Last month, I wrote about our recent Mothers Who Brunch event where we shared some of our Guiltless Pleasures with our friends.
In that post, I also shared some of my “Guilty Pleasures.”
Unfortunately, (or is it fortunately?) many of my guilty pleasures revolve around food.
DID I MENTION CHEESE?
Oh, how this breaks my heart, (and sometimes my stomach) when I indulge in cheese or dairy items and then I end up feeling awful after. Gosh, even writing about this makes me feel so bad, because I love cheese so much.
This is why, when I received an invite to an event that I needed to go to the “far ends” of Quezon City to attend, I could not, did not, would not, say NO.
Mind you, it took me three hours to get to this event, and I left my house three hours before the invitation said the program would begin.
DID I MENTION CHEESE?
Hahahaha. I’m going to have fun with this post. Much like Mark Todd (aka The Cheese Dude) was having when he was explaining all the different types of cheeses the United States has to offer cheese lovers ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Ok, so these charts explain it pretty simply.
We can choose our cheeses based on the types of milk that they are made of, AND we can choose our cheeses based on whether they are: FRESH, SOFT & SOFT RIPENED, SEMI HARD, SPICED & FLAVORED, or HARD.
Here are some more fun facts that I learned from Mark:
- The United States makes 25% of the cheese consumed in the world.
- That 25% converts to 2.2 million POUNDS of cheese a day.
- Cheese is made with a 10:1 ratio
- 10 kilos of milk makes 1 kilo of cheese (SAY WHAT?)
- The higher the moisture content in your cheese the shorter the shelf life.
- Which means the lower the moisture content (aged cheese) the longer the shelf life.
- Good cheese can be kept for years in the refrigerator with a great cheese cloth.
- Real California Milk Cheeses are packed with nutrients like protein, calcium, Vitamin D, and potassium.
I have a confession:
I have tried to make cheese at home and failed twice.
In fact, I used the exact same milk from California.
I bought rennet online, citric acid from the bakery supply store, and even called my Italian buddy and his partner to see if they wanted to come and “Make Cheese” with our family. We set everything up in the kitchen using the cheesecloth, strainer and the special thermometer which is vital in terms of bringing the whole milk up to the correct temperature.
Unfortunately, we failed despite all our efforts (and all that wasted milk.) But because of my attendance in this class with Master Cheese Maker, Mark Todd, I now know where my efforts went wrong. We were missing a key ingredient in our mix. Without the culture, we were never going to get hand pulled mozzarella.
Instead, when I want to make hand pulled mozzarella (the same kind I grew up with in New York) I will need to go home and ask Vito and Petey, if they will allow me in the back of the house again, to warm up the curd, and pull the cheese while remembering not to squeeze out too much of the milk.
Now, if you live in Manila, and would like to make fresh cheese with your family here, there are two kinds of fresh cheese you can have fun with.
These two types of cheeses are made (very easily) with either apple cider vinegar, or citric acid. Both of these ingredients (which cause the milk to curdle and separate from the whey) are affordable and readily available in grocery stores and or bakery supply shops.
Mark Todd was very generous in not only sharing the recipe with us, he even shared the cheesecloths with which we made the cheese. I was excited to bring these home as the cheese clothes I have at home are not as high quality as the ones he gifted Noemi and I with.
Here are some things I learned about making cheese at home:
- There are so many variables which will affect your finished product.
- Each time you make cheese it’s like a luck of the draw depending on humidity, especially if the kids are involved in the process.
- Making cheese at home is very different than the experts making cheese in the sterile kitchens and cheese factories where they are produced.
- Trying and trying again, will yield a delicious ready to eat treat that cannot compare to anything else.
You know what else we were able to make in our time together?
BUTTER!!! Who knew it was this easy to make my own butter? And if I want to expel the kids energy while I am cooking in the kitchen? I can throw the cream in a jar and ask the kids to shake shake shake until we have homemade butter for our bread. (It’s all about the multitasking right? hehehe)
Ok, but let’s say you don’t want to take the time to make your own ricotta. You would much rather purchase your own Californian made cheese for your dishes at home, and for slicing up with some grapes and some fermented grape juice…
That’s easy. With all the choices we now have in the grocery stores, you can enjoy the same California goodness by picking it up in the chilled cheese section and bringing it home with ease. All you have to do is look for the “Real California Cheese” seal.
- 1 gallon pasteurized whole cow's milk at room temperature
- 1/2 c. fresh heavy cream (no fillers or stabilizers)
- 3 tsp citric acid powder
- 1tsp kosher salt (to taste)
- Combine the room-temperature milk, cream, citric acid, and salt, whisking gently.
- Place in a non-reactive pot, over medium-low heat.
- Bring the milk to 185-195 degrees F SLOWLY. Be sure not to scorch the milk using a rubber spatula to stir frequently.
- You will begin to see the curds form around 150 degrees F.
- As the temperature gets closer to 185-195, you will begin to see the curds separate from the whey. Whey is yellowish/greenish in color and just slightly cloudy.
- If whey is still very creamy and white, you can add a pinch more citric acid to further coax the separation.
- Once you see the curds completely separate from the whey, turn off the heat.
- Gently use the spatula to scrape the sides of the pot, and let sit UNDISTURBED for 10 minutes.
- Line a colander with a water dampened butter muslin. (cheesecloth)
- Carefully ladle the strained curds separating them from the whey without breaking the curds up into smaller pieces.
- Use a long handled mesh skimmer to capture the last of the curds, but if you can pour all the mixture through the cheesecloth, even better. You don't want any last bits of cheese to be left behind!
- Don't scrape the pot. You don't want any bits of burnt or scorched cheese to mix in with your ricotta. It's ok if they are stuck.
- Let your ricotta DRAIN in the cheese cloth for five minutes.
- Add your kosher salt and gently toss, being mindful not to break up the curds too much.
- Drain the curds for another 5-10 minutes based on how much dry you want your cheese. The longer it sits, the drier it will become.
- Transfer cheese to an air tight container and consume within a week.
- If you want Ricotta Salata, add bit more kosher salt, and let it drain over night.