September 22, 2010

Well, this sure brightened my morning

Culinary Arts College has named I Make Cheese as one of the 50 Best Cheese Blogs on the Web!  Woohoo!

26. I Make Cheese This home cheesemaker writes this fantastic blog that will get your taste buds moving. The wine picks are just as good and will have you hankering for a treat every time you stop by to read.

And while I'm posting:  If you like whole grains, be sure to click over to my other blog, Eating Rules, and enter the Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Giveaway, for a chance to win an awesome sampler pack!

August 22, 2010

My new pH tester!

Gosh, it's been an embarrassingly long time since I've posted here.  I've been quite busy over at Eating Rules, and I'm thrilled to be back in the kitchen making cheese once again.

A few months ago, my favorite pickler bought me a Hanna Waterproof pH Tester for my birthday, and today we're finally giving it a whirl.

This thing is awesome Dip it in the milk or whey, and about 10 seconds later, Blammo! you've got a pH reading!  (okay, there isn't actually any explosion, unless you yell "Blammo!" yourself, which I highly recommend).

It's as easy as using a thermometer (and actually includes a thermometer, since pH readings done in this manner must be temperature-calibrated).

Of course, without knowing exactly what pH we're supposed to hit and when, this cool little device won't actually be much help.  None of my recipe books reference pH numbers -- just times and temperatures.

I've been sifting through my copy of Paul Kindstedt's American Farmstead Cheese, which is by far the most technical book in my library.  He discusses pH in depth -- but since the book doesn't include any specific recipes, that only helps so much.

I did find a table on page 155 where he indicates "optimum" pH -- with some timing -- for making Cheddar.  Already it's been a bit of a help:  Heating the curds (bringing them up from 86°F to 100°F) went slower than I would have liked, but keeping an eye on the pH still let me know we were making progress.

As the pH slowly worked its way down, I decided to drain the curds at 6.15 -- based on Kindstedt's table.  This took more than an hour longer than Ricki's recipe, but less time than indicated in the table.

As I write this, the curds are cheddaring comfortably in the pot.  After only 15 minutes, on the first flip, the pH was down to 5.80.  If all goes according to plan, at the end of the requisite two hours we'll be at exactly 5.35, and then we'll mill the curds (translation: break them into small cubes), and proceed with the next steps.

If we hit 5.35 a little early, I might actually decide to stop cooking and mill them sooner than Ricki calls for.

I'm excited to start using the pH tester every time -- building my own reference library -- and hopefully with a bit of diligence I'll be able to solve my texture problems once and for all.

Do you have any experience pH readings?  Please post in the comments with any questions and/or advice!

May 3, 2010

Eating Rules

It's been awhile since I've posted here, since I've been focusing on my new healthy eating blog!

The new blog is centered around three simple rules for healthy eating, and is all about making smart choices when you eat. Knowledge is power, as they say.

I'd love it if you would check it out and let me know what you think!

Eating Rules

(Don't worry, I'll still be posting here... as soon as I have time to make some more cheese!  I'm also excited to try out my brand new digital pH meter that I got for my birthday from this great pickle maker!  I'm hoping it will help solve my texture problems once and for all.  Will definitely be reporting on that soon!)

March 31, 2010

Mistakenly Melty Mozarella

So here's a question for my cheesemaking friends:

At my urging, a family member recently made a mozzarella using Ricki Carroll's starter kit.  She and her husband used whole milk, but used a different process for heating than the microwave shortcut (not exactly sure what they did...but they were trying to be "more traditional" about it). 

She served the cheese last night at a dinner party, and after it came to room temperature, it was almost melted.  It had the consistency of the inside of a brie or camembert... It was a gooey blob!

She made the cheese about ten days earlier, and had kept it in the fridge, sealed in plastic wrap.

Upon tasting, it was obvious to me that they didn't add enough salt.  I'm thinking that since salt helps expel moisture from the curds, without enough salt it had too much moisture remaining.  But would that be enough to cause it to melt at room temperature?  What else might cause this cheesy conundrum?

March 5, 2010

Please don't try this at home

See, the irony here is that it's probably the only place you could try it.  Are you (and your baby's momma!) hardcore cheesemakers enough to do it?

Then again, I'm not sure why many of us are first repulsed, then intrigued.  Shouldn't it be the perfect food?  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to say it:  Ugh!  (Counterpoint: the pics on his blog look terrific!).

Chef Daniel Angerer makes cheese from two gallons of his wife's breast milk.

February 19, 2010

"Skier's curd cure stumps cheese whizzes"

Every so often I head over to Google News and type in "cheese" to see what comes up.  Often it's a bit distressing, but other times it can be quite amusing and, well... topical:
Does ski sweetheart Lindsey Vonn owe her downhill gold to an obscure cheese curd she slathered on her badly bruised shin? We may never know, but good luck finding her topfen outside Austria.
Full story here and here.

February 18, 2010

Goat's Milk Ricotta

It's been quite awhile since making any cheese, and last night I decided it's time to get back on the horse (or goat, as it were). We had a gallon of Whole Goat's Milk in the fridge, ready to go--the plan was to make another Chèvre, but I wanted to branch out a bit more and try something different. But, we also wanted to eat it right away!  A few pages further into Ricki's book, we found her Whole Goat's Milk Ricotta recipe. Perfect!

A cheese purist will tell you that's it's not Ricotta if it's not made from Whey, but this recipe calls for just a gallon of whole goat's milk -- no whey. Ricki acknowledges this discrepancy, but then moves past it, with the implication that's it's darn tasty, so who really cares? I'm inclined to agree.

This recipe actually reminds me a lot of the Lemon Cheese recipe:  Heat some milk, add a bit of acid, and drain the curdled cheese.  Couldn't be much simpler.

1 Gallon Trader Joe's Whole Goat's Milk
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
3 Tbs. melted New-Age-Whole-Foodsy-Trans-Fat-Free-Fake-Margarine (the recipe calls for butter, but this is all I had on hand)
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Flake Salt

Heat the milk to 195F, stirring constantly to avoid scalding. Turn off the heat, and slowly add the vinegar, stirring slowly and thoroughly. (Ricki's recipe suggests that if it's not curdling properly, instead of adding more vinegar, increase the temp to 205F--but be careful not to boil.)  Allow the curds to set for a minute or two.

Once the milk has curdled, and there's a clear separation between the curds and whey, ladle the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin. Tie up and allow to drain for about a minute. Place in a bowl, and mix in the butter and baking soda. That's it!

The recipe didn't call for salt -- an odd omission, I think. After mixing in the "butter" and baking soda, the salt took it from bland to grand!

Goat's Milk Ricotta on whole wheat penne.  Sauteed organic spinach with olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, a few spices, and dollop of the ricotta melted in.  Drizzled with Cavedoni Botte Piccola Italian Balsamic.

January 26, 2010

January 22, 2010

Cheese-Making Workshop in Your Home

In support of IKAR's annual fundraiser, I'm offering an...

Organic Cheese-Making Workshop and
Artisanal Wine & Cheese Tasting!

Indulge in an evening of decadence and deliciousness! Andrew Wilder and Matty Sterenchock will come to your home - along with organic milk, cheesemaking supplies, three bottles of wine and a mitxure of hard and soft cheeses - to show you step-by-step how to make a mozzarella and a lemon cheese, while we enjoy together some fine homemade and California wines and delectable locally and domestically-made artisanal cheeses.

If you're in the LA area and want to play, bid on the auction!
(Bidding closes Jan 24, 2010 at 11:00 PM PST)

Update:  The auction has ended with a whopping $175.00 bid!  Woohoo!

January 19, 2010

Organic Vegetarian Rennet

New England Cheesemaking Supply is now selling ORGANIC Vegetarian Rennet!  Woohoo!

Rennet on FoodistaMore about Rennet on Foodista

January 3, 2010

Hervé Mons' Pasteurized Camembert

My friend Wendy sent me this New York Times story on a new Camembert made from pasteurized milk that aims to be as good as ones made with raw milk.  (If a cheese is made with raw milk it must be aged at least 60 days before it can be sold in the U.S.  That doesn't work so well for Camembert!)  Time for a trip to Whole Foods!

Oh, and I'm also adding "Make my own Camembert" to my list of 2010 New Year's Resolutions.  I've been shying away from trying to make (intentionally) moldy cheeses... until now.  Stay tuned...

Update:  So apparently H. Mons made a deal with Whole Foods so that they'd be the only distributor of his cheeses.  That'd be fine by me, I guess, except every WF I've been to (in both Los Angeles and San Diego) has been sold out since the holidays!  They keep telling me they're waiting for another shipment, and to stay tuned.  So until then, no camembert for moi!

Camembert Cheese on FoodistaCamembert Cheese

January 1, 2010

Like a party on my tongue

Our New Year's Eve feast began with an assortment of cheeses, both homemade and professionally-sourced.  The two large wedges in the photo came from the Beehive Cheese Co., from a  Wine Woot purchase a few weeks ago.  On the far left is the Barely Buzzed, a nutty and crisp cow's milk cheese, rubbed with coffee and lavender.  We actually broke this open last week, and weren't too impressed.  This time, however, it really hit the spot.  I can't imagine that an extra week of "aging" made much of a difference, so perhaps it was just our mood.  In any event, it was definitely a popular choice.  The other large wedge, on the right, is Beehive's Seahive, a salt & honey cheese.  I would actually prefer if it had a stronger honey flavor, but it was delicious nevertheless.

In the center of the main board is our homemade Habanero Jack.  I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be spicy enough, but it turned out quite nicely -- not too much pepper flavor, but it had a lingering heat that was perfect for a cold winter night.  It was still a bit too crumbly, though. It might be time to invest in a proper pH meter -- I clearly need to work on getting the right acidity level before adding the rennet.

On the plates at top is some freshly-made Chèvre.  We kept one plain (just lightly salted), one is rolled in Herbs de Provence [wikipedia], one is rolled in fresh ground black pepper, and then the crowning experiment achievement is the little guy sitting on his own plate -- it was rolled in cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and chopped pistachios.

We ran out of crackers fairly quickly, but found that the hard cheeses were a perfect substitute.  We simply cut off a piece and slathered the chevre right on top.  The Barely Buzzed and Herbs de Provence worked perfectly together (lavender! lavender!), and the Pistachio Extravaganza and Seahive were great together as well.

Yay Cheese!

Three Cheeses for the Holidays

My friends Sean and Michelle showed up to my holiday party with the perfect gift: Three wonderful cheeses they discovered at Venissimo Cheese, their neighborhood shop in San Diego.

First up: On the far left is the Humboldt Fog, an increasingly-popular goat's milk surface-ripened cheese from Cypress Grove.  The vein of edible ash is the signature mark of this rich, creamy, and delicious monster.  (I'm a big fan of Cypress Grove's cheeses -- especially the Fog and the Truffle Tremor, one of the most spectacularly decadent and knee-buckling cheeses I've encountered.)  Venissimo's notes:  California's top seller, with a ribbon of edible ash.  Herbaceous & Tangy.  Recommended Wines:  Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Dry Rose, White Burgundy, Super Tuscan, or a wheat beer.

In the middle is a Goat Sage Cheddar from Spring Hill Cheese Co. in Petaluma, CA.  The distinctive goat's milk tanginess melds beautifully with the sage, creating a zesty and robust kick... what an earthy delight!  Venissimo's notes:  Organic, pasture-fed, infused with sage, herbaceous and fresh, perfect on pizza.  Recommended Wines: Chardonnay, Champagne.

Finally we have the real zinger, the Chipotle Cranberry Cheddar from Carr Valley Cheese in Wisconsin.  This white cheddar has huge smokiness and tang, followed by the slightly tart and sweet cranberries, ending with quite a bit of heat.  Venissimo's notes:  Studded with cranberries, infused with chipotle, sweet, BBQ sauce flavor, incredible melted!  Recommended Wine:  Zinfandel.

Served with Fuyu Persimmon, Medjool Dates, and water crackers, this sampler was the perfect year-end treat.  Thanks, Sean and Michelle! You're the best.