Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Cheese Stands Alone

I live in Wisconsin, so of course I love cheese. Alaska may give out rebates to their citizens for their oil production, but in Wisconsin, each resident gets a voucher for 10 pounds of cheese a year. That's just not enough, so I decided to learn how to make my own.

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.


Anonymous said...

Do Wisconsin residents REALLY get vouchers for cheese - or are you just pulling our legs while making a cheesy joke?

raina said...

I was going to ask the exact same question! Ten pounds, though, is not a lot of cheese. Less than a pound per month!

The Whiner said...

Ten pounds isn't a lot but it's ten pounds per person, not family, so we get more than ten a month.

Anonymous said...

How man free Harleys and free cans of beer do you get?

Andrea said...

We get a small discount on Harleys, but given the price, it's not worth too much. And no free beer unless you go on the Sprecher Brewery tour.