It wasn't the full adventure I think it could have been, but it was interesting none-the-less.
Last Tuesday, I took an Intro to Cheese Making class at our local food co-op. We made mozzarella and started some feta. It was not hard at all. I'm not sure I would try feta at home, but the mozzarella - definitely. It takes a few days to get all of the whey out of the feta and I'm not sure I'd have the patience for it. But maybe...
I learned a few interesting things.
- Cheese is better with non-homogenized and non- or low-pasturized milk. And according to our teacher, raw milk (or "farm fresh" as the euphemisms go) is the ideal. I priced the non-homogenized, low pasturized milk and it's $5 per half gallon. I'm not sure when I'm going to try the mozzarella, but it better be good at that milk price!
- It's not hard to find vegetarian (and even kosher) rennet.
- At least for the soft cheeses, (if I understood correctly) the type of cheese is determined by the timing - when you put the acid and coagulant in.
- If you have a goat and nettles, you can make cheese. I have neither.
- Salt (flaked and non-iodized) is used to pull the whey out of the curds and it keeps the bacteria at bay. It's not a flavoring agent.
- If you really want to make hard cheese correctly, you need a cave.
- You can put feta in olive oil and then just put it on the shelf - no refrigeration needed.
And I now own a piima culture. This can be used to make kefir, cultured butter and cultured milk (aka buttermilk). Evidently this will last forever if I take care of it. I'm not so confident.
Some commentary on the class itself: There were 22 people - about 12 too many in my opinion. And the teacher was interesting but talked about her food and health agenda too much. I was there to learn how to make cheese, not hear about her aversion to anything that is not a whole, unprocessed food. I still may take an herb class with her next month - we'll see. And she said that if enough people request it, she'll teach another cheese class.