I got this cheese making kit for Christmas.
I had read about it and thought it would be fun to try. The kit contains some of the ingredients needed to make thirty batches of fresh mozzarella or ricotta. You don't actually need to buy a kit to make ricotta--all you need is milk and an acid. You do have to provide milk which has not been pasturized at a high temperature and distilled water.
I tried a batch a few weeks ago and I did indeed end up with some fresh mozzarella. We ate some of it while it was still warm and then I shredded the rest and used it in some stuffed shells that I made. It melted well and tasted like the store-bought kind.
I don't plan to begin making all of our cheese because of the time and expense involved. It's actually cheaper and a lot less time consuming to purchase ready made mozzarella. I do want to try another batch using powdered milk to see how that compares and I would like to make a big batch of ricotta for a couple of recipes that we like.
I did learn a couple of things from my brief foray into cheese-making. I read a tip about placing your cheese in the freezer for about 20 minutes before you want to grate it. It firms up soft cheeses and makes them easier to grate. Another tip to make grating easier is to spray the grater or food processor blade with cooking spray.
One of the most surprising tips I learned is about clean up. When I made the cheese one of the steps was to drain the curds through a cheesecloth lined colander. When time came to clean up the cheesecloth was imbedded with soft cheese. My first thought was to just throw it away and start with new cheesecloth next time. I read on the cheese kit website that they recommended that you simmer the cloth in a saucepan with some baking soda. I tried this and the melty cheese came completely out of the cloth! I have since tried this tip when cleaning a saucepan after making a milk based soup. The sticky milk residue just dissolves away when you soak the pan with some warm water and a little baking soda.
I discovered from making the cheese that I ended up with several quarts of whey. I did use some of it in a batch of bread but I ended up throwing most of it away. I have since read that you can use it to water acid loving plants such as blueberries and hydrangeas.
So, that was my cheesy Christmas gift. Did you get any unusual gifts?
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