I have always wanted to make cheese. As I am sure you will find out if you read this blog long enough, I am fascinated by food “cultures”, whether it’s yeast, yogurt, or cheese. If we drank beer, I bet it would be a lot of fun to brew, too.

I have tried to make cheese several times in the past, and it’s never come out right. I had all but given up, and then I saw Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Making book last spring. Of course I bought it; how could I resist? I tried again this summer when Biz was out visiting; we attempted the fool-proof sounding 30-minute mozzarella, and ended up with nothing. Well, not exactly nothing, but we got a cheese that resembled Ricotta more than Mozarrella. Not a stunning success, in any case. I knew I had the right recipe, the right techniques, the right temperature, and I was even pretty sure I’d gotten the right milk (we used unhomogenized, lightly pasteurized milk from PCC). What’s left? That’s right, it had to be the rennet. I had some junket rennet tablets, and they were the only common factor in all of my cheese failures; I’d tried changing everything else, and I’d even followed directions from a reliable cookbook. It had to be the rennet.

Ricki has a great cheesemaking supply store online at http://www.cheesemaking.com. About two months ago, I finally bit the bullet and put in an order for real cheese making supplies (including a few different kinds of rennet) from a real cheese making company. And, since then, miracles have happened. We’ve made several different fresh cheeses, and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s amazing how simple it is, once you have the right supplies!

One of our new favorite weekend meals is pizza with homemade mozzarella. We can get the dough started and then whip up a batch of 30-minute mozzarella while it’s rising. By the time the cheese is made, the dough is ready to go and the oven is warm, and in about an hour you have a pretty yummy pizza coming out of the oven. Who says cooking at home has to take a long time? We made a pizza from scratch last night in only a few minutes more than it would have taken to have it delivered to our door! (Not that we object to having it delivered once in a while…)

This time, of course, we took photos of the process for “the blog.” Amazing how the creation of a blog suddenly requires that a camera crew and lighting setup be on hand at all times. Luckily, Branden is into photography, so I have my very own camera man to help out.

We started by warming the milk in a make-shift double boiler and adding the citric acid.

This got the cheese curdling, and the whey started to separate out.

(Sorry for the color in the second photo…it’s very hard to take a good picture showing white curds in white milk in my dark kitchen…)

Then, we added the rennet, which solifies the curds so that they are scoopable.

Branden helped by squeezing the extra whey out of the curds as I scooped them out of the pan.

And Mischief supervised from the trash can.

Then, we heated the cheese in the microwave and kneaded and stretched until it turned shiny. Semi-molten cheese is somewhere between taffy and silly putty; it’s kinda fun to play with, as long as you keep moving so that you don’t burn your hands!

Then, we sliced the cheese, prepped the dough, and baked our pizza. And, voila! just under an hour from milk and flour to pizza. Mmmm…