Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Swiss Mold Experiment, aka St. Oswald

Back in March, I made my first Swiss cheese using a special bacteria that is supposed to cause the air pockets to form in a traditional Swiss. Again, though, I had humidity issues, so the rind got very dry- so dry that I think it dried out my bacteria before I had a chance to make holes throughout the cheese. The cheese quite honestly was neglected. I was gone, so I just left it sitting in my little cheese fridge. It patiently waited for me to remember it, and I finally did last weekend. I cut it into four pieces, and noticed that the center was a very smooth, creamy looking texture. It actually had yellowed, just like a fine gruyere. I cut off the thick layer of mold and took a taste, and this cheese was sublime, if I do say so myself. I wish the wheel had been larger so that there was more of it, but it’s really really delicious. The taste is salty and nutty and resembles a Swiss cheese but also has a bite to it like an aged pecorino.

It’s funny how in cheesemaking my disasters can often become something really worthwhile. Since you can’t by any stretch call this cheese a Swiss, I dubbed it St. Oswald after our pup who is a little crazy and unappealing from the outside, but has a golden goodness inside.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Paneer is not for sissies

When I first moved to California seven years ago, I cooked for myself all the time. I was dirt poor, so couldn’t really afford to go out to eat often, but I also comforted my lonely self with cooking. I have always associated Indian food with my family, because my mom and sisters and I always went for Indian food together. Since I was little, I’ve adored Indian cuisine. So one night in my tiny little shack of an apartment, I decided to try making my own paneer.
I bought some milk, followed the instructions perfectly, and wound up with…a completely disgusting curdled mess. No lie, this attempt to make cheese was my first utter failure, and all of it ended up going down the drain.
So when I stumbled on a recipe for paneer in my Culture magazine, recently, I saved it, but had my doubts. Bravely, I decided to try it once more. I followed the instructions very carefully- heated the milk and adding the vinegar. Suddenly, the cheese came together, exactly as the recipe described! It was gorgeous. I drained it, pressed it, and tasted some of the best paneer I’ve ever had (and trust me, that’s a LOT of paneer).
What went wrong on my first attempt? I’ll never know, but now I know that this is not only one of the easiest cheeses to make, but one of the most delicious!
PS: We had homemade palak paneer this week, which is my absolute favorite Indian dish of all time. So proud!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Little Fuzzies

With the humidity thing somewhat under control, I decided to try another mold inoculated cheese last week. This time, I followed a new recipe for St. Maure, but made it with cow’s milk, which produces a cheese I call St. Laure. I had some new molds to use, so ended up with three beautiful little cheeses.

Instead of directly salting the cheeses like I always have, the new book recommended dunking them in a salt solution for 10 minutes. I did this, and they softened a bit but the salt seemed to be more evenly distributed on the surface. After some air drying, they are stowed away in the cheese fridge in their mini-cave bags, and I’m already seeing some white mold on the surface.

I'm still tasting a little bitterness in some of my aging cheeses, even though I changed the rennet. I guess that wasn't the problem. Perhaps it's our water? Yet another obstacle to overcome...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Proud Amateur Cheesemaker!

I decided to warm up to cheesemaking again by starting with a little cow’s milk farm cheese. This is a relatively simple cheese that I’ve made a million times. It forms the nicest little pats that can be eaten within a few weeks or inoculated with a white mold (candidum) and aged a bit longer for a creamier cheese. I made several of these and served one on a cheese tray to some friends who came over- they loved it, even more than the professionally made cheeses I served as well! And I didn’t tell them until AFTER they tried them all that I had made it.

Three little farm cheeses are now in the cheese fridge aging away in their own little “caves.” As you’ve read, I’ve had trouble with humidity in my dry state of California. The book suggested a large Ziploc bag around the cheeses- what a simple fix. I had thought more air needed to circulate so had never tried this myself, but it seems to be working. We tasted on this weekend and there was some bitterness, but perhaps that will phase out with time. We shall see.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I need four arms.

I'm bummed to report that thanks to excessive humidity in the cheese fridge, my little humidifier has corroded and died. I guess the puddles of water coming out of the bottom whenever I opened the door should have been a sign that something wasn't right. Whoops. Back to the drawing board.

On to the next, though. I've got a lot of cheese to make in preparation for guests in March, so a feta is brining and a gouda is soaking. I've got a parmesan and a manchego to put together, and I want to have some softer cheeses ready when they come, so I'll make those the week before their arrivals.

Now, pressing gouda involves about 50 pounds of weight. Since I've already cleaned up too many messes and gouged the kitchen floor too many times, Eric has given me my own "cheese ratchets" for pressure. These work well...when I can get them to stay put. I get one on and start the other, then get that one on and the other falls off. By the time I'm finished I'm pissed off and my cheese is slightly tilted and I'm ready to throw it away.

Yesterday this happenned and the mold flipped...fitting perfectly into the ratchets. And staying. Eureka!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ta dah!

So my new raw milk cheese has been aging for a little over two weeks now, and I'm thrilled to report it's working! A small humidifier placed inside the cheese fridge keeps it nice and moist in there and the white mold is turning the cheese into the real thing. I tasted a sample over the weekend and I'm so excited! The possibilities are endless.