Have I mentioned that my boyfriend got me the book Artisan Cheese Making at Home? Or perhaps more accurately, my boyfriend bought himself the book Artisan Cheese Making at Home, wrapped it in Christmas paper, put my name on it and waited for me to take the bait.
That Machiavellian bastard. His plan, it is working.
It all started with the recipe I posted on here earlier, for peperonata with DIY ricotta. The peperonata was one thing–it was a good thing, I was actually just looking at this post and thinking we need to make this again, some time soon. But making homemade cheese was a revelation to me; all I thought, as I ate beautiful, creamy, delicious cheese that I coaxed out of a pot full of hot milk and lemon juice, was, “Holy crap, I want to do this again!”
And so it has been done. I am working my way slowly but surely through the book, and it’s written so cheesemakin’ newbies like me can start at the beginning with easy recipes and move forward to progressively more difficult cheeses.
I’ve worked my way up to goat cheese. Chèvre, if you will. Apparently, chèvre simply means “goat” in French, and the word has come
to mean the entirety of goat cheeses. If you want goat meat you should ask for chevon, not to be confused with Chevron, which is of course either a military insignia or a global petro-monster. Either way, one shouldn’t eat a chevron.
It’s been a delicious journey, I wouldn’t want to ruin that.
But this is the first time I’ve worked with anything that required more than a few hours’ attention and an actual starter culture that I had to purchase from a cheese supply shop. On the interwebs, since I don’t have one nearby (that I know about…anyone? Anyone? Anybody?). Goat’s milk is pretty readily available at Ard’s and I’ve only checked into this on an extremely superficial level at this point, but I’ve heard tell there’s some goat dairies out in Mifflinburg, so I may have to get on the goat trail and girl-detective my way to figuring out what’s out there. But anyway.
The thing about making cheese that’s kind of a bummer is, it’s viciously boring to photograph. Even if it sounds vaguely exciting in a “livin’ on the edge” sort of way because the goat’s milk you bought…wait for it…is raw and needs to be pasteurized. Girls, hold on to your boyfriends…
That’s almost as exciting as it gets. Ooh, look, the temperature is really accurate! Oh, snap, the starter culture is rehydrating like nobody’s business, yo!
Of course, you could have to incubate your cheese. Chèvre has to develop at a relatively low temperature for a relatively long time–between 72° and 78° for twelve hours (according to this cookbook; I have seen other recipes with different temps and incubation times, but I’m not cooking with them). The author says that leaving the pot wrapped on the stove with the overhead light from the stove hood on should be sufficient for my purposes. Great, right? Only I don’t have a stove hood. I have a rustic kitchen designed and built in 1935 and covered in knotty pine paneling. It’s awesome, and I’m not cutting into a centimeter of it to put in a hood. So what does a cheeseteuse do in these situations? A cheeseteuse, dears, will improvise.
(Dig my paneling.)
So there you have it. There is my cheese incubator. For TWELVE HOURS, that light shone on my pot of cheese, packed with goat’s milk and C20G powdered mesophilic starter. Meso=middle and philic=friendly, so this is bacteria that thrives in mild temperatures; one could conceivably argue that I am also mesophilic, since I am also happiest when the temperature is somewhere between 72° and 78° and having lived through cold northeast winters and Texas summers, I can attest that this is entirely true. Anyway. At six this morning–after being woken up by the boyfriend, whose first words to me were, “Hey, don’t you have to check on the cheese?”–I unplugged my interrogation lamp, and unwrapped my pot, and pulled off the lid, and…
Beautiful, glorious curds! Look, looklook! You can really see along the top of the pot how the curds have pulled away from the whey! And they came out with the ultra-thick, yogurty texture they were supposed to have! Oh, frabjous joy, oh happy day!
While the photos of the draining cheese promise to be nearly as exciting as the photos of pasteurizing milk, there was one more obstacle that had to be overcome–that of a cat who has taken to claiming the countertops as his own.
This recipe calls for the cheese to drain at room temperature for at least six and up to twelve hours. I may indulgently joke about Sammy owning the house and everything in it but in all reality, the last thing I wanted was for the cat to stick his nose into my cheese, and there’s no way I could monitor the countertops for the entirety of the six-to-twelve-hour drain time. And yet, it couldn’t go in the fridge. And yet, I couldn’t just cover it because you want the air to circulate around it so it drains evenly and isn’t kept in an improperly humid environment. I feel like I keep channeling my high school drama teacher, so with all due respect, Mrs. Horvath, I will say once again: Improvise!
Colander #1, meet colander #2. Kitty, here is the pitard in which you are hoist. Checkmate.
Once it’s drained–and you should check the bowl and make sure it’s actually draining and your cheese isn’t sitting in a reservoir of whey, and maybe even flip it once for even draining–then you scoop it into a dish with a cover and tuck in. Tomorrow’s post will be all about what we ate this with, but for tonight, I will leave you with these…
To be continued…