Little miss muffet…eating her curds and whey…

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On April 16, 2015 the Barrington public library offered a free presentation to the public; “Cheese Making 101”, that both my wife and I were fortunate enough to attend. Matilda Coletta and Phil Griffith, two local chefs, conducted a great presentation on how anyone can make various types of cheese at home, with little experience and a minimal number of ingredients’.

 

Malinda completed her degree in home economics, and currently continues to inform folks about food science and nutrition. Phil Griffin her husband, attended Johnson and Wales and taught culinary studies there, and in addition spent a number of years as a chef.  They both enjoy cooking and on an ongoing basis share their knowledge with numerous groups throughout Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts.  They also offer cooking classes through their website www.professorchef.com.

Their presentation lasted approximately 60 minutes. They are both extremely energetic and fun, and in between their anecdotes, stories, and comic relief along with some fun bickering – they did a great job in entertaining the group, as well as informing them on the ease of cheese making.

With regards to making cheese, although the recipes can be rather simple, that is, they don’t require a lot of different ingredients, there are some critical elements that the chef needs to pay attention to. Temperature is one of those critical elements. For some people, temperature control can be one of the toughest operational processes to master. One of the suggestions that the presenters offered to help control temperature, was to bring the milk temperature up slowly. Heating the milk gradually, allows the chef to “approach” the desired temperature, but not exceed it. Heating it too quickly, and you could fly right past the desired temperature, and that could ruin the process. Another critical element is the ‘pans’ that are used. That said, the proper balance off acid and bases is the key to success as well. Aluminum pans are NOT good for cheese making as they will interfere with that balance of “acids and bases”. They recommend stainless steel pans.

They were able to share 3 different cheese recipes with the group – ricotta, yogurt, and mozzarella cheese. What was amazing to me was how simple many of these recipes were to follow. Depending on which type of cheese you were planning to make, was dependent on the types of ingredients that we needed for the recipe. In all types of cheese making, the one thing that remains consistent – the cheese maker’s goal is to try to “separate the curd from the whey”. The “curd” is the solid portion and the “whey” the liquid.

Some of the ingredients that are needed are milk, cream, salt, and citric acid. Interestingly they recommended using “raw milk” for the best and most consistent results. Raw Milk – this is milk straight from the source be it cow, goat, sheep or even buffalo. It is full of natural bacteria and organisms.  Pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized are sometimes used, however, not really recommend. Pasteurized Milk – this is milk which has been heat treated to up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds or more in order to destroy any undesirable bacteria present. However, by heating the milk (or cream) during pasteurization it can affect the natural enzymes and proteins in the milk.  By heating it to such a high temperature, the whey proteins can be altered as part of the process. The curd you get tends to be slightly weaker. [Also, pasteurization definitely changes the flavor of milk].  One final ingredient is called “rennet” – available in tablet or liquid.  There are several types of rennet available, vegetable, animal and organic rennet and all work equally well.  Some people do use “junket” as a rennet substitute, but rennet is the best.

With regards to equipment, I mentioned earlier that a stainless steel pan is preferred.  A scoop-strainer helps scoop out curd like ricotta and other types of cheese. A strainer – plastic or stainless steel should be used to drain the curd. Cheese cloth or linen clothes are used for straining harder cheeses. A cooking thermometer. There are numerous types; some that can be hand-held, and others that have an insertable probe that drapes over the side of the pan.

When Malinda was making the mozzarella, it was interesting to see how the yield in the curd had changed.  She began by scooping the curd into the plastic strainer.  She rotated the strainer over and over, to drain as much whey out of the curd. She continuing to rotating, scooping out more curd, and it was surprising to see how much smaller the yield had gotten.  She then began to work the yield by hand continuing to extract as much liquid as she possible. Stopping to microwave it for 30 seconds and then continuing to work the curd.  She repeated this process several times, and after some rigorous kneading and stretching – the mozzarella was ready!

Our final treat, was to be able taste the fresh the yogurt and mozzarella cheese that they made for us. It was amazing to see the taste difference between this fresh cheese and the store bought. This was a great experience, and I would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to try it, give it a whirl. It’s a great family experience for adults and kids to share. Recipes for making all types of cheeses are readily available on the internet. Many of these ingredients, additional suggestions, and equipment is available on line at www.cheesemaking.com.

Please make sure to visit Malinda and Phil’s website.  As they like to say…”We teach you how to play with your food”.

 

 

Comments

  1. OK Sal, I am waiting to taste your production! Interesting program.

    Cemal

  2. Malinda and Phil,
    This really tickled me to read about your Library Cheese Presentation!
    How Rewarding and Fun!
    Our Cheezytoons would like to introduce themselves to you!
    Go Cheese!

  3. Brooke Stephens says:

    Sal,

    What a great article! Now I have to try and make fresh MOZ-ARELLA!

    Lover of all cheeses,
    -Brooke

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