Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cheese and Yogurt

*said in the best Dexter voice*

That was the first thing that ran through my mind yesterday as I looked down upon 2 gallons of well coagulated milk. Hmmm, that sounds fairly disgusting doesn't it? Allow me to explain. About 2 weeks after Amy showed up, I discovered that I was going to need to find a way to use up milk, not a problem I've run into up to this point. Ice cream was a natural first, I've made it before and it's a nice treat to have around. Yogurt was a second, but I ran into the problem of incubation so I had to ruminate on that for awhile. Cheese....okay....cheese. That's a good one, stores longer and you just can't deny the comfort factor of anything containing cheesy goodness. So off I wander into the expanse of the internet to find my information. Oh dear. Hours of video, reading and learning later, I'm thinking that pigs would be a good idea. However, I'm not one to be put off by a challenge and so enters my Mozzarella Frustrations.
I've figured out that hard cheeses are going to need to sit on that proverbial back burner. I have the molds, just need the pressure gauge....of course I do. Fresh cheeses are my only option on short notice. I start with a vineager cheese, super simple but not up there on our list. I move on to cream cheese, great only I'm running into the same problem I have for yogurt.
"Next, please..."
Mozzarella shows up.
Little did I know, so naive, that this cheese would turn me into something akin to a mad scientist, hissing and snarling in the spot lighted recesses of my kitchen during the late hours of the night (and at times the daylight hours, but I prefer to not scare or worry the children...much less my husband.)
They (all those wonderful people that have posted instructions so graciously) make it sound so simple! I read about people with great results first time out, I read cautions, I read trouble shooting......I was not one of those fortunates. All of the problems I read about stemmed from pasteurized milks. Mine isn't, shouldn't be having problems with raw! Aarrgg!!!
It was the curd you see. I couldn't get a "clean break".....basically, my milk wouldn't cooperate with me. It didn't want to set right. Too soft, one batch just simply refused to anything at all...just sat in the pot staring at me, quite content to remain, well...milk, liquid. That just defies the science of it all! Introduce acid to milk, and what do you get?? Curds. Then you put in the rennet and it solidifies into a curd mass, the glue to get all those little curds into one big one. Riiiiiiiiight. No, not here, not at my house. I'm still harboring feelings over that pot of science defying milk.
I had minor successes, meaning edible successes. We ate them, melted over pizza, and what we didn't eat the chickens were more than happy to gobble up, so I probably shouldn't complain too much. Still, it wasn't right and me carrying those perfectionistic genes, slowly started morphing...Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.
Finally, yesterday, born of frustration, fatigue and a slight glimmer of hope from something I'd read that morning, I achieved a "clean break".
The clouds parted, choirs of angels sang, I'd swear a beam of sun shone through the windows down on my pot of fully, beautifully coagulated milk.
I took a knife and started cutting (very apprehensively), solid all the way down, smooth all the way through (those angels were really belting it out by this time). The rest is history. I separated the curds from the whey (can't say that without thinking of Little Miss Muffet). Heated and stretched a wonderful batch of cheese, reheated my whey and have almost a full quart of Ricotta....yeah I'm thinking lasagna too. The chickens had the leftover whey with their feed that night and I'm feeling a little more sane.
So the tally from those 2 gallons of milk?
6 oz of butter, cream skimmed from one of those gallons, and from the gallon of drinking milk for the day.
2 lbs of mozzarella
1 lb 10 oz of ricotta
Now the fun part, can I do it twice??? ;)


So now I arrive at yogurt. Well I put off yogurt, even though it's purported to be the easiest thing to make from milk, for practical reason as well as others. Namely, plain yogurt...what am I supposed to do with plain yogurt? I know all the cools kids are using it, but I'm coming to the realization that we really are at the core, non-conformists. Passive, but non-conforming none the less. For those of you in my life that have figured that out already, quite laughing.
This came last night when Justin asked how the deliciousness of smoothies had escaped our household until now? They were all the rage a while back....oh....that's probably why. It was one of those light bulb moments.
Moving on, yogurt came into our life, last week, mostly because I need to find alternate sources of protein and amino acids for myself and a couple of the kids (no I'm not vegetarian, just don't really like most meat forms, bacon, I could eat bacon all day). Knowing this, then came the searching for ways to get the yogurt into the system. Fruited yogurt is a natural conclusion, but eating can be inconvenient at times, drinking works better and so I found smoothies. I should have figured this out faster, it was a trick my mom used when I was growing up to sneak all kinds of nutrients into me. Hindsight is always 20/20...that should read 30/30 it's usually better than perfect.

Making the yogurt was simple enough, until it came to the incubation part. A yogurt maker is out of the question, I'd need at least three of them to make enough for a couple of days. There's the cooler method, but I don't want to go buy a cooler. Light bulb in the over, right but that means a trip into town, and I've forgotten the last couple of times. That leaves me with a heating pad. I'm smart, I can figure this out.
Heating pad and lots of blankets, what do I have to loose? A gallon of milk? It doesn't sound like much, but I don't like to waste things and there's at least 45 minutes of my life in 1 gallon of milk. Failed yogurt could go to the chickens I suppose, but I'd rather not, it just seems wrong to feed them a failed bacteria growth session. On the other hand, they'll eat mice, snakes, all manner of bacteria infested things...makes you start to look at eggs differently.
I finally settle on my method, heating pad, infrared thermometer (I love shopping the tools section for possible kitchen gadget candidates), towels and blankets to keep the warmth in.

Check and

Follow the steps, pray the store bought yogurt is live, pour into jars and don't peek for 6 hrs. The not peeking just kills me. I hate not peeking. At the end of 6 hours (we don't like tangy yogurt, more hours, more tang), things are looking pretty solid! Into the fridge and now I have to wait til morning.
Yay! I made yogurt! I'm so easily amused and pleased. Frozen strawberries await, a little bit of honey or sugar, a little bit of vanilla (eventually, when I remember, a little bit of flax seed), a touch of milk and a nice long whir in the blender and I have a wonderful strawberry smoothie. Yumm! They do get more complicated, I'll keep it simple.
The only problem I have now is keeping enough yogurt around to make them, or that I can't turn the blender on without having half of the household appear in the kitchen instantly to see if smoothies are in the making.

Captain Von Trapp, he had a just flip that little switch. ;)

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