Saturday, June 9, 2012

It IS Easy Being Cheesy!

What do you do when you get a giant bunch of spinach in your CSA box? You make homemade cheese for spinach lasagna, of course!

 Making mozzarella is really easy. Once you're done, the whey makes ricotta simple, as well. After you make these two cheeses once, you may never buy it again!

The only things you may not find in your regular super market are the citric acid and rennet (I use liquid vegetable rennet). They are both available online (Amazon has it, as do cheese-making suppliers).
NOTE: If using vegetable rennet, use half as much as animal rennet.

I use this method for mozzarella. It is quick and yields a tasty cheese. I use lowfat milk, rather than whole. The curd can look a little less solid, but will still set up just as well.

Once you have drained the cheese from the whey, ricotta is just as quick and simple. You only have about a 30 minute window to use the whey, though, so it is good to work quickly (or have someone help). If the whey sits too long, it loses the proper enzymes and acidity needed for the ricotta. Pouring the whey back that is strained during the final steps of the mozzarella can help cool it down a bit.

Making ricotta from mozzarella whey:

1. Let the whey cool down to below 105 F (a cool water bath will help the whey cool more quickly).

2. Stir in 1/2 gallon of cool milk.

3. Bring up to 105 F, then move off the heat and cover. Let sit for 15 minutes.

4. Drain the cheese through a colander lined with fine cheese cloth (alternately, use several layers of regular cheese cloth and a fine mesh strainer).

5. Tie the cheese cloth to a wooden spoon and allow to drain for approx. 15 minutes

6. Remove from cheesecloth into a bowl and break into small curds by hand. Add salt and milk to taste (optional). If you don't have cheese salt, you can use either sea salt or kosher salt. You just want to ensure that it is not iodized.

The salt will help preserve the cheese a bit, in addition to adding flavor. You could easily add herbs at the same time you add the salt and milk. If the curds are too big or you want a smoother/silkier texture, along the lines of some commercial ricotta, you can easily run this in the food processor. I did that for the lasagna to get it to the right texture. Drizzle a little milk at a time while pulsing to get the right texture for you.

If you want to reserve the whey (animals and rose gardens love it), just use a large pot to capture it as you strain the ricotta.


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