out, then knead it a little, then back into the microwave for about 30 seconds. Knead again; nuke again; add salt and knead again. After a few kneads, it becomes sturdy, stretchy and shiny and HOLY CRAP YOU’VE MADE CHEESEBALLS!

OMG it worked!

OMG it worked! Amazeballs!

I AM SO EXCITED. They’re bobbing about in the fridge right now, resting in a tub of cooled boiled water (nothing is too good for these babies). The texture is smooth and firmish, the flavour is like sweet, clean, fresh milk (could do with a bit more salt).

Sleeping.

Sleeping.

Yield: about 430g of cheese (it would have been more like 450-470, but I dropped some curds down the sink). Not bad for 4L of milk. This is a really good starting-out recipe, because it demonstrates a lot of the necessary basic steps in cheesemaking, with a little bit of fancy kneading and working thrown in. I recommend! Next time, I think I will stop kneading a little earlier and see if I can get a softer cheese.

Here’s some sites I learned things from:

(And, of course, a tip of the bonnet to Aunty Wikipedia, who taught me everything I need to know about rennet.)

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Alex | March 11, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Awesome! I want to try it.

  2. Tim | March 19, 2013 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    ZOMG I am so impressed!!

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